Wildcats win 2A state title
The end zones at Weber State University in Ogden had "Wildcats" painted in big block letters. Though the purple color was wrong, it seemed the South Summit High School football team felt very comfortable with its surroundings on Saturday evening.
Taking on Grand County High School in the 2A football state championship game, the Wildcats found their way to those end zones with a familiar name painted in them early and often, jumping out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and holding a 42-0 lead before the Red Devils scored a last-second touchdown to make the final score 42-8.
The game was exactly what the Wildcats have been doing all year long. Check any story that involves the 2013 South Summit football team and the same themes pop up – a punishing, stingy defense, a bulldozing offensive line, a bruising stable of running backs and a quarterback that almost always makes the right reads to make sure the offense keeps cruising down the field.
Add in a kicker that rarely allows kickoff return opportunities and a couple of costly turnovers early in the game by the opponent, and the Wildcats had all the ingredients they needed for a rout.
After junior Harley Georgi sent the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback, Grand broke off a couple big gains, getting close to midfield before the defense settled in.
Senior Steven Flinders read a pass from Grand quarterback Jacob Francis perfectly, stepping in front of a receiver for an interception to stop the Red Devils’ momentum and give his offense its first chance of the game.
It didn’t take long for the vaunted rushing attack to capitalize – senior Carson Freestone scored on an 18-yard run a few plays later to start what would become a touchdown-scoring battle between himself and junior Colby Averett.
After junior Hunter Angell recovered a fumble, Averett scored on a 12-yard run. Freestone would get into the end zone on a four-yard scamper at the end of the first quarter to give the Wildcats a 21-0 advantage.
Not to be outdone, Averett scored on a four-yard blast of his own at the start of the second quarter to match Freestone’s pair of touchdowns. Averett finished the first half with 116 rushing yards. Grand only managed to amass 113 total offensive yards in the first 24 minutes of play.
"Averett has been the rock all year carrying the ball," coach Jerry Parker said. "He slithers like no other to get all those yards and he keeps his feet moving. If he walks into a room without his gear on, you wouldn’t even think he was a football player. He’s so unassuming and such a great, nice, quiet kid. But you put a uniform on him and he’s dynamite."
Junior Ty Jones would get into the scoring mix just before intermission, sneaking into the end zone from two yards out to take advantage of junior Daxton Hansen’s first interception of the game and giving the Wildcats a 35-0 halftime lead.
After Hansen’s second interception, Freestone scored for a third time to win the touchdown battle against Averett, this time on a five-yard run. Junior Bracken Santos tacked on the extra point to finish a perfect 7-for-7 on the night and put the Wildcats ahead 42-0.
Freestone said he was just trying to make sure the defense’s outstanding effort wasn’t wasted.
"Those turnovers really won it for us, honestly," he said. "If they’re going to go out there and stop the other team, I want to take the ball and march it down the field."
Grand would score with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a run from Koi Cook. After a successful two-point conversion, the Wildcats got the ball and took a knee to run out the clock, preserving the 42-8 victory.
For South Summit, which is celebrating its 100th year in 2013, the championship snaps a streak of 25 years without a football title. Since taking first place in 1988, the Wildcats had lost five title games. Parker came into Saturday’s game having lost in his first two attempts at a championship.
All of that history and all of that pain was forgotten once the clock hit zero. After shaking hands with the Grand players, the celebration was on – hugs, high-fives, backflips and tears. The large contingent of South Summit fans who made the trek to Weber State University made its way onto the field to congratulate the players and coaches as well.
"It’s been 25 years and we have been close so many times," Parker said. "We’ve had great community support this year and we really needed it. I’m so happy for everybody."
For Jones and Freestone, seeing the way the team has grown since the start of the journey in August was worth all the hard work.
"It was a dream come true," Jones said. "I’m so grateful to be with this team. We worked hard for it and it’s great to see all this hard work pay off. It’s amazing."
"At the start of the year, we knew we had a great chance," Freestone added. "As the year went on, we hit a couple rough spots, but we were able to get over that and come win the state championship. It’s a great feeling. There’s nothing like it – it’s wonderful."
For juniors like Hansen and Jones, the battle for another title will start again before they know it. But, they’re ready for the challenge.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Hansen responded when asked if another title was on his wish list. "One more."
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