Lehi • This time last season, the only way Skyridge High School running back Ma’a Notoa could make this presence felt in the quarterfinals of the UHSAA Class 5A State Championships was from the sidelines as he rehabilitated from a knee injury. His Falcons teammates, on the other hand, had to figure out a way to win without him.
But on Friday against the Jordan Beetdiggers, Skyridge benefited from having a healthy Notoa, especially when the Falcons found themselves down three touchdowns not 14 minutes into the game.
Notoa, now a senior, took it upon himself to give a speech to his offensive line when it looked as though Skyridge’s nine-game winning streak — and its season — would come to a screeching halt. He told them the team will only go as far as they let it. Plays are only possible if they make them possible.
After Skyridge’s offense showed signs of life, but senior quarterback Jayden Clemons threw his second pick-6 of the first half, Notoa showed up again for another pep talk. He told Clemons, a former Jordan player, to show the Beetdiggers why it was a good decision to transfer to Skyridge.
And when Notoa was through talking the talk, he started walking the walk. Notoa scored four touchdowns and recorded an interception in Skyridge’s 58-34 win over the Beetdiggers and advanced to the Class 5A semifinals.
“I’m lucky to be out here,” Notoa said. “I’m very grateful because lsat year I didn’t have this feeling, and its really sweet to have this feeling. I’ve never made it this far in my whole high school career. I’m just very glad I could make it this year.”
The Falcons completed their comeback in the third quarter. Notoa capped a nine-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 30-27 Skyridge lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter. The Falcons never looked back.
Skyridge trailed 21-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter. Two consecutive touchdowns — a reception from senior Nathan Upham and a fumble-recovery-turned-TD from sophomore lineman Stone Mulitalo — cut the deficit to 21-14 for the Falcons with 7:26 left in the first half.
But Clemons threw his second interception to Beetdiggers defensive back Wyatt Jones, who scored his second touchdown off a pick and gave Jordan a 27-14 lead.
“I take full responsibility for the deficit,” Clemons said. “I wasn’t playing the way I know how to play. I wasn’t playing sound football.”
Clemons said he received encouragement from the defensive players, and watching them put their bodies on the line inspired him to play better. He finished the game with two touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns.
Skyridge tightened the defensive screws after Clemons threw his second interception. The Falcons allowed the Beetdiggers only 13 points after from point en route to the blowout victory. Jordan’s next touchdown didn’t come until the 4:28 mark of the fourth quarter.
Skyridge scored nine straight points to end the first half. Notoa rushed 4 yards for a touchdown before kicker Connor Harris made a 35-yard field goal with five seconds left. Jordan led 27-23 at halftime.
Notoa caught a touchdown pass from Clemons midway through the third quarter on fourth-and-6 for a 37-27 lead. Skyridge head coach Jon Lehman said that catch was a big play for Notoa to make with the game still close.
“He’s just an awesome kid and an awesome football player,” Lehman said. “He is a joy to coach because he brings energy every day, he’s a good leader, he has fun playing football and comes out here and is a great football player.”
Skyridge will face Roy at the University of Utah on Nov. 9.
PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Class 1A Semifinals, Nov. 3 at Payson HS
Duchesne vs. Parowan, 11 a.m.
Milford vs. Monticello, 1:30 p.m.
Class 2A Semifinals, Nov. 3 at Timpview HS
South Summit vs. Millard, 11 a.m.
Ground County vs. Beaver, 1:30 p.m.
Class 3A Semifinals, Nov. 3 at Provo HS
Morgan vs. North Sanpete, 11 a.m.
Summit Academy vs. Juan Diego Catholic, 1:30 p.m.
Class 4A Quarterfinals
Dixie 31, Spanish Fork 20
Orem 58, Mountain Crest 28
Pine View 65, Stansbury 41
Park City 15, Sky View 14
Class 5A Quarterfinals
Skyridge 58, Jordan 34
Roy 20, Timpview 14
Olympus 28, Springville 3
Corner Canyon 52, Viewmont 6
Class 6A Quarterfinals
American Fork 45, Weber 31
Bingham 46, Kearns 0
Lone Peak 34, Davis 6
Pleasant Grove 38, Fremont 14