"That's a wrap" for volleyball this year after the Buckaroos and Broncos ended their seasons in volleyball at state tournaments.
The Lady Bucks ended on a high note, capturing fifth place in the 1A tournament.
"We ran into the hot team a little too early," bemoaned Buckaroo coach Tony Esplin, meaning Piute, who finished second to two time state champion Panguitch Bobcats.
Indeed, other than Piute, the Bucks seemed to have little trouble with anyone, besting Duchesne in four sets, 25-12, 19-25, 25-13, 25-17, Bryce Valley in straight sets, 25-19, 25-11,25-13 and Christian Heritage, 25-20,25-12, 25-22 in straight sets to seize the fifth place spot.
The Piute Thunderbirds were phenomenal against the Lady Bucks in the quarterfinals, winning in straight sets, 25-19, 25-20, 25-21.
"We got behind 7-0 in the first set and 5-0 in the second and could never get back," explains Esplin.
Congratulations to the Buckaroos on an excellent season and another high placing at state. Sophomore Swayzi Slade is on the all-tournament team for the Lady Bucks.
It was two months ago, the setting was the same (Bronco Field), the teams the same, the temperature was at least 35 degrees warmer, and the situation eerily similar.
In the first game of the year, Kanab led the Broncos 7-0, their passing game was clicking, and the Bronco offense was sputtering in the first quarter when senior defensive back Benny Royer stepped in front of a Kanab QB Craig Brinkerhoff pass and returned the interception for a touchdown that launched the Broncos to the victory and a 9-1 season record.
Royer did it again Saturday in Blanding, in much the same way, though the score was 0-0 at the time of the Broncos home playoff game against those same Cowboys.
The Kanab passing attack was again in full swing and the Bronco passing was nearly non-existent when Royer made an outstanding play on a simple out play to step in front of the Kanab receiver and make a diving interception.
Two plays later, Bronco QB Cameron Shumway lofted a beautiful 35-yard across-the-field bomb that Royer somehow adjusted to run under in the endzone and the Broncos led suddenly 7-0.
From there, the Bronco defense led the way, not allowing the Cowboys to even sniff the beans in the end zone for the entire game. One long pass play, a 67 yarder to Kade Quarnberg that included a broken tackle, was the only time the Cowboys could hoot and holler. And even then, the Broncos put an end to the whoopin' on the next series on a amazing scramble by Shumway.
Seemingly about to be sacked on his own five-yard-line on a failed attempt at a screen pass, Shumway bucked his way free like a wild stallion, found a wide-open Jimmy Tate, who caught the pass and took off running, not stopping until the Cowboy 18 yard line, 60 yards later.
The next play saw Jace Holliday gallop for his longest run of the day to score on a Bronco sweep from the 18 yard line.
The defense cleaned up from there. "That was a great defensive effort," marvels head coach Monty Lee. "That iss playoff football."
Cowboy coach Bucky had high praise for the Broncos. "We came here to win," he said, "but the Broncos are the best team in the 2A in my opinion."
The Broncos win is their 27th home playoff game against only two losses, something Lee would "like to say it was good coaching," but which he ascribes to kids who give their all on the football field.
Next up for the Broncos is the semifinals on Saturday in Cedar City against the South Sevier Rams, coached by former Kanab player and Monticello assistant coach Travis McAllister.
McAllister's Rams own their best record ever in football, 9-1 and are searching for the first state title in football in a long long time. The Broncos have met South Sevier on the football field 21 times, with the Broncos winning 18 time, including last year’s 39-7 victory.
The Rams last win over the Broncos came in 1980 when they triumphed 30-6. The Broncos came back two weeks later however and beat the Rams 21-12.
Bucks in semis
The Bucks, after a bye week spent recovering and studying the Duchesne Eagles, open up the playoffs in the semis against those Eagles, to whom they lost 38-6 just two games ago.
"We were sick and unprepared two games ago," said Buck coach Jake Downard. Downard expects a much more competitive game this time around. Snow College will be the venue for what promises to be a great game. See you there!
The Lady Broncos, after a late season surge landed them in third place in the region, started off the 2A tournament in traditional Bronco fashion, disposing of the Kanab Cowboys in straight sets, 25-13, 25-19, 25-2.
But the win landed them in a quarterfinal game against eventual state champion Layton Christian. The Lady Broncos fought gamely but fell in four sets, 25-23, 13-25, 25-22, 25-15, putting them in the one-loss bracket against Beaver.
The Broncos fought to extend the season, going up two sets to one on the Beavers, but the Beavers outlasted Coach Cassy Moon's team in five grueling sets, 25-16, 22-25, 20-25, 25-21,15-11.
Although the Broncos failed to place at state for the first time in recent memory, this may have been Moon's best coaching effort.
How did she turn an early season slide around lately? “Early this season, my husband noted that it was the little things that were costing us the close matches. We were in several games, even leading at an average of 21-16. Usually, teams win those, but the little things were costing us.
“We knew the major problem was the pass. About half way through the season, we changed to a 5-1 and emphasized that if we could pass well, all other facets of the game would be great. We went back to the basics, so far as to work endlessly on taking the correct step towards the ball. Our mantra became ‘Footwork makes you great!’
“We had some great matches towards the last part of the season and, for the most part, were able to control the pass and anxiety related with it.
“I was very proud of the girls and the changes they were willing to make. We knew it would not be fun to work on passing for half of every practice, but they put the time in and most saw improvements.
“I hate losing, but I take pleasure in the fact that San Juan was the only team to push eventual champions Layton Christian throughout the tournament.
“We lose seven seniors this year and I would like to tell them thanks for four years of volleyball.”