Tale ofTwo Titles
By Matt Harris
Under the warm St. George sun last Saturday, two high school football teams’ dreams were made a reality.
Beaver and Juab claimed the state titles in the 2A and 3A classifications, respectively, both of them being the top seed in their respective classifications and emerging victorious over the No. 2 team of the playoff, Duchesne for 2A and Morgan for 3A.
The similarities don’t stop there. The two championship squads showcased much of the same game plan, as neither team attempted more than 11 throws. The Wasps netted 254 total yards rushing, a fairly similar look to the 228 rushing yards by the Beavers.
It was when the game ended, and the title was officially won, where the similarities stopped. Sitting in a press box at the top of Greater Zion Stadium, looking down on every coach, player, and fan in the stadium on those two separate moments when a champion was decided, I learned about patience, and I thought about water.
It started with the Beavers, and I should preface this by saying that in no way do I think anyone in their program should feel bad about this experience. I am here for the observations.
Beaver, a 12-0 team that had not lost since 2018, went unchallenged all season, winning games by an average margin of 42 points. Even against Duchesne, the second-best defense in the classification, that number stood pat. Beaver demolished the Eagles, 42-0, in a game that was over by halftime.
Having seen a number of state title games in various sports before, I watched the final minute count down in the fourth quarter and waited expectantly for the eruption of cheers.
I was more than a little surprised when it never came.
In the stands, a crowd of what looked like about 300 Beaver fans stood up and cheered with all the emotion of a non-region game in August. They had clearly expected this.
Even more surprising, the players on the field treated the moment like any other, exchanging quick pleasantries with their opponents and returning to their sideline.
Within a few minutes of the game’s ending, Coach Jon Marshall had already accepted the trophy, broken away from the crowd, and begun to speak with the media. I personally had a story done and published by 20 minutes after the game’s end. Something about winning your second straight title, also the third in five years and 13th in school history, had made it business as usual for Beaver to walk off the field as champions that afternoon.
Compare that to the scene of Juab beating Morgan.
Juab, a team that had been a powerful program in 3A for years, was still looking for their first state championship in over 65 years that night. They had come so close before, losing 8-0 to Morgan in 2019.
In a game that was down to the wire, the Wasps beat the Trojans, 17-14, in a defensive slugfest, and from the final minute of the game and continuing for about another half hour, the scene was unforgettable.
The moment that Juab had the victory in hand, a senior rushed over to Coach Mike Bowring and bear-hugged him for several minutes, screaming, “We did it, coach!” Both had tears in their eyes.
A Juab crowd almost large enough to fill the home team stands was losing their minds. Players and coaching staff were galloping around the field with unrestrained glee.
Myself, a Deseret News freelancer, an Iron County Today reporter, and even a Channel 2 cameraman all stood on the field patiently waiting for an interview with Bowring. We ended up waiting nearly 20 minutes as Bowring hugged every senior on his team, every assistant coach, and a few family members of his own.
Up in the press box, UHSAA Assistant Director Jon Oglesby got on the stadium microphone and asked everyone to leave the stadium to allow cleaning to begin. Oglesby had to make this announcement six times, with about 3-5 minutes between each time.
As I drove back to my motel in Cedar City that night, I thought about water, and how much better it tastes, either when one has gone a long time without it, or when one has worked hard enough to be dehydrated by physical exertion.
Like, say, a football game.
So it was with the Juab Wasps, a team that thirsted after a championship, and finally, after 65 long years, drank from the cup.