San Juan football team gathering momentum
Since their 49-28 loss at Summit Academy on August 21, the San Juan High football team has gotten down to business, outscoring opponents 114-9 in the last couple weeks.
They added two notches in the win column, 60-0 over in-county rival Monticello on August 28 and a 54-9 domination of the American Leadership Academy Eagles on September 4 in Spanish Fork, UT.
The Broncos are 3-1 on the year headed into some tough matchups and head coach Barkley Christensen says his players are beginning to hit their stride.
“It was a lot of fun and our guys just took it to ‘em,” he said, though San Juan was ready for a battle with ALA going into the game.
The Broncos got a strong performance from junior quarterback Jace Palmer in the game. He completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 305 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite targets were the usual suspects: Ladd Ivins, Cooper Black, and Landon Black.
Though he didn’t score a touchdown, Ivins caught five Palmer passes for 137 yards. Cooper hauled in five catches for 81 yards and two TDs. Landon caught four passes for 44 yards and one TD.
The San Juan running game was even more impressive, producing 205 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. Junior Jensen Grover handled the bulk of the work with 14 carries for 111 yards and two scores.
Quarterback Jace Palmer continued to threaten opponents on the ground also with 80 yards on eight carries and the Broncos’ other two rushing TDs.
But the real story of the game was the San Juan defense. Christensen said, “They stepped up big time to get turnovers and turnovers on downs. They were hitting guys like I’ve never seen and just flying around the field.”
The Broncos forced seven Eagle turnovers on the night – four interceptions and three fumbles. Ivins nearly matched his offensive catches on the night when he intercepted three ALA passes. Sophomore Jerzy Nieves added one pick.
Three San Juan defenders recovered a fumble: Landon Black, Collin Baker, and Magnum Nielson. American Leadership had outscored opponents 75-34 coming into the game, but the Broncos silenced their offense in front of the ALA home crowd.
A 28-yard field goal from Marcus Haston in the second quarter gave the Eagles their only offensive points in the first half. ALA didn’t score their only touchdown until the end of the third quarter.
Neither team found pay dirt until Jensen Grover punched in the game’s first TD on a three-yard run with 2:22 remaining in the first quarter. Weston Laws added the extra point, and that was all San Juan needed to establish momentum.
They went on to score four touchdowns in the second frame, including three in the last five minutes, to lead 35-3 at the half.
After adding two more in the third quarter, the Broncos were finally gashed by an 80-yard TD pass from ALA quarterback Nate Johnson. But SJHS shut down the Eagles for the remainder of the contest and bookended the big win with a Jace Palmer rushing touchdown with 5:15 left.
Through the first four games of the season, San Juan is accomplishing a task Coach Christensen said was key at the beginning of the year: winning the turnover battle.
Though the Broncos would like to continue limiting their own mistakes, they have turned the ball over ten times in the first four games compared to 15 for their opponents.
Christensen said every game gives his team new lessons and the players are learning each time out and tightening up their game.
A couple areas still need work: blocking assignments among the receiver corps and limiting penalties.
The Broncos will need to be firing on all cylinders when they head to Grantsville this Friday, September 11. The Cowboys are big, strong, and players who play both sides of the ball do so out of choice rather than necessity.
“We’re smaller and faster,” said Coach Christensen, “so we want to play outside the hashes and use that speed to our advantage.
“They two-platoon, so we have to be more in shape than their fresh guys. We have to get them moving. When we get those big guys tired, we can start gashing them up the middle.”
San Juan will definitely have their hands full in Grantsville. It will be a big test and an indication of where the Broncos stand against a premier 3A opponent nearing the midpoint of the season.
The Cowboys lost the first game of the season to North Sanpete, but have beaten Tooele, Manti, and Delta since.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday in Grantsville. Listen to the live broadcast beginning with a 6:30 pregame on Redrock 92.7 FM and streaming on redrock92.com.