Emery shocks Park City
November 2, 2010
Maybe it was poetic justice.
Maybe it was the helter-skelter officiating.
Maybe it was the 5 p.m. start time.
Whatever it was, Park City’s season is in the books maybe a bit prematurely.
The Miners fell in a hotly-contested, convoluted first-round playoff game 26-23 to the visiting Emery Spartans Friday night at Dozier Field.
Park City was on the wrong end of multiple personal foul penalties throughout the game and even the most attentive football junkie would have lost count; upward of eight facemask flags were thrown on the behalf of the Miners.
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"It kills your drive that you have going," head coach Kai Smalley said. "It hurt us in that matter. It kills your momentum."
"It kills the kids’ spirits. I believe my kids. These are my guys."
Poetic justice it was a triple-option team came into Dozier Field and did not let up on the gas pedal.
Emery’s pinpoint offense gave the Miners fits for most of the first half. The rushing duo of Colton Fasselin and Taylor Cox had the Park City defense on its heels for much of the night.
After the Miners opened up the scoring with a 10-yard quarterback draw by junior Paul Flake who finished 14-of-30 for 206 yards and two interceptions the Spartans scored 20 unanswered points. Park City was down 12 points heading into the fourth quarter, and the crowd was thoroughly despondent with the officiating.
Facemask penalties set up the Spartans with prime field position often in the third quarter as Fasselin and Cox each rushed for a touchdown, increasing the Emery lead to 20-8.
"We played four quarters," Smalley said. "We made some halftime adjustments, and the kids did them. We stopped their run game in the second half. We did it doing it the right way."
With 10:45 left in the fourth quarter, Park City finally found its way into the end zone again.
After a 27-yard deep ball to junior wide receiver Jono Schettler, Flake scored his second touchdown with a one-yard quarterback keeper that brought the Miners to within five points, 20-15.
Park City’s defense spent a long time on the field dealing with the assignment-oriented triple-option Spartan offense, but came up with a key stop with 8:37 left.
Flake made crucial completions to running back Blake Thorne and wideout Robert Cashel as the Miners drove down the field before bringing in defensive tackle Jake Adams to punch it in from three yards out to take the lead and bring jubilation to a silent Park City sideline.
Flake would hit Adams on a two-point conversion that gave the Miners a 23-20 lead with a little over seven minutes to play.
"I don’t know what we boil it down to," Smalley said. "I don’t think we executed as well as we could have in the first half."
"I thought we had a great second half. It just wasn’t enough. Too little, too late sometimes."
Emery found itself on the ropes facing a 2nd-and-22 with 4:35 left after a sack by John Finch near midfield. However, the Spartans converted on a deep route, which seemed to become a theme of the last-minute drive.
With Emery facing a 4th-and-5 with 2:20 left, Spartan quarterback Cody Jones found a receiver open to convert and keep the drive alive.
With 54 seconds, Emery converted yet again on another 4th-and-5 as tailback Nathan Mecham punched it in from seven yards out, giving the Spartans a 26-23 lead.
Park City took over with a little more than 40 seconds left to save its season, but Flake threw an interception intended for Brian Schettler along the Miner sideline that would slam the door shut on the season.
Schettler had an astounding game defensively, racking up 18 tackles, three of which resulted in losses.
A solemn Miner football team gathered in embrace, most players in tears, having to deal with the reality that their inspiring turnaround Region 10 title season had ended at home in shocking fashion.
"That’s the hard part with playoffs," Smalley said. "It’s one-and-done."
"Eventually, the reality sets in that you don’t get to play for the rest of your life"
It was cruel irony for a program to lose to the triple-option attack that was their trademark for the past few years.
"The hard part is I’ve coached for seven or eight years now it never really dawns on you that you never get to coach those kids again," Smalley said. "Especially being a first-year head coach at a place."
"Those are the tough ones."
Smalley couldn’t even begin to think about what will be going on up until August 2011.
"I don’t even know what the hell I’m going to do," he said. "That’s the worst part."