Lehi linebacker Lincoln Bunker hung back as his teammates sprinted straight from the end of the handshake line across the field to thank their fans.
As the crowd of purple roared, Bunker scanned the line of Skyridge players for Alex Palmer.
The two seniors grew up together. They met when they were about 6 years old, Bunker said, and started playing football together in fourth grade. They faced off in the Class 5A state final Friday night in what would be a 55-17 Lehi victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“It was good to see him out there,” Palmer said. “He’s been through a lot, and we’ve been through a lot together, so it was good to see us both make it to the championship game. And it will always mean a lot to me.”
Before Skyridge opened just three miles from Lehi in the fall of 2016, every Lehi student had the choice of whether to stay or go.
For Palmer, the decision boiled down to where the majority of his friends were going. He tried to convince Bunker to come with him. Bunker tried to keep Palmer at Lehi.
“He’s just my best friend,” Bunker said. “… When he first switched schools, it was really hard.”
Skyridge’s football program grew remarkably fast. The Falcons became the fifth second-year team to ever earn a berth in the state title game. “I don’t regret it,” Palmer said about going to Skyridge. “Not a single regret about it.”
Bunker and Palmer, who had played on the same team for years, never got to match up against each other in a high school game.
“He’s a hell of a player,” Bunker said. “He did a hell of a job. He’s a good athlete — he’s a great athlete — and we just came out on top.”
Palmer logged a team-high 11 carries and totaled 38 yards rushing. He was just as complimentary of Bunker, who tied middle linebacker Jeremy Hansmann in tackles to lead the Pioneers with seven apiece. Bunker also made a sack for a loss of 6 yards.
When Bunker finally picked Palmer out of the postgame handshake line, the two exchanged a long hug.
Then they headed separate directions, Bunker to hoist the championship trophy and Palmer to join his teammates as they quietly walked off the field.