Juan Diego Runs Away With State Football Title
By Ron Bevan
Draper - They may be called the Soaring Eagles, but Juan Diego stayed mostly on the ground to capture this year’s 3A state football title.
Juan Diego posted 306 rushing yards in its 28-13 victory over Morgan in the state 3A football game held in Ogden Nov. 14. Kaden Hayward amassed the bulk of the yardage, carrying the ball 19 times for 172 yards, averaging more than nine yards per carry. Ryan Baker added another 114 yards on 22 carries.
“Those two have been our workhorses all year long,” Juan Diego football coach John Colosimo said. “We have been a predominantly running team. It plays to our strength.”
Hayward put one of his runs onto the scoreboard with a seven-yard scamper into the endzone. Quarterback Alex Hoffman ran for two other scores, and Juan Diego picked up a touchdown on special teams.
It is the sixth state title in 16 years for the Soaring Eagles. And it came in a year Colosimo didn’t see his charges going this deep into the season.
“We had a much lower turnout this year, so we didn’t have as many players to count on,” Colosimo said. “To be honest I though we might be lucky to win half our games. But then players started to step up and take leadership roles, and chips fell into place. Before I knew it we had a championship caliber team.”
Hoffman was perhaps the biggest surprise for Juan Diego. He was slated to be a defender at first, not the leader of the offense.
“I had Hoffman playing as a defensive back at first, but then we tried him a quarterback and he stepped completely into the position,” Colosimo said. “He took on the mantel of the offensive leader and became part of our three headed monster with Hayward and Baker.”
The title capped off a perfect season in which Juan Diego had already defeated Morgan. The Soaring Eagles had little trouble with most of their opponents this season, beating many by three to four touchdowns. The biggest challenge came in a non-region game with hometown rival Corner Canyon, a 4A school. Juan Diego beat the Chargers, 39-38, thanks in part to a failed point after kick by Corner Canyon.
Even though the Soaring Eagles beat the Trojans 35-21 early in the season, most football pundits knew this would turn into a classic 3A matchup for the title as Juan Diego came into the tournament ranked first and Morgan second. Another clash seemed inevitable.
Juan Diego took a 31-6 Halloween victory over Delta to open the 3A tournament, then beat Juab 28-13 one week later. Morgan beat Manti, 28-14 and North Sanpete, 43-22, to set up the title game.
Juan Diego struck first in the title match when the Soaring Eagles blocked a field goal attempt by Morgan. With the ball loose and live on the ground, Juan Diego’s Danny Wilson scooped it up and returned it 69 yards for the first score. Juan Diego scored again in the second quarter on Hayward’s run as did Morgan for a 14-7 halftime score.
It wasn’t until the final period before scoring came again, this time two more touchdowns for the Soaring Eagles and one for Morgan. Juan Diego scored both times on runs of eight yards and three yards from Hoffman.
The title game was much different of most Juan Diego games this season in that the Soaring Eagles played a nearly total running attack against Morgan. Throughout the season Hoffman put 12 touchdowns on the scoreboard, connecting on 75 of 136 passes for 1,608 yards. But in the title game, Hoffman passed just five times, connecting twice for 23 yards.
“We look to pass when we can,” Colosimo said. “It just turned out that we were more successful in the title game running the ball, so we stuck with it.”
Instead, Juan Diego relied on the leg power of Hayward and Baker, putting the title game on their backs and telling them to go win it. Both runningbacks took to the challenge.
Hayward ended the season rushing for 19 touchdowns on 1431 yards. Baker added 13 more on 1,149 yards.