Rabbits upset Hawks, 14-13, in dramatic upset in 3A state playoffs
By Matt Harris
MT. PLEASANT—In the new era under Coach Rhett Bird, fans of North Sanpete football had become accustomed to leaving the Hawk Stadium in good spirits following a win.
Last Friday, they left a little shocked.
The 5th-ranked Hawks ended the night as the victim of a dramatic upset, falling to Delta, 14-13, in the first round of the 3A state playoffs, ending North Sanpete’s promising season seemingly an eternity earlier than hoped for.
“[Delta] played well tonight,” Bird said. “We had a couple of miscues and turned the ball over which helped them in field position. When you have a team that runs the ball, and you don’t get them off the field as quick as you want to, it can be tough.”
Although junior quarterback Landon Bowles came into the game on a final “must-win” drive for North Sanpete, the Hawks played most of the game with sophomore quarterback Tyler Allan, who performed admirably, completing 5 of 7 passes in the first half as Bird formulated his game plan to focus on running the ball.
When asked about the decision to not start Bowles, Bird said his medical staff reported that Bowles was not fully healthy and likely wasn’t going to be for the remainder of the postseason. He also said that “by no means were we saving Landon for the next week.”
The Hawks combined to run the ball 33 times for a total of 77 yards, a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. The Hawks finished with 303 total yards.
The Hawks got on the board with a touchdown in the first quarter as senior Brady Jacobsen completed a double pass to senior Parker Lee for a 27-yard score in the first five minutes of play, but the Allan-led offense struggled in continuing to move the ball effectively all throughout the game.
Continuing to rely on a tough defensive effort, North Sanpete got on the board a second time in the second quarter as senior Laramie Roberts rumbled through the line for 3 yards and a score. Subsequently, junior kicker Clayton Lewis missed the extra point try to keep the score at 13-0 going into halftime, a foreboding sign of things to come.
North Sanpete had 202 total yards at the half, but the second half is when the trouble came.
In the third quarter, Delta finally got on the board in the last minute, with a 3-yard run up the middle.
Then, as the Hawks continued to struggle moving the ball, Delta pulled all the momentum in their favor with another touchdown with 4:08 remaining, scoring from 10 yards out on a run up the right side.
That’s when the Hawks made the decision to insert their star.
Bowles, playing for the first time in three weeks, entered the game to try and win it for North Sanpete. Bowles got off to a great start, connecting with Jacobsen on a number of chunk yardage passes.
When the Hawks got up to the 40-yard line, Bowles took a shot at the end zone for Jacobsen and connected it perfectly between a couple Delta defenders for what would be the go-ahead touchdown, but a flag fell to the grass, signifying a holding penalty against North Sanpete and negating the touchdown.
A few plays later, the Hawks faced a 4th-and-2 and elected to go for it. Bowles went under center, snapped, and threw a 3-yard dart to senior Cole Mickel, but the senior tight end bobbled the pass, and it fell incomplete to give the final possession back to the Rabbits and seal the fate of North Sanpete.
With many seniors graduating that were part of North Sanpete’s historic run to the 3A championship game in 2018, Bird said he talked to the team after the game about how this year’s seniors had been critical in building the culture of North Sanpete football.
“I just told them ‘thank you’ for establishing the program with me,” Bird said.