The North Summit High School football team seems to have discovered the secret to winning state titles beat Millard in southern end of the state.
Saturday, the Braves won their first state title since 1991 by beating Millard 30-6 at Southern Utah University in Utah. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Just eight months ago, North Summit won the 2A state basketball title by beating Millard in southern Utah.
"Millard is a good team and I respect their program," said North Summit head football coach Jerre Holmes. "It was an effort on our part that was fun to watch."
What had been hyped as an epic battle of unbeaten teams (an occurrence that hasn’t happened in Utah high school football since 1993) turned out to be a bit of a cakewalk for the Braves, who stunned Millard by shooting out to a 24-0 lead at halftime.
"I thought it was going to be a really close game," said senior tight end Drew Robinson.
Lineman Chandler "Chuck" Woolstenhulme attributed it to a classic case of underestimation. At breakfast that morning at a local fast-food restaurant, a few players were met with taunts by Millard fans that they didn’t have a chance. Fueled by such predictions and a strong mental attitude, the Braves played what Holmes called a "perfect game."
"They put fuel in our tanks for sure," Robinson said.
The Braves controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, racking up a whopping 353 total yards, and held the storied Millard program to just 135 yards.
"I could have gained a hundred yards our line was blocking so well," Holmes said.
Holmes said that the defense stunned Millard from the start. Rather than going with their usual four-defensive back set, he moved one of his players to linebacker.
"It caught them off guard," Holmes said. "It was a great defensive effort."
Woolstenhulme said the key was shutting down the run. North Summit kept their eye on the running backs during option plays. That meant Millard’s quarterback had to run with the ball.
"All year, no one has been able to run on us," Woolstenhulme said
North Summit started their march to victory on a botched Millard play in the first quarter. Millard attempted a reverse on a punt return in the endzone, but fumbled. North Summit’ Whit Jones recovered the ball in the endzone and the Braves went up 6-0. The Braves weren’t able to make any of their point-after kicks.
"I think that first touchdown was a momentum builder," said senior running back Dallin Donaldson. "After that, they couldn’t stop us."
He should know. Donaldson has been working off of momentum all year. After an appendectomy sidelined him at the end of the regular season, he fought back to play in the semifinals against Grand County. He suffered a hand injury in that game, breaking it in two places, but was back on the field Saturday hand in a Braves’ purple cast to earn 72 yards on 18 carries and scored the next touchdown to give the Braves a 12-0 lead.
"I made it work," Donaldson said. "If it’s your last game, you’re not going to sit out."
The killer for Millard came on the last play before halftime. The Eagles attempted a punt, but North Summit rushed the line of scrimmage forcing punter Clancy Mortensen to scramble and got sacked by the Braves’ Caden Richins near the 15-yard line. On the ensuing possession Deven Holmes threw a 24 yard pass up the middle to a wide open Drew Robinson for the touchdown and the 24-0 lead.
"You think you’re past him and he’s got you," Donaldson said about Richins’ tackling ability. "He’s got an incredible wingspan."
Even with a first-half shutout, the Braves knew what the unbeaten Eagles were capable of and came out playing with the same fervor of the first half.
After a coin toss in their favor, the Braves elected to receive. Sixteen plays and almost eight minutes later, Caleb Adams scored on a three-yard run into the endzone to give the Braves a 30-0 edge. Adams finished the game with 67 yards on 15 carries.
Millard’s Zak Wilcox finally gave the Eagles a touchdown at the tail end of the third quarter, but it was too little too late, as the Braves coasted to the 30-6 victory.
The state title caps off an unbeaten season for the Braves and a nearly flawless high school football career for the senior class. The team captains said they could only remember a few losses in those four years and came to expect a perfect record out of themselves by their senior season.
Holmes said it looked like the entire town of Coalville made the four-hour trip down to support the Braves. The team agreed that more North Summit people were at this game then the state basketball championships and even more than the more southern-located Millard.
"There were people there I didn’t even know," Holmes said.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.