by James Tate
Third time is a charm for the Falcons
The Skyridge Falcon’s third trip to the state finals ended in a victory over the Corner Canyon Chargers. The Falcons entered the state championship game, losing five straight to the Chargers. Head coach Jon Lehman has never had a losing season at Skyridge with an overall record of 70-18. This year would be the year he captured his first title at Skyridge.
First half even battle
The Falcons to the opening kickoff and drove down the field which was capped off with senior quarterback McCae Hillstead finding receiver Kyle Valdez for a 32-yard touchdown. The drive was highlighted by Hillstead finding junior running back La’akea Kalama on a big third-down conversion.
Corner Canyon took their first possession of the game and drove 80-yards down the field which ended with junior quarterback Isaac Wilson finding junior receiver Tate Kjar for a 25-yard touchdown pass and catch. This drive saw Wilson run for a first down to keep the drive going. Wilson was the high rusher in the game with 100 yards on 16 attempts.
The first quarter ended with the score tied at seven. The second quarter saw both defenses force punts and keep the offenses out of the end zone. With 1:25 left until halftime, Falcon’s kicker Ian Keeslar made a 23-yard field goal. The Chargers drove into Falcon’s territory after the kickoff but came away with no points. Wilson attempted a deep pass to Kjar, but the pass was incomplete and Kjar injured his shoulder on the play and would not return to the game. The Chargers tried to convert on fourth down but were turned away by the Falcon’s defense. At halftime, the Falcons led 10-7.
Falcon’s defense dominates the second half
The second half saw the Falcon’s defense successfully make adjustments to stop Wilson’s quarterback runs. Both defenses continued to stop the offenses on drives. The score stayed 10-7 through the third quarter. At the start of the fourth quarter, Hillstead found receiver Jace Doman for an 11-yard touchdown pass. This score gave the Falcons a 17-7 lead.
With less than four minutes remaining in the game, Wilson completed a screen pass to running back Drew Patterson that set up the Chargers inside the Falcon’s 30-yard line. A roughing of the passer penalty moved the ball to the 12-yard line after the penalty. With three minutes on the clock, the Chargers failed on a fourth down attempt and came away with no points and the score stayed 17-7. This defensive stand was the turning point in the game as a field goal would have cut the score down to seven points.
The Falcons took over on downs and were able to run out the clock and secure the win of the school’s first football championship.
What they said
” Feels great and fantastic,” said Hillstead, when describing the Falcon’s first state championship. “Not a better feeling in the world.” “They played good and stout,” said Hillstead on the Charger’s defense. ” They gave us some looks we didn’t expect, but we just executed.”
” It was a great game, and they are a great team,” said Kalama, “We lost to them earlier in the season, and a well-fought battle. “This feels great, the environment is great, said Kalama. “Just transferring in from Hawaii and I love my team and teammates and great to be a part of.”
The Chargers Wilson displayed his dual threat capabilities with 100 rushing yards and passing for 182 yards. Receiver Quinn Hale grabbed eight receptions and stepped up when Kjar went down. The offensive line of Matthew Snarr, Kai Sevy, Zion Finau, Naimana Filivaolelei, and Paxton Naegle gave Wilson time and stood strong against a tough Falcons line. Cornerback Ruben Otuafi made 10 total tackles and played great coverage in the secondary. Senior linebacker Owen Borg led the Chargers with 14 total tackles.
The Falcons Hillstead and Kalama made connections in the passing game to keep drives alive the entire game. The defense led the way with Dalton Young’s 11 total tackles. Saxon Higbee added 10 tackles. Defensive back Jace Doman had the only interception in the game.
Congratulation to the 6A state champions Skyridge Falcons and a great season for the Corner Canyon Chargers. Thank you to The Hive Sports and Daniel Olsen for the opportunity to cover this football season. Special thank you to all the players, coaches, and parents for your kindness and for allowing me to be a part of so many special moments. Thank you, Kim McFadden, for your amazing pictures and all of your help.
photo courtesy Kim McFadden IG: kmacphotograpyy
More photos by Kim McFadden of the game at https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/gsttjt7or4ohh0qey8n3d/h?dl=0&rlkey=2ys2o39qo6ef85q1zqc70i5at