The words, numbers and sentences written in black marker were smeared on the forearms of Jayden Clemons. And when the junior quarterback looked down to explain the significance of each, his lips began to quiver and his eyes welled up. He’d never done this before. Not before Thursday.
The night before the Falcons stunned undefeated Corner Canyon 34-33 in the Class 5A state semifinal showdown, Clemons tuned intently into the guest speaker at the team dinner Wednesday evening.
“It hit me,” he said.
He wanted to do something different.
So Clemons got to writing Thursday morning at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“Family,” because they’ve done everything for him.
“Refuse to lose,” because he told himself he would not leave the turf without a win.
“God,” Clemons said, because he’s never alone on the field.
“Dominate,” because that’s the ceiling he sets for himself every game.
There was every single jersey number he’s ever worn on each forearm, all the way down to his little league years.
The phrase most unreadable, however, was “Love the challenge.”
Skyridge coach Jon Lehman preaches it.
“And in any situation, you’ve got to love the challenge,” Clemons said. “You’ve got to come back from it.”
The Falcons trailed 33-27 with 1 minute, 25 seconds remaining against the unblemished Chargers on Thursday afternoon. They’d overcome a three-touchdown first-half deficit. All that was left was for Clemons and Skyridge to “love the challenge” in front of them. So he uncorked a 46-yard pass that dropped into the hands of junior receiver Nate Upham, putting the Falcons on the Corner Canyon 23-yard line.
The next play, Clemons saw Upham sprinting to shadows of the southeast corner of the stadium. And he put the ball only where No. 21 on Skyridge could grab it. The pass fell. Directly into Upham’s left hand.
“We always practice our one-handers in individual practice every day,” Upham said afterward, “and I just knew I had it.”
Clemons didn’t have an exact estimate of how many times the quarterback-receiver duo have rehearsed that same play. Considering the scenario, there was no replicating what the juniors just had pulled off.
“I can’t give you a number,” Clemons said, “but I could tell you that I threw the ball in the air, and I knew that he was going to come down with it. And that’s all.”
Lehman said the Falcons have trailed in just two games in 2017 entering Thursday’s semifinal meeting.
“We haven’t had a catch like that at that point, that so much is on the line and so little time is left and so much needs to be made of a play,” Lehman said.
The resounding message inscribed on the left forearm of Jayden Clemons was hard to make out, but once he took time to elaborate, he did so after such a fitting finish.
SKYRIDGE 34, CORNER CANYON 33
• Skyridge QB Jayden Clemons hits receiver Nate Upham on a game-winning 23-yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons into the Class 5A state title game.
• The Falcons overcome a 26-7 first-half deficit to stun the previously unbeaten Corner Canyon Chargers.
• Corner Canyon QB and Boise State commit Zach Wilson finishes with a game-high 341 yards passing, including three total touchdowns.