We’ve just got to make sure we mix up the defense and we’ve got to be able to tackle these kids. They’re a great running team and we’ve got to be able to make tackles. —Duchesne head coach Jerry Cowan
DUCHESNE — Four weeks removed from their dramatic meeting in Week 8 of the high school football regular season, the Rich Rebels (9-2) find themselves standing as the last remaining hurdle in the way of the Duchesne Eagles (12-0) winning a fourth-consecutive state title.
Down 16-9 at halftime of their matchup during the regular season, the top-ranked Eagles rallied and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to come from behind and extend their state-record winning streak to 42 games.
“We just didn’t play four full quarters of football,” said Rich head coach Ashley Brown. “We’ve just got to show up for all four quarters with great intensity. We need to keep our mindset right and never let up and we’ll be fine.”
The Rich Rebels and Duchesne Eagles square off again Saturday afternoon at Weber State University.
Braxton Spencer’s 66-yard interception return proved to be the difference-maker for the undefeated Eagles in this year's first meeting between the titans of 1A football, while Cache Sabey rushed for 45 yards and punched in two TDs to power the Rebels in the loss.
“We’ve just got to make sure we mix up the defense and we’ve got to be able to tackle these kids,” Duchesne head coach Jerry Cowan said. “They’re a great running team and we’ve got to be able to make tackles.”
Duchesne quarterback Trent Roberts, who has rushed for 524 yards and a team-high 15 TDs and also powers the team with 82 tackles and three picks, is set to lead the way for Duchesne.
“We absolutely have to slow down their running game,” said Brown. “We probably won’t be able to completely stop it, but we need to slow it down and try to create some turnovers that help us get a short field to work with.”
The Eagles’ top-three running backs have combined for 1,817 yards and 30 TDs on the year, and will be a focal point of the Rebels’ defensive efforts.
“Well, that’s where our offense starts. We have four guys who can really run the ball, and Rich is going to have a hard time just keying in on one or two guys,” Cowan said. “We just need to play the guys who give us the best chance of winning. We’ve kind of had some slow starts, so it’d be nice come to out strong early.”
The Rebels will lean on their powerful running game, which has carried them into the championship game this season, but they can get the job done in other ways. Last week, Sabey was limited to just 68 yards on the ground, but the Rebels showed everyone they weren’t just a running team.
Quarterback McKay Jarman, who had only thrown four TD passes all year prior to last week’s 18-13 victory against Kanab, rifled two touchdown passes — one of which ended up being the game-winner — to wide out Jayden Wallentine.
Meanwhile, the three-time defending state champion Eagles have fallen victim to some key injuries this season, but are confident they are back to full health for the championship game.
“We’ve been a little banged up over the past few weeks, had a few injuries, but we are finally healthier than we have been all year,” Cowan added. “We are probably the most balanced team we’ve ever had, so we’ll just give it to the guy with the hot hand and hopefully one of those guys will have a big game."