Two eerily similar plays ... two nail-biting moments where the outcome hung in the balance ... two vastly different results.
Thursday night’s dramatic Region 4 clash between Skyridge and Corner Canyon in Lehi was filled with brilliant performances and big-time action, but the end result hinged on two nearly identical situations.
The first came with just over a minute to play as the Chargers faced fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, trailing the Falcons by five points. Failure to convert would likely have ended Corner Canyon’s hopes of victory.
But Charger senior quarterback Jaxson Dart came through, rifling the ball to junior wide receiver Cody Hagen in the end zone to put Corner Canyon in front.
Less than a minute later, Skyridge found itself on the Charger 5-yard line with just eight seconds to play and down by three points. The Falcons put it all on the line as well, going for the end zone and the victory.
Skyridge sophomore quarterback McCae Hillstead thought he saw an opening and tried to run into the end zone, but was tackled two yards short of the goal line and Corner Canyon survived with the 29-26 win.
“I’m proud of the way my team fought,” Falcon head coach Jon Lehman said. “We’ve just got to finish. This is the type of game you expect when you have two good teams out there. We’re disappointed in the ending, but we’ll learn and grow from it.”
He said the decision by his young quarterback may have resulted in the clock running out but it could’ve been a very different outcome.
“McCae trusts his legs,” Lehman said. “He’s a great competitor who led us down the field on that final drive. It was a gutsy situation. If he scores there, he’s the hero. Situationally we would’ve loved to have had another play but you have to trust playmakers to go out and make plays.”
It will be tough for Skyridge to not think about the “could’ve-beens” in that contest, since for much of the game the Falcons were on the verge of blowing out the undefeated Chargers.
After falling behind, 14-6 in the first quarter, Skyridge came roaring back.
The Falcons ended the first quarter with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hillstead to senior wide receiver James Palmer, got a 10-yard TD run by Hillstead to go in front.
Another short Skyridge scoring pass — this one from Hillstead to senior wide receiver Mitch Adamson from three yards out — gave the Falcons a two-score lead. A pair of blocked extra points, however, would prove costly.
After the Skyridge defense stopped Corner Canyon, the Falcon offense had one more chance to put points on the board before halftime as two big passes got the ball to the Charger 1-yard line.
Skyridge tried to power the ball into the end zone and through the mass of bodies it was impossible to tell if the ball crossed the goal line or if the runner was down first, but the ball popped free and Corner Canyon recovered it for a crushing fumble.
The home team later would have two more potential touchdowns taken off the board.
The first was when a fourth-down pass to Adamson in the end zone was ruled that it wasn’t controlled before he went out of bounds.
The second was even costlier because it came on the final drive after the Chargers had put together their big fourth-quarter rally to go in front.
Hillstead connected with junior wide receiver Connor McAllister, who weaved through the Corner Canyon defense for a 41-yard score — only to have it called back because of an illegal-shift penalty that had nothing to do with the play.
“We know we had our chances,” Lehman said. “We can’t have a turnover in the red zone or have flags when we are driving in the two-minute drill. But these are guys who fought and competed, and sometimes you make those mistakes.”
Skyridge proved once again that it belongs in the upper echelon of 6A football and that’s where the Falcons want to be.
“This game and the Lone Peak game were 50-50 games,” Lehman said. “We’ve got to stick with it and continue to put ourselves in position to win. Sometimes things just don’t go your way but we will fight to the end. We know we can play with anyone.”
Skyridge (7-2, 2-2) will finish the regular season when it hosts Westlake on Oct. 14, while Corner Canyon (9-0, 4-0) will host American Fork the same evening.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.