Kingston, Ecker and defense lead patchwork Roy in comeback win over Kearns
ROY — On a night when Roy High football had several players out due to injury and other reasons, the Royals went down 14-0 in the first five minutes of their game against Kearns.
Things looked really bad really early for a team still recovering from a physical loss at West last week and a physical game against Hunter the week before.
As anyone who’s been around Roy football the last several years knows, the game’s not over until it’s over, no matter the score at any point.
Quarterback and recent BYU commit Parker Kingston rushed for three touchdowns, Ethan Ecker rushed for two more and Cove Rodriguez blocked a punt and stayed inbounds to make it a touchdown as Roy came back to beat Kearns 40-35 on Thursday night in what could be a pivotal Region 2 result down the road.
For now, Roy coach Fred Fernandes let loose a few fist pumps and celebrated with his coaches on the sideline once the Royals were in victory formation.
This wasn’t a pushover team Roy (4-2, 2-1 Region 2) just beat. Kearns (3-3, 1-1) has won or shared the last four Region 2 titles.
“It could possibly mean a ton, we still could have a shot at the region title if something happens with West, Kearns and Hunter. We’ll see,” Kingston said. “It was really important for us to come out and show what we can actually do … it was good that we could come out here as a full team.”
That full team consisted of some patchwork replacements in certain positions Thursday night including in the linebacker spots, but most importantly at placekicker.
Roy didn’t have its usual placekicker, Britton Watts, so a junior named Jaydan Hurt came in and went 4 for 4 on extra points after the Royals failed on their first two 2-point conversions.
The kickoff duties were handled by No. 10 Silas Lauffer, who — according to Roy head coach Fred Fernandes — “is a foreign exchange student from Brazil that got eligible last night at about 6 o’clock.”
Kearns struck first in the game on a 2-yard TD run by quarterback Iosefa Toiaivao to complete a quick drive. The Cougars recovered a Kingston fumble, scored again and led 14-0 with 7:00 remaining in the quarter.
The way things looked, the running clock was already a possibility. Roy’s defense weathered Kearns’ tough running attack and got some stops, enough for the offense to get rolling for more than two plays.
“That’s a hell of a team, they’re going to beat some people this year,” Fernandes said about Kearns.
After a big kick return by DaeQwan Snider, Kingston ran for a 37-yard touchdown. A couple drives later, he dove in for another score to cut the lead to 14-12.
The Royals’ defense had recovered, but Kearns went right down and scored on a touchdown by running back Naki Leha.
The touchdown trading continued to the end of the first half with Ethan Ecker going in for a 1-yard Roy TD and Toiaivao, the Kearns QB, also running one in, good for a 28-19 Kearns halftime lead.
Thursday night’s game was broadcast on KJZZ and at halftime, Roy High honored one of the school’s alumni: Erik Thompson.
The theme was to wear orange — the Roy coaches and student section all wore orange shirts — in honor of Thompson, the current Ogden High football coach who made public his ALS diagnosis this summer.
Photo supplied, Gordon Doxey Family and friends surround Erik Thompson, center in yellow letterman’s jacket, on the track at Roy High School during halftime of a game between Roy and Kearns on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. Thompson, a Roy alum and current Ogden High head football coach, was honored with a fundraising night at Roy as he made public his ALS diagnosis this summer.
“Bleed black and live golden,” said Thompson, wearing his Roy High letterman jacket, to the crowd at halftime. It prompted a rousing ovation.
Maybe the Roy High football magic of late was already there, but it showed up on the football field in the second half as the Royals pulled off a double-digit comeback.
The Royal defense that was on its heels the first two quarters was now on its toes and started to put Kearns in third- and fourth-down situations. The Cougars went from scoring 28 in the first half to scoring seven in the second.
“I think we just decided we wanted to play and not be afraid of those guys. (Defensive coordinator) Eric (Jones) made a couple adjustments in there on some gap holes, but I think the mentality is what changed,” Fernandes said.
Kingston ran for another score to cut the lead to 28-26, Kearns missed a pass on a fake punt to give Roy the ball and Ecker later ran for a 21-yard score to give Roy its first lead of the game, 33-28.
The Cougars, facing pressure on offense, went backward on their next and tried a punt out of their own end zone.
Rodriguez rushed in, blocked the kick, chased the ball down in the back of the end zone and got ahold of it with a tip-toe inbounds to secure a touchdown, a 40-28 lead and a raucous celebration.
Fernandes said the plan was actually for Kingston to return the punt for a touchdown.
“I thought I was gonna take it to the house, but we got it an even easier way,” said Kingston.
Kearns scored late in the game and tried an onside kick — the Cougars recovered an onside kick to start the second half leading 28-19 and got stopped on fourth down — that went out of bounds.
The postgame celebration included Thompson, to whom Fernandes gave the customary KJZZ trophy. The two, whose connection goes back decades, shared more than a few embraces Thursday night.
“Now that we won, it was a fantastic day,” Fernandes said.