ROY — After taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter over Timpview on Friday, Roy football gained only 47 yards of offense through the ensuing two-plus quarters while it saw a physical Thunderbirds team claw back to tie the game.
The Royals somehow needed to muster one more score in the fourth quarter. After holding Timpview to a punt deep in its own territory and taking over on a short field, head coach Fred Fernandes sent in what Roy believed would be that one play.
Receiver Kyrese Rowan, the all-or-nothing target for the called pass play, turned to teammate Josh Gallegos and said, “I’m about to cramp.”
He beat his man up the hashmarks and Jaxson Dart lofted the ball into Rowan’s breadbasket. He cramped the whole route, he said, and nearly dropped the ball.
But he secured the catch, finished his run to the end zone and Roy had a 44-yard touchdown to take a 20-14 lead with 8:31 left in the game, which became the final score that sent the Royals to the 5A semifinals.
Rowan collapsed to his back but still extended both arms to his sideline with fingers extended in celebration. “I couldn’t tolerate it any more,” he said.
The 44-yard score nearly equaled Roy’s offensive output since it took that early lead.
Rowan said Roy (9-2) put the play in this week to attack Timpview’s (7-4) defense in exactly that way to get Rowan matched up with a linebacker.
Roy wasn’t out of the woods yet, however, because Targhee Lambson, Ammon Ah Quin and Sione Moa were slowly punishing Roy’s defense and the Royals missed the point-after kick. The defense was also without a cramping Rowan and also lost stud defensive lineman Isaiah Huber on the ensuing series.
Timpview took more than three minutes to march 50 yards to Roy’s 29. After a penalty, Lambson plowed ahead eight yards on third down to the Roy 25.
But on fourth-and-3 with 4:15 left, Nui Adolpho rolled left and, with nobody to throw to, was eventually driven out of bounds for a loss on a hard hit from Levi Conley.
Cade Harris and Jaden Harris took turns picking up first downs to milk the clock until Roy kneeled the victory out near the Timpview 20.
“I love these guys,” Fernandes said. “They proved to me they aren’t going to back down. (Timpview) is a really good football team. They’re a lot bigger than we are. Our kids just stood toe to toe with them.
“Our defense played lights out. On a couple of drives, they went for it on fourth down and we stepped up and played big.”
Indeed, despite the punishing Timpview run game, Roy’s defense held the Thunderbirds mostly in check. It wasn’t until Jaden Harris fumbled early in the third quarter that Timpview found life.
That gave the road team a 28-yard field. Lambson rushed four times to the Roy 8, where Moa threw to Carsen Ryan for a touchdown.
On its next possession, Timpview started at its own 15 but quickly got to Roy territory on a Moa 26-yard run and a personal foul penalty. Lambson converted a fourth-and-2 and, on the next play, Moa connected with Raider Damuni for a 28-yard passing score to make it 14-14 with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
Roy came out hot in the first quarter, engineering touchdown drives of 61 yards and 3:14 of clock, and 53 yards and 4:34 of clock. Both were set up by Dart to Rowan connections of 19 and 34 yards.
Dart threw to Cade Harris for a 4-yard score to cap the first drive and Jaden Harris plowed for a 1-yard rush to score on the second drive.
Notably in the second quarter, a Dart rush near the sticks on a third down ended when he was popped helmet-to-helmet at Roy’s sideline, sending his lid flying. The Timpview defender continued to drive Dart out of bounds and a kerfuffle ensued.
The refs took 10 minutes to sort out what happened — offsetting personal fouls on the teams, but a third unsportsmanlike foul on a Roy coach trying to separate the players wiped out Dart’s gain and seemed to take the wind out of Roy’s sails.
The Royals did nearly nothing on offense from there until the game-winning score, holding on despite being unofficially outgained 317-234.
Dart threw for 131 yards, 97 of them to Rowan. Cade Harris totaled 66 rushing yards and Jaden Harris added 53.
After winning this rematch of the 2014 state title bout, it’s on to another rematch: Roy faces Skyridge (10-1), the Region 8 champ it lost to in Week 3. The Royals got down 21-0 in that game before losing 28-20.
That semifinal is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated from its original to accurately reflect Levi Conley as Roy's fourth-down tackler with 4:15 left in the game.