SYRACUSE — Any way you may have looked at it, there was simply no getting around the fact that Friday night’s Class 5A first-round contest between top-seeded Syracuse of Region 1 and Viewmont of Region 4 was probably going to be ugly.
Viewmont had only won two games this season. Syracuse, on the other hand, was 9-0.
For a few moments early on, Viewmont threatened to produce something that was totally unexpected, as Viking defender McLayne Nichols picked off Syracuse Brock Anderson in the first two minutes of the game. It was just the second pick Anderson had thrown all season.
As it turned out, however, that early error didn't portend what was to come. Indeed, the Titans simply shrugged off the interception and did everything they needed the rest of the way to emerge with a big 54-0 win over Viewmont.
“Our defense was a shining star in the playoff-opener”’ said Syracuse coach Russ Jones. “They held the Vikings to 80 total yards on 41 plays and only six first downs. It wasn’t just one player though — the entire team knew what they had to do and really delivered.”
While the Titans haven't been flashy this fall, they have consistently utilized solid, assignment-based football to establish themselves as one of the most dominant defensive and offensive programs in the state. That strategy yielded their third consecutive playoff appearance — an impressive calling-card for a 5-year-old school — and now it's helped them move on to the 5A quarterfinals, where they'll host Alta High.
“Especially in the case of our defense, we have been successful because our team is fundamentally solid," said Jones. "Everyone works on good, sound football — know your gaps, know your responsibility."
That line of defensive toughness was evident in the first quarter as Braiden Tovey and the defensive line removed the Vikings’ interception advantage and allowed Anderson to regain momentum with a 30-yard pass to Jake Garver and a screen up the middle for a touchdown. Anderson completed the extra point and the Titans were on the boards five minutes into the quarter, 7-0.
Penalties have plagued the Titans during the season, and Friday’s matchup was no exception, with back-to-back yardage losses suffered several times during the game. The Titans’ first quarter penalties were quickly forgotten however, with a third-and-goal 11-yard pass from Anderson to senior WR Diante Mitchell for Syracuse's second touchdown, ending the quarter 13-0.
Scoring continued for Syracuse in the second quarter, as a 15-yard pitch to RB Mason Woodward transitioned into a 15-yard touchdown pass to WR Kiwa Mo’o. Anderson’s PAT failed as the ball hit the goal posts, and the score was 19-0. Back-to-back sacks of Viking QB Max Hadlock, first by Wyatt German and then by Kavika Fonua, resulted in possession reverting to the Titans, where they again capitalized with a TD run up the middle by Fonua. This time Anderson’s kick remained true and the Titans lead 26-0.
German then intercepted a Viking pass, but Viking offensive lineman Israel Vanisi redeemed his team seconds later with a fumble recovery, and Viewmont had its first first down of the game.
A trio of quarterback sacks was delivered first by Jace Purser, then by Teague Vigil and Caden Call, and finally by Garver to force a fourth-down punt. Drives by Koa Mo’o and Diante Mitchell set up Anderson’s 48-yard pass to Mitchell for a touchdown. Anderson’s PAT bounced the score to 33-0 at the end of the second quarter.
Unchecked scoring would continue for Syracuse in the second half, as Mason Woodward flew backward over the goal line on a tackle by Bridger McRae. Matt Kealamakia kicked in the extra point for a score of 40-0. A great run by Viking Brandon Wardell temporarily put the Vikes in scoring range, but a QB sack by Spencer Woodhall and Landon O’Camb squashed the drive.
Syracuse then delivered a TD by Fonua that was called back on a holding penalty. However, Titan QB Spencer Johnson delivered with passes, first to Woodward and then to Landon Ostler, for another touchdown. Kealamakia’s PAT was good, and the Titans were now up 47-0.
A final scoring drive in the fourth quarter ended the game with a 15-yard run by Trevor Olsen, followed by a PAT off the foot of Matt Kealamakia. The Titans finished with the game with a 54-0 win.
The Titans generated a total of 370 yards on 44 plays. Senior Brock Anderson led the way with 243 yards of passing for four touchdowns, followed by Diante Mitchell with four carries and 74 yards, and Mason Woodward with 12 carries and 75 yards. Seven different players made trips into the end zone to score. This is the fourth time this year that Syracuse has held an opponent scoreless.
Syracuse (10-0) will meet Alta (9-2) at Syracuse in the 5A quarterfinals next week.