South Summit’s balanced attack too much for San Juan
November 4, 2016
During Thursday afternoon's UHSAA 2A semifinal matchup between South Summit High School and San Juan High School, things weren't looking good for the Wildcats in the first half. Quarterback and Captain Nick Beasley misread the Bronco defense on a play he's run a million times, leading to an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jordan Blake.
This was Beasley's second interception of the game and the play put San Juan up 21-14. For the first time in a while, the Wildcats found themselves in a position they aren't typically in — losing.
"When they scored [on that play], the team is kind of all looking at me," said Head Coach Mike Grajek. "I said, 'Well, it's a good thing that we can score, too.' Instead of showing frustration, I said we've got a lot of game left."
Boy, can they score. Following that play with under a minute to go before halftime, South Summit marched down the field on a quick drive, capped by a beautiful 31-yard catch by Keegan Stracher in double coverage for the touchdown. This was just the beginning of 24 unanswered points for the remainder of the game, as the Wildcats secured their fourth-straight spot in the 2A title game with the 38-21 win over the Broncos.
"[We're] feeling good," Grajek said. "[The] kids are obviously excited. The kids just played so good today. It was awesome."
Leading the way was Beasley, who finished with 354 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Riley Bayles, who hasn't rushed for over 100 yards all season, racked up 182 yards on the ground to go with his two touchdowns. Overall, the Wildcats finished with nearly 600 yards of offense by posting 577 on the day.
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"They finally got to the point and said, 'Hey, we're not going to let you throw,'" Grajek said. "They emptied the box on us."
The receivers had themselves a day, as well, as Stracher (118 yards and a touchdown) and Parker Grajek (134 yards and a touchdown) both had impressive grabs throughout the game, specifically their scores.
Grajek made the highlight of the game when Beasley threw the ball over his shoulder, where he snagged it, pinned it against his helmet and controlled it on the way down for a touchdown.
"That's what's nice; I think that teams can't key in on one guy," Grajek said. "We put in a lot of work in the offseason to get these kids to believe. … It's nice to have those guys that, when we're firing on all cylinders, they'll perform."
The offense deservedly gets much of the credit, but Grajek was quick to point out how well the defense played throughout. When the Wildcats were down in that first half, the defense wasn't at fault. To go with that aforementioned interception from Beasley, he threw another one early in the first quarter to give the Broncos a short field to work with, which they capitalized on with a touchdown.
The third San Juan touchdown came in large part due to an offensive fumble, giving the Broncos another opportunity. The defense wasn't playing poorly by any means, and that showed when the offense stopped turning the ball over in the second half, shutting San Juan out in the frame.
"Defenses win championships," Grajek said. "I think we have the best defense in the 2A. Our linebackers, our [defensive] line; I can't say enough about how well coached those guys are. … We said, 'Hey, our defense is playing awesome.' if we just keep doing what we're doing, we'll come out and win."
With the win, the Wildcats advance to the state championship game, where they'll face Beaver in a rematch of last year for the 2A crown. They've won it two of the last three years, with the lone loss coming at the hands of the Beavers in 2015.
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