SYRACUSE -- As the Syracuse Titans commenced their postseason journey toward a hoped for repeat appearance in the state 5-A football title game, things couldn't have gone any better for the offense out of the gate.
Kavika Fonua took Syracuse's opening snap around the left side and outran the Lone Peak defense for a 71-yard touchdown scamper. Unfortunately for the Titans, an unheralded Knight defense that allowed over 22 points per game during the regular season put the clamps on the rest of the way. The Knights allowed only a pair of field goals and a mere 75 more yards of Syracuse offense in a 21-13 victory.
"It's like we thought going into the game, (Lone Peak) is a great football team with a great quarterback," Syracuse coach Russ Jones said. (They have) big-sized kids on the offensive line. They have a great defense. We knew that we had our hands full. We needed to make more plays than what we did.
"(The Syracuse players) have worked their tails off. They have nothing to be ashamed about or nothing to drop their heads about because they played their hearts out and they have all year."
Despite putting the ball into the end zone only twice, the Knight offense led by quarterback Baron Gajkowski gave the Titans fits. Lone Peak strung together 347 yards of total offense, but more importantly kept the Syracuse offense off of the field for long stretches. Grajkowski ran for 149 yards on 23 attempts and accounted for both Knight offensive touchdowns, his 18th and 19th of the year on the ground. He also kept the chains moving by completing 11-of-19 passes for 78 yards. He tossed a pair of third quarter picks with the Titans trying to get back in the game down 21-10, but each time the Lone Peak defense snuffed out the Syracuse threat.
Lone Peak, who finished in a four-way tie for the Region 4 championship, took the opening kickoff and marched down the field in 12 plays. Gajkowski plunged into the end zone from a yard out to give the Knights an early 7-0 lead.
After Fonua and the Titans answered with the long touchdown run, Syracuse moved on top, 10-7 with eight seconds left in the opening quarter, as Romney Harker drilled a 43-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare.
Midway through the second period, the Knights took the lead for good. Gajkowski tiptoed down the sidelines from 24 yards out on a quarterback keeper to put Lone Peak on top, 14-10.
After a pair of three-and-outs in the closing minutes of the half, Syracuse went into the locker room needing to regroup offensively. It didn't happen.
The Titans took the second half kickoff and watched Lone Peak's lead balloon to 21-10 when Chase Armstrong picked off a Kole Tracy offering and was escorted into the end zone on a 40-yard return.
Following a Daunte Atkinson interception of Gajkowski in Lone Peak territory, the Titans had another opportunity to narrow the gap with the ball at the Lone Peak 24. However, on third-and-nine, Armstrong caught another interception, on a diving effort, to stymie the drive.
The Titans finally found some success moving the ball in the fourth quarter running Tracy through the heart of the Lone Peak defense. Syracuse found its way to the Lone Peak 19, but burned nearly six minutes off of the clock doing so. Romney's second field goal, a 36-yard effort, made it a one score game at 21-13, with 5:37 to play and the Titans needing a defensive stop.
Syracuse would never see the ball again. Gajkowski chunked off runs of 35 and 15 yards, along with a three-yard burst on fourth-and-two, to run out the clock and slam the door on Syracuse's season.