DRAPER — Juan Diego hasn’t received a true scare since the second week of the season and hasn’t been challenged remotely for the last several weeks. In Friday’s 3AA quarterfinal game against Snow Canyon, the Soaring Eagle only led 14-13 in the second quarter.
“Coming off the bye week and the competition we played before — a lot of the starters weren’t even playing a full game,” Juan Diego quarterback Cole Nelson said. “We haven’t had a three-and-out in a few weeks — we haven’t punted.”
The Warriors had just closed the gap with Warner Rigby’s second touchdown pass to Zach Kennedy from 35 yards out when Juan Diego’s Cameron Hansen caught the kickoff at the 22-yard line and the game changed.
Hansen took the kick to the house and provided much-needed points on a night where the offense struggled and Juan Diego remained perfect with a 42-28 win to earn a spot in the semifinals.
“I’ve had faith in him on returning, and once I saw him get past that kicker I was so stoked,” Nelson said. “With me playing defense also, it kind of gave me a break and I could relax mentally. At quarterback it’s a lot of thinking — it was nice to know that we were up a score, especially how our offense was playing tonight.”
Jessie Springer finished with two rushing touchdowns while Nelson and Chase Williams each added one score. Nelson also connected with Gabe Colosimo on a 31-yard touchdown strike.
“It wasn’t the worst night, but Snow Canyon is good,” Nelson said. “We haven’t faced competition like that in a few weeks. Our line wasn’t used to getting pushed around as much. They played really well, but it was a tough night for our offense.”
Rigby finished with three passing touchdowns with Cole Mooring and Kennedy on the receiving end of the other two. Trevor Horlacher also scored on a four-yard run.
Juan Diego returns to the semifinals for the fifth time in six years after Dixie ruined its 12-0 season with a 14-13 win on its way to the state championship last season. The Soaring Eagle will play Pine View at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday at 11 a.m.
“I get sick to my stomach thinking about it,” Nelson said of last year’s abrupt ending. “Personally, I think we could have beat Dixie last year but we overlooked them. We know this year not only to take it one game at a time but to take it one play at a time.”
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