ST. GEORGE — A team like Snow Canyon, that runs a ball-control offense, just loves long, clock-munching drives. The Warriors didn’t get any of those kinds of drives Friday night vs. Tooele, but no one is complaining in Warrior nation.
SC had six plays of 30 yards or longer and exploded past the Buffaloes 38-9 in the first round of the 3AA Playoffs Friday night at Warriors Stadium.
Quarterback Warner Rigby led the charge. In his first football game in more than a month, Rigby passed for 204 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown pass to Zach Kennedy and a 93-yard strike to Chance Thorkleson.
“That’s the thing, when your leg’s gone, you still got your arm,” Rigby said. “The whole time I was hurt I was just throwing passes waiting for my leg to get better.”
It looked like a defensive war in the first half with Snow Canyon squeezing out a 6-3 lead at the intermission on a Rigby 2-yard TD. But the second half bore little resemblance to the first, with the Warriors tripling their yardage and the touchdowns coming quick and easy for SC.
After holding Tooele on its first drive of the third quarter, the Warriors started to roll. Kennedy scored on his 51-yarder to cap a two-play drive that lasted 47 seconds. That made it 12-3 with 7:43 to go in the third.
After another Buffaloes punt, the Warriors struck even quicker as Rigby found Thorkleson for about a 25-yard pass. The junior tight end sprinted to the sideline, broke one tackle, then turned on the jets. Ninety-three yards later he was crossing the goal line, putting SC ahead 18-3 with 4:18 left in the quarter.
Tooele took nearly five minutes to drive 70 yards and cut it to 18-9 on a Ryan Brady 3-yard dive. But the extra point was blocked by Conner Parry, leaving it a two-score game five seconds into the fourth quarter.
With the Warriors hitting big plays time and again, it was soon to become a blowout. After a Tooele Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty kept a drive alive, Parry burst through the middle for a 45-yard TD run, making it 24-9 with 10:55 to play. A Tooele fumble led to another Parry TD run, this time from 4-yards out, to make it 31-9 with 8:02 to play.
Trevor Horlacher, who was everywhere (it seemed) on defense, ripped off a 34-yard TD run from his running back spot to cap the scoring in the game with 5:07 to go.
“Our linemen really stepped up in the second half and opened the holes up so we could run,” Horlacher said. “Me and Conner parry just hit the holes and made the right cutbacks.”
Horlacher had 108 rushing yards and also recorded 12 tackles and two sacks on defense. When asked which he prefers, running back or linebacker, he didn’t hesitate.
“I like (hitting) the quarterbacks,” he said. “You just get that rush and the crowd cheers and you just feel it, so I like that better.”
The striking difference in the two halves was more a matter of attitude than strategy.
“The adjustments we made was just to remind the boys what their roles and responsibilities were,” coach Marcus Matua said. “It was just a matter of going in there on the offensive side of the ball and saying, ‘Hey, men, these are your assignments. We’ve got to execute and we’ve got to follow through with that.’ They did a better job coming out in the second half.”
The Warriors had just over 160 yards of offense in the first half. But with all the big plays, Snow Canyon accumulated more than 300 yards in the second half. Along with Horlacher’s 108 rushing yards, Zach Kennedy added 95 on 10 carries and Parry had 88 on 13 rushes. Kennedy also had four catches for 95 yards.
Snow Canyon, 7-3, averaged more than 10 yards per play in the game, including 284 rushing yards on 34 attempts. Brady Sargent was Horlacher’s sidekick on defense, recording 13.5 tackles and a sack of his own.
Tooele, which finishes the year 3-8, had just 246 total yards in the game, about half of the Warriors total.
Snow Canyon will visit undefeated Juan Diego in next week’s state quarterfinals. Game time is tentatively set for 5 p.m. on Friday.
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