Austin Stevenson leads Spanish Fork football to upset of Springville
It’s not unusual for a high school football team that gets an upset in a rivalry game to praise the quarterback who led them to victory.
But Spanish Fork senior Austin Stevenson is definitely not your average high school quarterback.
Stevenson’s story prepared him to be in a unique position for the Dons in Friday night’s big Region 9 game at Springville and he came up huge, making numerous key plays as part of the surprising 36-28 Spanish Fork win over the Red Devils.
“This is the best feeling I’ve had in a long time,” Stevenson said after the game. “We came in with the proper mindset and played how we wanted to play.”
A little over a year ago, you would’ve been more likely to find Stevenson in the stands cheering on the Dons than find him in football pads.
“He was a soccer kid,” Spanish Fork head coach Dustin Smith said. “At this time last year, he had only even worn a helmet for a month.”
Indeed, Stevenson said he didn’t ever really plan on playing football.
“It’s crazy,” the Don senior said. “I came in from soccer to be the kicker. When quarterback Zac Dart went down, though, they told me they wanted me to throw. I trained with Coach Smith, who is such a good communicator.”
Stevenson is still the kicker and punter for Spanish Fork, in addition to his quarterback duties, which gives him the opportunity to impact the game in numerous ways.
And the Dons needed him in all facets on Friday night against previously undefeated Springville.
The Red Devils appeared to be in good shape after sophomore defensive lineman Dallin Johnson made a phenomenal one-handed interception when Stevenson attempted to throw a screen pass. His return set up a powerful 4-yard touchdown run by Springville senior running back Seth Rigtrup to give the home team a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
But the tide was about to turn in Spanish Fork’s favor in a big way.
In the final minute of the first half, the Dons forced the Red Devils to punt deep in their own territory. The Spanish Fork punt block team got a big piece of the ball on the kick, giving Stevenson and the offense great field position with 37 seconds left in the half.
The Dons moved into field goal range and Stevenson drilled a 25-yard field goal to narrow the Springville lead at the break.
Stevenson and the Spanish Fork run game then marched down the field on the first drive of the third quarter with the senior QB taking the ball around the right end for a 2-yard TD that gave the Dons the lead.
Spanish Fork then stripped the ball from the Red Devil returner on the ensuing kickoff, putting the ball in Stevenson’s hands again with another short field.
The Dons needed just four plays to cover the 24 yards to the end zone with Stevenson powering in again, making the score 23-14.
That was when Stevenson and Smith decided to gamble.
“As I jogged off the field, Coach asked me if I wanted to go for it,” Stevenson said. “I said yes and then talked to the players, who said we could get it. We had practiced the onside kick all week and I was able to kick a good ball. It was a great call.”
Stevenson’s soccer skills may have aided him getting the perfect placement on the surprise onside kick, which Spanish Fork was able to recover.
The Dons then hammered the worn-down Springville defense, running the ball eight times to just one pass to get deep in Red Devil territory. Stevenson finished it off with another field goal, extending the lead.
With 9:15 left in the contest, the Springville offense finally got to trot out onto the field for its first possession in more than 15 minutes of game time.
When the Red Devil offensive unit had last had the ball, it had a seven-point lead; now it trailed by 12.
But Springville junior quarterback Ryder Burton needed just two plays to get more points on the board, rifling the ball to junior tight end Walker Deede for a 57-yard scoring strike.
That, however, only took up 43 seconds and forced the Red Devil defense back onto the field quickly.
Spanish Fork continued to pound the ball, methodically moving down and getting another Stevenson field goal.
“Our game plan was to try and beat them at their own game,” Smith said. “Last year we only had six or seven possessions as they beat us by like 40 points. This year we wanted to be physical and match their intensity. We wanted to hold the ball and run the clock as much as we could.”
That mission was accomplished in the second half as the Dons controlled the ball for more than 20 of the 24 minutes after the break.
Springville still gave itself a shot to tie in the final minutes, but Spanish Fork forced a fumble and senior Tayson Reid returned it for a touchdown, sealing the win for the Dons.
“Our seniors had never beaten Springville,” Smith said. “This was as big of a win as we’ve had in a long time. I’m so proud of the players, the coaches and our crowd. It was huge for us.”
Stevenson said he hopes this victory gives Spanish Fork momentum heading into the rest of the season.
“We want to just go up from here,” he said. “We’ve got to fix some things and get in tune with the offensive line, but this gets us going and we can feed off each other.”
Spanish Fork (3-1) next hosts Salem Hills on Sept. 17 while Springville (4-1) plays at Provo the same evening.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.