FARMINGTON — Things were going so well for the Farmington High football team Friday night.
The Phoenix led Lehi 14-0 early in the second quarter of the teams’ 5A state quarterfinal, FHS had whatever momentum was there to grab thanks to an interception return for touchdown and the defense was playing particularly stout.
Then it all went south, literally and figuratively.
Lehi scored 27 unanswered points across both sides of halftime and held on for a 27-21 win that ended the Phoenix’s (9-2) sparkling season.
The FHS defense intercepted Pioneers’ quarterback Creyton Cooper four times, and Jeremy Wilcox returned one of them for a touchdown to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.
But Farmington couldn’t convert the turnovers — Hayden Wilcox, Izaac Guillaume and Nick Shirley had the other three picks — into enough points offensively to counteract a tough day on offense.
The Phoenix had two long scoring drives in the game, one that resulted in a 3-yard Hayden Toone TD run to make it 7-0 and another that ended with a 22-yard Wilcox TD catch to cut the Lehi lead to 27-21.
The other drives yielded six punts, the end of the first half, a turnover on downs, a pick-six and a fumble return for touchdown.
“As the teams get better and the games get closer, we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” FHS head coach Daniel Coats said.
Timing couldn’t have been worse on the miscues.
After Lehi cut the Farmington lead to 14-7 via a 15-play touchdown drive, Lehi’s Jaxson Southard intercepted quarterback Wyatt Evertsen on the first play of the ensuing drive and ran it back for a 27-yard pick-six to tie the game at 14.
On Farmington’s second drive in the second half, Lehi’s Jacob Vasquez returned a fumble 34 yards to the house just two plays after Guillaume had given the Phoenix great field position with an interception.
What followed was a Farmington three-and-out, and two long Lehi drives that resulted in field goals and precious grains of sand cascading through the hourglass.
The Pioneers found gold with their rushing attack behind running back Carsen Manookin and quarterback Creyton Cooper. Once Farmington defensive lineman Brayden Wilson went out with an injury late in the first half, the Phoenix was on its heels the rest of the game.
“Our defense was lights-out, they were outstanding. That’s a heck of an offense, that’s a heck of a team, our defense just played outstanding football tonight,” Lehi head coach Ed Larson said.
Jeremy Wilcox’s 22-yard touchdown catch gave FHS hope in the fourth quarter, as did Shirley’s interception that gave the Phoenix the ball with five minutes left trailing by six points.
But the team that will run out on to the Rice-Eccles Stadium turf for a state semifinal next week is the Lehi team that’s been there and done that, not the second-year Farmington program.
“We needed just a bigger spark and we didn’t get it,” Coats said.
The hard part for the Farmington players came at the final whistle when they dropped to the turf amid a backdrop of purple-and-white ecstasy, with many FHS seniors knowing it was the last time they’ll ever don a football jersey in a competitive game.
Perhaps the harder part for the team will be watching the film and finding a handful of easily correctable errors that could’ve changed the complexion of a play, a series, a quarter and maybe a whole game.
6A playoffs: Corner Canyon 56, Syracuse 0
The Region 1 champion Titans (9-3) fell behind 21-0 after one quarter and 49-0 at halftime before the unbeaten and top-seeded Chargers milked a running clock in the second half.