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Draper Journal

Juan Diego’s football season ends in state semis

Nov 21, 2018 10:50AM ● By Catherine Garrett

Juan Diego Catholic High School senior Sam Knudson, who had surgery for a brain tumor during the season, was an inspirational leader for the Soaring Eagle program this season, who reached the 3A state semifinals after three consecutive state titles.

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

After a 2-3 start to the season, the three-time defending state champion Juan Diego Catholic High School football team won three of its last four games heading into the 3A state playoffs. Its loss during that stretch was a 28-19 game against Summit Academy Oct. 12. The Soaring Eagle squad got a rematch in the semifinals — after two playoff games where Juan Diego outscored Judge Memorial and Grantsville 96 to 14 — to reach the final four. 

Against Summit Academy, Nov. 3, Juan Diego’s season came to an end with a 40-6 loss to the Bears.

“I’m very proud of these kids and I feel really good about the year,” head coach John Colosimo said. “We’re a little spoiled here having won three titles in a row, but making the state semis is not a letdown; it is a great accomplishment.”

Linebacker and center David Hulvorsen said the year was a successful one for Juan Diego. “Making it to the semis is pretty huge so altogether, we did pretty good,” he said. 

In the first game of the 3A state playoffs, Juan Diego’s Jackson Butler had seven carries for 128 yards and a touchdown while Raimoana Tinirauarii had three receptions for 77 yards and a TD to lead the Soaring Eagle squad offensively in a 55-0 shutout of Judge Memorial Oct. 17. Maikoa Taukafa anchored the defense with nine tackles and three sacks while Grant Dhont had four tackles and an interception.

Against Grantsville Oct. 26, Hunter Easterly carried the ball 22 times for 161 yards with four TDs with Cartur Gray and Cooper Rust recording 10 tackles each in the 41-14 win.

“We hung in there with Judge pretty well and beat a really good one-loss Grantsville team,” Colosimo said. “I really liked the way we played those first two games of the state playoffs.”

The Soaring Eagle squad found itself on the opposite side of a blowout by the end of the third quarter Nov. 3 against Summit Academy in the state semis. The Soaring Eagle squad was down 40-0 before finding the end zone halfway through the fourth quarter with Colby Smith’s nine-yard TD run.

“We seemed to run out of gas, but I’m really proud of this team,” Colosimo said.

Hulvorsen was credited by Colosimo as “one of very few players that had to play just about every snap” for his play on both sides of the ball. Three-year starter DJ Larsen was a “linchpin” on the offensive line, according to Colosimo, and was noted for his vocal leadership and example of hard work. 

The running backfield of Easterly and Tristan Tonozzi also had a significant impact on the team’s offense this season that scored 332 points in its 12 games. 

But, the “unbelievable story” of linebacker/offensive lineman Sam Knudson summed up much of the adversity Juan Diego faced with injuries this season. The senior began experiencing headaches and dizziness and eventually double vision as doctors eliminated a concussion and other possibilities. Finally came the diagnosis: a brain tumor. Knudson had a successful operation with the tumor turning out to be benign.

“He wanted so badly to keep playing and he’s trying to heal and battle back from that,” Colosimo said. “That’s a unique and unfortunate situation and kind of shows the kind of year we had. We had a lot of injuries to key players and each week was a real challenge. I loved how they stayed together. They’re a good group of kids.”

Larsen said the injuries didn’t stop his team from having a good year. “Having all those injuries actually helped us grow as a team and then even more as individuals and ultimately that’s the end goal,” he said.

Hulvorsen said despite the role adversity played throughout the season, the senior class stepped up even more as leaders. “We just came together and tried to use our experience to help the younger players that had to fill spots on the field,” he said. 

Colosimo said all 24 seniors contributed to this team and the legacy of the JDCHS football program. 

Those seniors also included Jaron Adams, Brendan Bass, Matthew Bathurst, Cruz Berenguer, Mikey Curran, Mikey Gatti, Matthew Kaiser, Gage Killion, Francisco Kuhrke, Josue Magana, Kaiser Mataele, Monroe May, Brennan Savage, Conner Turner, Caleb Welker, Sean Wolff and Trent Zaffino. Senior Nathan Rakowski was the team manager this season while seniors Jessica Burns and Sara Burns helped with film.

“These were all outstanding young people who won three state titles and went to the state semis in their last year,” Colosimo said. “Who wouldn’t take that for their high school career?”

Larsen noted that his overall experience the past four years went well beyond the football field. “All of the teammates and coaches helped me to become who I am today,” he said.