SALT LAKE CITY — The second quarter was the turning point for the Hurricane Tigers on Thursday.
Not only did the Tigers score 14 points in that 12-minute span, effectively putting the game out of reach at 27-0 even before reaching halftime, it's also when McCrae Vaifanua worked most of his magic in the 38-7 victory over Delta.
In that quarter alone, the senior linebacker intercepted two Colin Christensen passes and then sacked the Delta quarterback for a loss of 7 yards, forcing the Rabbits to punt again. It was Vaifanua's first pick and sack of the season.
"Going out to state and then coming out with a good game like that, it feels awesome," Vaifanua said. "Our defense was the bomb tonight. Not just the interceptions, but our defensive line, they stepped up and it was big."
He then added, "We stopped the option, because against Cedar that was our only struggle this whole year. We were able to watch a whole lot of film and do a lot on that. We were just really disciplined on that."
The Tigers were upset by their Region 9-rival Cedar 44-30 in the final game of the regular season. It is the only blemish on Hurricane's otherwise perfect run to their third consecutive 3A championship game.
That loss and a few missteps against Delta back in the second week of the season have been motivating for McCrae and the Tigers the rest of the way.
"We knew what we did last time when we played them (Delta), we had a major letdown in the second half," Vaifanua said. "Like the coach for Delta said, this was David vs. Goliath and we knew we were Goliath, so our focus was a lot better this week."
Vaifanua also had the longest reception of the night for the Tigers, a 25-yard catch in the first quarter, as well as four tackles and 42 all-purpose yards.
"I've always called McCrae our spiritual leader because he brings so much intensity to the game," Hurricane head coach Chris Homer said. "It's nice to have a guy like that that brings an emotional feeling with him and people can jump on board with him."
The coach said he needs more of that from his senior leader and the entire Tiger defense next week in the championship game no mater who they play, but, if they could choose, Vaifanua said he'd like another shot at the Soaring Eagle.
"I hope it's Juan Diego. That's what everybody has been saying. We've done our part to come this far," he said, adding that losing two consecutive title games to the same team has given his team some inspiration.
"To see the previous seniors the last couple of years cry in that locker room, I don't want that feeling. I don't want my heart to drop. It's motivating."