SALT LAKE CITY — Hurricane lineman Daniel Nielson was about the only Tiger player not to break down following the team's heartbreaking 10-7 loss to Juan Diego in the 3A championship game on Friday afternoon.
That is, until Nielson ran into kicker Corey Edwards.
Nielson lost his composure once he hugged Edwards, who missed two field goals and had one blocked in the loss to Juan Diego. The two players embraced as they cried while Hurricane players and coaches filtered off the sideline after their defeat.
"I can't even imagine how hard it is on him," Nielson said. "He takes great pride in being a good kicker, and I take great pride in him. I still love him to death, and I know he's going to be a heck of a player for BYU (where he has committed)."
Edwards' two missed field goals and the one that was blocked were just a few of the opportunities Hurricane failed to take advantage of against Juan Diego. The missed opportunities left the Tigers feeling bitterly disappointed after a championship game — again.
It was the third straight time Hurricane lost to Juan Diego in the 3A title game, and the second consecutive year it was beaten on the last play of the game. The Tigers' three losses have come by a total of eight points.
Sad. Somber. Shocked. The Tigers were feeling those emotions.
"It's literally unbelievable that it happened again," said Hurricane coach Chris Homer. "But it happened and it's just so hard."
Making the Tigers' loss more difficult this time is that they had so many chances to at least go ahead of the Soaring Eagle. Hurricane scored on its first drive when Adam Long tossed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Weston Yardley. The Tigers' breakdowns on offense started happening on their next drive when Edwards had a 37-yard field goal blocked. "I missed a block and it got blocked," Nielson said. "That was my fault."
Edwards' teammates and coaches offered him plenty of support after the game. It helped, but didn't ease all the pain he was feeling.
"They played for me," Edwards said. "They gave me all those shots, but I didn't pull them through. I know there are 65 plays in a game, but I hate this. It sucks."
Hurricane opened the second half with a 65-yard drive that culminated with Edwards missing a 36-yard field goal attempt. Another killer for the Tigers came later in the third quarter when they started a drive with excellent field position at Juan Diego's 31. Hurricane, however, went backwards and Edwards missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
"It's amazing," Nielson said. "I cannot believe this happened for a third year in a row. I think mistakes killed us quite honestly. We weren't able to capitalize on what we should have been able to capitalize on."
Hurricane took advantage of opportunities against opponents all season while averaging 36.3 points in its first 12 games. The Tigers' offense, however, just couldn't make the plays they needed to in key moments against Juan Diego.
Hurricane's defense won its battle with Juan Diego's offense for most of the game. The Tigers held the Soaring Eagle to 144 yards until Juan Diego put together its game-clinching 90-yard drive in the game's final 7:40.