GARLAND — For the 100th time, Bear River and Box Elder High met on opposite sides of a football field Friday night. The rivalry that has been mostly lopsided in Box Elder's favor over the decades delivered a classic this time.
Cael Wilcox caught a 36-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from quarterback Josh Payne to complete a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter comeback for Bear River, securing a 26-22 win over Box Elder in a rare victory (No. 27 in the series) for the Bears against the Bees.
BEHS principal Jamie Kent handed off the Golden Spike trophy to Bear River's coaches at midfield after the game. The players eventually got the trophy and ran off the field chanting, "Spike! Spike! Spike!"
Coaches doused Bears head coach Chris Wise with water on the sideline.
"It feels damn good," Bear River running back Kace "Bucket" Jones said.
Box Elder appeared to be pulling away late as quarterback Parker Buchanan rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, the second giving the Bees (0-4) a 22-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Sputtering no more, Jones rushed for a 63-yard TD, his second score of the night, and the Bears (3-1) converted a two-point conversion to pull within 22-20.
"I scored, but it was really them linemen blocking for me. They were able to seal that edge for me to bounce outside and that's what was allowing me to score. Easy from there," said Jones, who rushed for 170 yards.
After a Box Elder three-and-out, Bear River drove down and took a 26-22 lead with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Payne to Wilcox on fourth down.
"It's a good throw. I kind of have to run onto it and I kind of dove down, I mean that's all I was thinking about," Wilcox said.
"It was kind of a do or die," Wise said of the situation. "I felt like we had the corner on the right side on his heels so we said OK, Cael, here you go. This kid's on his heels a little bit, it's fourth-and-5, we're putting everything in your basket."
It was the last change to scoreboard in a second half full of them.
Box Elder faced fourth-and-29 with under a minute left, the Bears held and went into victory formation the next play.
Though Bear River only wins three out of every 10 games in this series on average, the Bears do have an advantage in one all-time category: Golden Spike games decided by a single possession, in which they're 16-15-2 now.
"This is the happiest moment of my life. No question. I've always wanted to beat Box Elder," Wilcox said.
Though it looked like the Bears would score first early in the evening, Box Elder found the breakthrough early in the second quarter.
On third-and-7, Bees running back Trevin Johnson appeared to be stopped for no gain before he broke through and ran for 41 yards.
Two plays later, sophomore receiver Braylon Majors took a Buchanan screen pass 17 yards to the house, reaching over the goal line while a defender pulled his jersey in a last-ditch tackle attempt.
Majors' TD catch completed a drive that started on Box Elder's own 2-yard line.
Bear River's Gabe Dwaileebe returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Bees territory and before long, Wilcox held his arms outstretched in the end zone after catching a wide-open 14-yard TD pass from Payne, who was returning from a knee injury.
The Bears had another drive go deep into Box Elder territory in the final minute of the first half, but Box Elder held and took a 7-6 halftime lead, though Bear River led in the wide-open-dropped-touchdowns category 2-1.
Buchanan found Majors for a 59-yard pass to put Box Elder in scoring position, then gave the Bees a 14-6 lead with a short rushing touchdown.
Bear River's response was swift: on the first play of the next drive, Jones rushed for a 72-yard TD on a counter play to bring it back to 14-12.
"My heart's bursting because we had some gutsy performances," Wise said.
Box Elder's lead in the all-time series is now 71-27-2, but it didn't look like it mattered to the Bear River fans and players, who made a lot of noise towards the end of the game and after.
There was equal disappointment on the other side of the field. Health restrictions mean there's no team handshakes after the game; instead, the teams wave at each other from across the field.
Box Elder quickly left the sideline but, as the crowd still celebrated the win even after Bear River ran off the field into the locker room, a Box Elder player stood on the track and stared out at the field until an assistant coach called his name to tell him it was time to go.
Both teams start region play next week with somewhat different outlooks.
Bear River will put its 3-1 start on the line next week against 3-0 Ridgeline, which has smoked two 5A schools (Farmington and Woods Cross) in consecutive weeks.
Box Elder, though it's 0-4, is a couple plays away from being 2-2 and faces a Farmington team whose 1-3 record shouldn't be looked at too much given the Phoenix's losses have been to Corner Canyon, Lone Peak and the aforementioned Ridgeline.