The play was for a run on fourth-and-20 late in the second quarter of the 2A high school football championship game between San Juan and Beaver high schools.
But Broncos senior quarterback Jace Palmer found himself scrambling away from the defense and needing to make a play. He saw a sliver of hope downfield in wide receiver Jerzy Nieves and launched a lefty fading pass.
Nieves had three Beaver defenders all around him, and they all jumped for the ball in the end zone. But it was Nieves who ended up with the ball and the touchdown. From there, it was smooth sailing for the Broncos, who beat the Beavers 34-21 on Saturday at Weber State University to secure their first 2A title since 2010.
“This is a storybook ending,” San Juan coach Barkley Christiansen said. “It feels amazing.”
Palmer completed 15 of 22 pass attempts for 254 yards and four touchdowns. One of those throws was a 71-yarder to Copper Black. Nieves caught two TD passes from Palmer. Ladd Ivins had the other touchdown reception.
“That’s just a kid that’s been in our program for two years and that I have all the trust in the world in,” Christiansen said of Palmer. “He showed up and made big plays when it mattered.”
The championship is Christiansen’s first as a coach. He won one and lost one as a player at San Juan, he said.
The Broncos ended Beaver’s long winning streak at 34 games earlier in the season. The Beavers didn’t lose again until the title game to those same Broncos.
Christiansen said Beaver is a run-first team, and stopping the run just so happens to be what his team’s defense has excelled at all season long.
Beaver running back Jayton Jessup ran in all three touchdowns for the Beavers, who ended the season 11-2 overall.
San Juan ended the season 12-1 and on a 12-game winning streak.
Beaver had won the previous two 2A championships.
Christiansen said with the long drive back to Blanding, which is about five and a half ours away by car, the team may not get home until 1 or 2 a.m. But after a team dinner paid for by the school, there will definitely be more celebrating — just not so late at night.
“The parade might be put on hold, but there definitely will be one at some point,” Christiansen said.