HIGHLAND — Winning football games isn't always determined by glowing stats on the offensive or even defensive sides of the football. It sometimes comes down to small, seemingly insignificant moments that are made significant by one team or player. Lone Peak proved as much in its thrilling 27-26 win over Davis in the 5A quarterfinals.
Lone Peak senior linebacker Josh Buck provided two blocks on extra-point tries which proved to be the difference between a heartbreaking loss and a win. His final block came after the Darts scored a touchdown with just more than three minutes remaining with an extra point to put the game into overtime.
Buck, just as he did earlier in the game, leapt over the snapper to provide the block and all but stunt Davis' comeback bid. "Every practice we make sure we give it all we got and we always say that special teams is a big part of the game — it can win or lose games and it obviously did tonight," Buck said.
Following a failed onside kick by Davis, Lone Peak ran out the clock after it converted a third-and-11 with 2:19 left on the clock. Quarterback Baron Gajkowski hit a streaking Austin McChesney for 38 yards for the first down and the win.
"The boys had been wanting to run that play all game long," said coach Gary McGeary about his third-and-11 call. "We tried it in the first half a couple of times and didn't have time to throw it, so the players were bugging me to run it again and I said 'go ahead an run it' and it came up big for us."
The Knights lea throughout after getting off to a quick 10-0 lead following a 68-yard touchdown pass from Gajkowski to Talon Shumway and a 53-yard field goal from Michael Smith. The Darts came storming back to score the final touchdown of the first half by virtue of a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Gage Cook. It was then that Buck recorded his first blocked extra point to secure a 17-13 lead for Lone Peak at the half.
Lone Peak started the second half much like the first — scoring the first 10 points to go up 27-13 early in the fourth after a 30-yard field goal from Smith. Davis immediately responded by marching the football 80 yards and capping it off with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Cook to Abel Porter with 5:17 remaining.
Following a three-and-out from Lone Peak, Porter returned a punt 47 yards to set up his team with first-and-goal from the five. Two plays later, Cook hit Colton Chronister with a six-yard touchdown pass with 3:10 left on the clock, but Buck's second blocked extra point attempt prevented Davis from tying the game.
Buck headlined a great all-around effort on the defensive side of the ball. It's the sort of effort that has become common since Buck's famous father, Outland Trophy winner Jason Buck, took over the defensive coordinating responsibilities.
"Ever since (Buck) became our defensive coordinator the intensity we have and our execution has gotten so much better," said McChesney, who recorded a key interception in the second half. "We're so confident in what we do and we're going back to Rice-Eccles and we couldn't be more excited about that opportunity."
With the win, Lone Peak advances to the semifinals at Rice-Eccles where it will take on Jordan at 2:30 p.m. this Thursday.
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