Corner Canyon football regain state dominance on way to trophyJan 05, 2024 09:31AM ● By Catherine Garrett
The Corner Canyon High football team won the 6A state title with a 41-27 win over Skyridge Nov. 17 at Rice Eccles Stadium. (Photo courtesy A Strong Photography)
All year long the Corner Canyon High football team had their sights set on being back in the 6A state championship game—where they lost last season to Skyridge 17-7. And the players wanted a rematch with the Falcons. This time around, they got both and avenged last season’s runner-up finish with a 41-27 win Nov. 17 to hoist the state trophy at Rice Eccles Stadium for the fourth time in the last six years. The Chargers also finished the year ranked 14th nationally.
“Beating Skyridge and winning state was everything, and more than I had imagined it to be,” said CCHS First Team All-State wide receiver Tate Kjar, who was named 6A player of the year.
“The feeling was really unmatched,” said First Team All-State quarterback Isaac Wilson, who earned the 2023 Mr. Football honor. “To come back from last year and win against a good Skyridge team really solidified my senior year.”
“It felt so good to win state,” said defensive end/tight end Sam Chandler. “It was nice to put the Corner Canyon program back on top. We did this for each other.”
“Knowing all of your hard work you put in for so many years has paid off is a great feeling,” said First Team All-State defensive end Kash Dillon. “Winning state as a senior is especially special because you feel like you gave back to the people before you who never were able to win one, to also winning a championship for the younger class so they can have that with them, and most of all it’s the best because you end your career with a ring and you and all your friends have that swag forever.”
“Our senior group did a great job of leading our team,” said head coach Eric Kjar. “As a team I felt like there was a lot of pressure to win a state championship this year. It had been a couple of years since we had won it last. It was fulfilling as a coach to see them finish the season off the right way. It’s always great to see a team that works so hard to finish off the right way.”
In the state championship game, the Chargers came out strong, scoring touchdowns on its first two drives—and then going up 27-10 by halftime—and finally putting the game away late on the legs of Wilson who had a 54-yard TD run in the game’s final minutes.
Wilson finished with 160 yards rushing and three TDs while also passing for more than 250 yards and two more scores—connecting on those TD receptions with junior wide receiver Jerome Myles. First Team All-State junior running back Bryton Brady was responsible for 243 all-purpose yards, including a 52-yard kickoff return to set the Chargers up for their first score.
“The keys for us in winning this game was to win the battles up front to make the job easier for our backfield and give our quarterback time to throw downfield,” Dillon said.
“We knew what we wanted,” said Second Team All-State offensive lineman Zion Finau, who missed much of the season with a torn ACL before returning in the second round of the state playoffs. “We knew we didn’t want to feel how it was to lose again. Our offense was very prepared and had a better connection this time.”
Defensively, Corner Canyon stopped Skyridge’s offense twice in first-and-goal situations where they limited them to two field goals on those drives. Second team All-State senior linebacker Rylan Quintana led the team with 10 tackles while Dillon recorded seven tackles and two sacks.
The Chargers finished the regular season with a 9-1 mark, outscoring opponents 475 to 183. Its only loss was a 63-42 defeat to the nation’s top team Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada) in the second week of the year.
In the second round of the 6A state playoffs Oct. 27, Corner Canyon defeated Layton 52-0 behind four TD passes from Wilson—to Tate Kjar, Brady and senior wide receivers Boston Snow and Brayden Eyre—while Brady, Finau and senior running back Crue Wignall also took one in the endzone. Linebackers Mason Wood and Jayden Talauega both had six tackles to lead the defense.
The Chargers then defeated Lone Peak 35-21 in the quarterfinals Nov. 3, opening up a game that was tied at halftime at 14-all with a 14-point third quarter to take control of the game. Wilson, Finau and Brady ran for touchdowns while Brady and junior Preston Whatcott hauled in TD receptions. Talauega again was tops defensively with 10 tackles.
In the semifinals against Lehi Nov. 10, Corner Canyon dominated in a 63-24 win behind seven touchdowns from Brady with Finau and Myles also scoring. Wilson ran for 122 yards and threw for 428 with Talauega recording 11 tackles on defense in the rout to put them in the title game.
“This is a special group,” said Tate Kjar. “We took everything way more seriously in the offseason and grew so close as a team. I loved this more than any other year of football. It was the funnest year.”
“I felt like our team just had more experience as compared to last year,” said coach Kjar. “There was a little extra motivation to finish the season off.”
Wilson ran the Chargers explosive offense with 5,901 total yards, a new state record beating out former Chargers QB Jaxson Dart’s previous mark by 25 yards. His nearly 5,000 passing yard season was the fourth-best season in Utah and his 49 passing TDs this fall is also top 10 all-time in the state. On the ground, he and Brady combined to rush for more than 2,500 yards and 34 TDs with Tate Kjar also recording 1,813 receiving yards and 15 TDs in the balanced attack.
Defensively, Quintana and Talauega both had 62 tackles on the year while Dillon produced 10 sacks and junior defensive back Keaton Adamson hauled in three interceptions. Senior captain Jackson Buehler, who played all season on a scarred and torn ACL, had six tackles amidst his inspirational leadership on and off the field.
Senior kicker Preston Rasmussen, who’s the fifth-ranked kicker in the country, connected on 89 of 93 PATs and four of five field goal attempts this fall.
“This team was so fun to be around and coach every day,” said coach Kjar. “This group of seniors really made the season special. I have a special place for them because I have known so many of them for such a long time. They were very driven and approached lifting and practice with the right attitude.”
With the final year of high school ball for Tate Kjar—who led the state in receiving yards this season—it marks the second son of coach Kjar’s that has been a starring wide receiver in the program.
“It was very special this year with Tate,” said coach Kjar. “There was a little added pressure for me as a father and coach to make sure he finished off his senior year with a title because his older brother did as well.”
Noah Kjar, who owns the state record for most career receptions, came home from a two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission to Arizona this fall and helped out on the sidelines with the Chargers wide receivers. “It was great having Noah back with us again,” coach Kjar said. “It was nice to have his insight in helping these young players, and we joked that we needed to have some of the 2020 magic back around as well.”
Eric Kjar’s youngest son Carter, who is a freshman at CCHS, is continuing the wide receiver pattern in the family and “had a good season” on the freshman and sophomore teams this year.
The 2023 season also brings to a close the line of Wilson boys at Corner Canyon. Zach, who currently plays quarterback for the New York Jets, along with Josh and Micah—who both played linebacker at BYU—and Isaac were all coached by Eric Kjar.
“They have meant more to this program than I could even describe,” said coach Kjar. “It all starts with their father Mike who has been not only instrumental in our program’s success, but also in his boys’ success. They have all brought tremendous talent, leadership and hard work to our program. They have also helped our program rise to a national level with them being national-type players that people all across the country recognize. I could never thank them enough for their contributions to our program.”
“Being a part of this program has really opened a lot of doors for my future,” Isaac Wilson said. “Just getting to learn from all the quarterbacks that came through Corner Canyon, along with coach Kjar being there all four years. Coach Kjar is like a second father to me. He always wants the best for me and isn’t afraid to critique me when it’s needed and that’s what I need.”
Isaac Wilson is moving on to play in the collegiate ranks at the University of Utah along with Dillon and First Team All-State offensive lineman Isaiah Garcia. Tate Kjar signed with Utah State and senior linebacker Bo Tate will play at Stanford while Chandler, Quintana and senior wide receiver Braxton Young are still undecided about their college destinations.
“Being part of this brotherhood has meant everything to me and helped me make tons of lifelong friends and experiences I’ll never forget,” Dillon said. “It’s taught me life lessons that I’ll use forever even outside of football. The program at Corner Canyon is second to none. Whether you’re looking for better development of your game to having an all-around great high school football experience, Corner Canyon is the place to be.”
“I love coaching the boys at Corner Canyon,” said coach Kjar. “It keeps me young. Their energy is contagious, and I really enjoy getting to work with them. This senior group is a special group of young men, and I know they have bright future.”
Coach Kjar said he is grateful for so many administrators that are vital to his team’s success, including the CCHS athletic director Pat Thurman and Dina Kohler. “My assistant coaches have done a tremendous job, and I thank their families as well who have to sacrifice so much during our season,” he said. “I also want to thank my own family and wife for their patience and all the help and support during the football season.” λ