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Miners’ run ends at Rice Eccles

The Miners’ final game of the season was probably not quite how they envisioned it.

After making a storied run from early season losses to the Region 10 championship and becoming one of the first Park City teams in years to make it to the semifinal game of the 3A state high school football playoffs, Park City lost to Juan Diego 27-3 on Friday night at Rice Eccles Stadium.

The night started out on fairly even ground with both teams holding one another scoreless through the first quarter. Then, in the second quarter, Juan Diego star running back Tyler Morales turned a Park City fumble into a touchdown that started a trend that continued throughout the rest of the game. The Miners committed six fumbles in the game, three of which the Soaring Eagle was able to convert into points. They also commited 10 penalties in the games for a total loss of 78 yards.

"We turned the ball over way too many times. Especially against a team like Juan Diego," said Park City senior Tony Epperson. "You can’t do that and take yourself out of the game like we did."

A second Park City fumble allowed Morales to score again on the next possession before the half with a 36-yard run with 5:35 left before halftime.

Juan Diego also made its fair share of mistakes. The third quarter marked a series of miscues from both teams. Park City gave up three turnovers, two sacks and five penalties in the quarter. At the six-minute mark the two teams went back and forth turning over the ball, with a Juan Diego interception of Epperson followed by a Juan Diego fumble recovered by Alex Molinaro. The Miners had the ball all of one minute before they fumbled again and Juan Diego scooped it up. The comedy or errors finished with Juan Diego missing a field goal.

Both Park City head coach Brandon Matich and Epperson speculated that nerves may have been a factor going against the No. 1-ranked team. Epperson said he tried to keep the team calm on the sideline.

"It was a big game against an undefeated team," Epperson said.

The Miners’ defense was still able to hold the undefeated Soaring Eagle to just two touchdowns for most of the game, before fatigue set in and the Soaring Eagle broke away in the fourth quarter, scoring two more touchdowns in the last four minutes of the game, ending the Miners’ amazing playoff run.

"This score is not indicative of how the game was," Matich said.

Ben Portwood was able to make the lone points for the Miners on a 32-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the first half.

The Miners did make their fair share of attempts on at trying to move the ball. Quarterback Erik Walker threw a pass to Epperson in the end zone that was well covered by Juan Diego defenders, and made numerous attempts of his own to gain significant yardage.

The Miners, who are known for relying on the option most of time, were forced to try to score in other ways after a tough Juan Diego line held running back Dylan Chynoweth to just 14 yards on 10 carries in the first half. the end of the game, Chynoweth, 3A’s third leading rusher, had negative two yards on 11 carries.

In fact, it was the Juan Diego defense that may have told the true story. Its overwhelming defensive line and quick-footed supporting defensive cast stopped the Miners at almost every turn, forcing many of the turnovers and stopping the bulk of Park City’s offensive attempts. The more than 300 yards of total offense for the Soaring Eagle didn’t hurt either.

All should not be lost for the Miners. They return a number of starters next year and are expected to be one of the top teams in 3A in 2009, despite moving to a new region.

This was also a team that midway through the season to be left for dead, but instead rallied to go further than anyone thought possible.

"Our guys came a long way," Epperson said. "It was an amazing to get here. I wish we could have gone farther. It was a heck of a season."

Matich credited much of their success to the leadership of the senior class.

"My seniors, they overachieved this year," Matich said. "My hats off to the senior class. They did a good job."


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