SALT LAKE CITY — The only team to truly challenge top-ranked Corner Canyon during the regular season couldn’t pull off the same feat in the 6A semifinals.
The Chargers rallied for a 21-17 win against Lone Peak earlier this season but Corner Canyon didn’t need a last-second touchdown this time, controlling the semifinals from the first play and finishing with a dominating 34-7 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday.
Corner Canyon quarterback Cole Hagen accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one running) including an 80-yard bomb for a score to open the game.
“We stressed to our kids just to attack all game long, that we were going to come out and be aggressive play calling-wise,” Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar said. “We do that anyway and sometimes I get criticized for that, which is fine. But we’re always going to try to be aggressive and try to instill that in our kids. That’s how we started the game with play action and trying to stretch the field. You talk to your kids about it and you have to back that up as a coach to do what you preach to them.”
It was a tough end for defending state champion Lone Peak, which had to forfeit five regular-season wins due to the use of an ineligible player but won four straight games to reach this year’s semifinals.
“The kids fought hard,” Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank said. “They (Corner Canyon) are a really good team and you can’t make mistakes and beat those guys. We didn’t really take a lot of chances on defense but I think sometimes the aggressive nature of how we are comes through. I don’t necessarily think we gambled, but we live and die with those guys. That’s who they are.”
The Chargers (13-0) took a quick 6-0 lead when Hagen found Talmage Handley over the middle on the first play of the game for an 80-yard touchdown. Corner Canyon kept the pressure on the Lone Peak defense but the Knights forced two field attempts — one missed and one blocked by Justin Ostler — to keep the score settled at 6-0.
The Lone Peak offense, misfired most of the game. A tipped pass resulted in an interception by Austin Mustain, who returned the ball to the Corner Canyon 16-yard line with 5:40 play in the second quarter.
Corner Canyon forced a fourth-and-8 and Lone Peak lined up for a field goal. Instead of kicking the ball, Nate Ritchie took a direct snap and sprinted to his right. He went out of bounds close to a first down, but the measurement came up short by inches.
“We’re a defensive team this year,” Brockbank said. “Our defense leads out and our offense has got to score. We had a chance there when the defense gave us the ball on the 16-yard line. We’ve got to get points.”
The Chargers responded with an 11-play, 93-yard drive aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Lone Peak on third down. On third-and-5 from the Knights 9-yard line, John Glavine slipped loose on a screen play and scored with 27 seconds remaining in the half. The extra point gave Corner Canyon a 13-0 lead at the break.
Handley and Hagen teamed up on another big play midway through the third quarter — a 57-yard scoring pass — and the Corner Canyon lead reached 20-0.
Utilizing a Wildcat formation with Ritchie as the quarterback, Lone Peak mounted a 17-play drive deep into enemy territory. Ritchie converted a fourth-and-one and two plays later plowed over from the 2-yard line to cut the Corner Canyon lead to 20-7 with the fourth quarter still to play.
The Chargers responded with another big play, this one a 57-yard sprint to the end zone by Hagen, to push their advantage to 27-7 with 10:19 remaining.
“It was just the big plays on defense,” said Ritchie, who played his last game in a Lone Peak football uniform. “Defensively we came in with a good game plan, we just gave up some things on some simple mistakes. We had everything except for those big plays.”
It was the fifth straight season the Knights made it as far as the semifinals.
“It (the ineligible player drama) made us come together as a team,” Ritchie said. “We’re all family and all brothers. We love each and we had nothing to lose. The 20th seed making it to the semifinals, that’s never has happened before, so it’s kind of cool.”
Jared Fotu led the Lone Peak defensive effort with six tackles, including three for loss. Mustain and Britton Berry had interceptions for the Knights and Luke Durfey added a fumble recovery.
Luke Romney finished 14 of 26 for 133 yards and was sacked three times. Ritchie contributed 56 rushing yards and punted five times for a 40-yard average.
Hagen was 14 of 29 for 280 yards and three touchdowns, and Handley had three catches for 146 yards and two scores.
Lone Peak finished the season with a record of 4-10.