TOOELE — A huge Tooele kickoff return for a touchdown to close the first half and an unlucky turnover early in the second half spelled doom for the Hurricane Tigers as they got ousted from the 3AA state playoffs by the Tooele Buffaloes 35-7 Friday at Tooele High School.
In a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate, a tense first half closed with the Tigers feeling dejected. After Tooele took an early 7-0 lead, Hurricane chipped away at the defense and shut Tooele down offensively.
The Tigers finally capped an impressive drive with a nifty Josh Parker to Kyle Williams 27-yard touchdown pass, which saw Williams dive over the pylon in the right corner of the end zone to knot things up at 7-7 with just 58 seconds to go before halftime.
Tooele’s Ryan Brady then destroyed Hurricane’s hopes and dreams on the very next play. Brady fielded the kickoff from his own 16-yard line and proceeded to break at least four tackler, including the use of a nasty stiff arm on the kicker, who was the last man standing between him and six points.
“We had great blocking up front,” Brady said. “They did everything they were supposed to do and they took me to the promised land.”
Tooele head coach Kyle Brady said his son’s kickoff return was monumental in changing the game.
“That touchdown run was huge,” he said. “We gave up a long drive there at the end of the half and Hurricane would get the ball there in the second half if we didn’t do something. The one thing we saw was Hurricane kind of keeping some guys out on the edge so we set up our kickoff return to the middle this week. You know we blocked well, but when you have a guy break six or seven tackles that’s all you. I actually thought he would run around the last guy (the kicker) but he actually ran right over him.”
Tiger head coach Steve Pearson added that the kickoff return TD was simply deflating for his team.
“We were really plugging away,” Pearson said. “And that is our kind of signature drive and then they returned the kickoff back and we had to go into half and kind of retool things and it didn’t go our way.”
Hurricane came out of the half and immediately stalled on its first drive, going three-and-out. Tooele’s Lincoln Powers then took over, capping a pretty drive with a 10-yard TD scamper off of a dive play to the left side.
On Hurricane’s ensuing drive, a botched snap handed the ball once again to Tooele, which quickly capitalized on a short field. Powers scored another TD, this time from 27-yards out on a sweep to put the Buffs up by what would prove to be an insurmountable 28-7 lead.
Tooele’s defense shut down Hurricane and the Buffaloes cruised to the win that would send them to the state semis next week at Rice Eccles stadium.
The Buffs improved to 8-3 on the season with the win and return to the state semis for the first time since 2003 and will face the reigning state champ, Dixie.
Hurricane finishes its 2015 campaign 6-4, having reached the 3AA quarterfinals.
Senior RB Lucas Stout reflected on his career as a Hurricane Tiger.
“Simple mistakes led to the loss today,” Stout said. “We had it in us. My favorite thing this year was just watching Jake Carr run over people and scoring my first touchdown in our last home game of the year. The atmosphere of being there at Rice-Eccles last year with my brothers was amazing and it was something I was looking forward to this year, but we didn’t make it. It has been a great experience and it went by fast. It went by way too fast.”
Pearson added that this year’s team exceeded expectations.
“We have had a great, amazing season.” Pearson said. “At the beginning of the year, people didn’t pick us to be where we were and unfortunately it had to end tonight in the face of a really, really good Tooele team. I feel like this year has been a great success. We were picked in our region to be second to last and we were able to do some great things and we felt like we had another game in us, but we weren’t able to play today in order to go to the next level.”
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