ROY — The bitter football rivalry that bubbled for two years didn’t lose it luster once it resumed Friday night.
If anything, it picked up exactly where it left off. So when Roy running back Jaden Harris ran in for a 2-yard touchdown to put the Royals ahead 37-31 with 39 seconds left against Fremont, the emotional display from the Royals’ players and fans was somewhat to be expected.
Harris’ touchdown completed a wild, fourth-quarter comeback that saw Roy beat Fremont 37-31 after trailing by 14 points with 10 minutes left in the game.
Not only was it the resumption of the bitter rivalry and a region opener for both teams, but it was the sixth straight time the Royals (2-1, 1-0 Region 1) have defeated Fremont (0-3, 0-1).
Roy’s offense couldn’t be stopped once the Silverwolves went ahead 31-17 on a Jayce Storey touchdown run.
“First, I want to thank my offensive linemen, they do the dirty work. Without them, we wouldn’t have punched that in, but we knew we could do it with them,” Harris said.
The Royals scored on a seven-play drive with quarterback Jaxson Dart hitting Cade Harris for a 32-yard touchdown to close the gap to 31-24.
Roy forced a Fremont punt on the next drive. Then Dart hit Cade Harris in double coverage for a 41-yard gain, setting up a 10-yard touchdown to Cade Harris two plays later to tie it 31-31.
Anthony Yazzie recovered a fumble on the second play of Fremont’s next drive, forced by Justin Kirkland, giving Roy a short field with plenty of time to score, which the Royals did.
Fremont could’ve taken a bigger lead into halftime than the 15-10 advantage it held, but it took awhile for the Silverwolves to figure their offense out.
One player who was at full steam from the opening kickoff was kick returner Brayden Clark.
Clark took the opening kick 61 yards into Roy territory. Fremont only managed a field goal after starting at the Roy 34.
“We’ve got to figure out how to be better in the secondary. We’ll figure that out this weekend and then we’ll get to work,” Fremont coach Ross Arnold said. “I’m proud of our guys, they played hard, they played with composure, they left it all out on the field, but we’ve just got to make plays.”
After Dart found Parker Kingston for a scrambling, 20-yard touchdown on fourth down to put Roy up 7-3, Clark took the kickoff past midfield again to the Roy 44.
The Silverwolves settled for a field goal again and it came up short.
But once they didn’t have a short field, the offense figured out how to attack Roy: throw outside.
Mitch Stratford, whose shoulder was rumored to be injured all week but who threw just fine, completed a short pass to Jaxon Whitney on the outside and Whitney ran the rest of the way for a 66-yard touchdown.
Fremont’s defense made a big stop after a long Roy drive late in the second quarter got to the Silverwolves’ 21-yard line. Justin Sagapolu and Bridger Hansen recorded back-to-back sacks to force a punt.
There were 36.8 seconds left and 80 yards to go, which didn’t seem like enough time until Stratford hit Jaxson McFarland for a 66-yard touchdown pass over the top of the defense with 1.9 seconds left in the first half for the 15-10 advantage.
Roy took a page out of Fremont’s special teams book as McQuade Andrade took the second-half opening kickoff back for a touchdown and a 17-15 Roy lead.
Stratford found Whitney for a wide-open touchdown again in the second half and Fremont retook the lead 23-17.
The Royals got a defensive stop the next Fremont possession, but a roughing the punter penalty gave Fremont another chance. Running back Jayce Storey, in for the injured Moises Martinez, ran for a 37-yard score, breaking several tackles along the way. It was 31-17 for the visitors.
And then came the Royals.
“We just knew to never stop fighting,” Dart said. “We were moving the ball, just didn’t capitalize on a couple things. We hurt ourself the whole game and towards the end we were able to clutch it out, come back and win this crazy thing.”
When Jaden Harris ran in for the game-winning touchdown, Dart was particularly animated coming off the field. Roy’s side of the stadium celebrated while the Fremont side couldn’t believe what just happened.
Friday was Roy running back Izzy Gordon’s first game of the season after a long, complicated return from a broken ankle suffered against Weber last season. Gordon rushed seven times for 69 yards in the first half.