NORTH LOGAN — The Wolves won in dramatic last-minute fashion in its 2020 home opener with senior quarterback Jake Lundin finding Jacob Regen for the game-winning 4-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left on the clock to beat Box Elder Friday night, 30-29.
That Green Canyon even found itself inside the 5-yard line with a chance to win the game was a miracle unto itself. Not so much that its Friday-night foe was an insurmountable opponent, but because the Wolves were barely able to get out of their own way for much of the evening. From costly turnovers to wasted opportunities when they forced turnovers and punts themselves, there were half a dozen things in Friday’s game could have led to the game being called for the Bees midway through the third, but GC stubbornly saw the full 48 minutes through.
“There were a lot of things that went against us,” GC head coach Craig Anhder said. “There were a lot of times we could have quit and they didn’t. The perseverance of these guys is just amazing. They’ve got incredible heart and incredible determination.”
Box Elder came out of the gate strong, taking the initiative by dominating the smaller Green Canyon defense. In the first quarter the Bees never had to face a single third down, scoring two seemingly effortless touchdowns in the opening quarter. Box Elder accumulated 101 rushing yards in the first quarter alone on eight total carries, 48 from Parker Buchanan and 33 from running back Jerrin Weaver. Green Canyon was able to respond on offense, scoring two touchdowns to only be down 15-13 at the end of the quarter — Box Elder having converted a two-point attempt out of the swinging door field goal formation and Green Canyon having its first PAT blocked.
In the second quarter, the defense patched things up in the front seven, showing immediate improvement forcing Box Elder into two negative runs at the start of the quarter with Regen and McKade Hellstern getting into the backfield to create some havoc. It kicked off a monumental shift that saw Box Elder go from averaging more than 12 yards per carry in the first quarter to less than four yards an attempt for the final three quarters.
“We moved out alignments a little bit and were able to pick up some keys,” Anhder said. “(Box Elder) were running that power sweep around our edges and our defense made some adjustments and we were able to stuff that. And then when you can’t get to the edges when you run that offense you struggle and that’s what got them to struggle.”
Regen, who finished the night with three tackles for loss and a sack, gave credit to his coaches, specifically defensive coordinator Cam Johnson, and teammates for the improved effort.
“We’ve got the biggest hearts in the world, we’re going to stay out there no matter the score, however big the team is no matter the ranking, we’re going to come out and fight as a team and that’s how we’re going to win games,” Regen said.
Even with the upgrade in defensive prowess, the Wolves still struggled to get their nose ahead. After forcing their first three-and-out of the game, GC’s ensuing drive stalled just outside the red zone, resulting in a turnover on downs after Anhder declined attempting a long, but probably makeable field goal attempt. Then after Lundin picked off a Buchanan pass and returned it to Box Elder’s 19 yard line, the offense once again stalled, this time going for the field goal that, when it passed through the uprights gave GC a 16-15 lead, was disappointing because of the lack of a decisive blow to Box Elder to end the half.
As it was, the one-point lead was short lived as Green Canyon slipped up yet again by allowing Buchanan to once again connect with Bryalon Majors, this time for a 53-yard touchdown pass with under 30 seconds left in the half.
Things became dire for the Wolves when Box Elder opened the half with a long, clock-draining touchdown drive that put the score at 29-16 with just over 17 minutes left to play in the contest. Green Canyon’s initial response was to drive down to the one, but running back Landon Peterson failed to fully control a handoff from Lundin and fumbled the ball straight into the defensive line who easily came away with a turnover and a free goal-line stand.
Disaster of an even greater magnitude nearly struck again with the clock passing under 10 minutes to play and time quickly running out for a two-score comeback. After the defense held Box Elder to a three-and-out, the Bees punted and the ball bounced harmlessly to the Wolves’ 22-yard line. But just before the kicking team downed the punt, returner Jaxon Curtis attempted to pick the ball up and run but failed to cleanly field the ball which nearly resulted in a spine-shattering turnover.
The following drive that almost never was turned out to be the one that drew the Wolves within one score with Hellstern running the rock in from 26 yards out for a touchdown. And thanks to one more heroic defensive stand by GC, the offense were given what would likely be one chance to score a go-ahead touchdown.
Green Canyon showed remarkable patience on the last drive. Rather than immediately go to a pass-heavy mindset, Anhder kept the offense within its own, running an even mix of run and pass plays. This was partly for strategy reasons and partly because he wanted to avoid going into desperation mode and abandon his usually solid run game.
“Our mindset was ‘let’s see if we can run some time off the clock and not score too soon.’” Anhder said, later adding “this team does better when we just take a step back, are a little more patient and take advantage of the things they give us.”
After taking two minutes off the clock and driving inside the Box Elder 40, the Wolves faced a turning point in the game — a third-and-12 on the 39-yard line with 2:37 on the clock. And the resulting play was worthy of the Super Bowl.
Lundin took the shotgun snap and immediately had to face down defensive lineman Gavin Hansen who had almost a free run at the QB. After ripping himself out of the arm tackle of the 6-foot-1 lineman, the 190-pound Lundin rolled to the right and tossed up a jump ball to his trusted receiver, Regan, who was trying to find an opening down the right sideline. The ball initially bounced off the hands of defender and receiver, Regen falling onto his backside on the 2-yard line. But like a gift from the football gods, the ball fell right onto Regen’s chest and he cradled the ball for a 37-yard gain to set up first-and-goal inside the two.
“What an amazing catch, it just turned this game around,” Anhder said. “Lundin’s got a lot of trust in (Regen). He was scrambling around and then just aired it out for him.”
“Me and (Lundin), we’re very tight,” Regen said. “He’s my best friend and I knew he was going to come out and he was going to give me that ball. He put trust in me and I respect that and it was just a heck of a catch, a lucky play.”
Even after the catch, Green Canyon nearly bungled the opportunity with Lundin bobbling the snap and having to fall on it for a 9-yard loss. But a few plays later, Lundin found Regen for the game-winner.
Aside from being a thrilling and exciting comeback, the game held a special note for one of its players who is being forced into an early retirement. Carson Gerber, whom doctors diagnosed with a tumor inside his tibia, was cleared to play this game but this game alone for his senior season. He saw some action during the night in the passing game, catching two passes for 12 yards.
“They had something special inside of them for Carson tonight,” Anhder said. “What an incredible thing.”
After the game, Gerber said “there’s no good last game” but admitted that the win at least allowed for some positively on what was a somber night for the young man.
WOLVES 30, BEES 29
Friday at North Logan
Box Elder 15 7 7 0 — 29
Green Canyon 13 3 0 14 — 30
BE — Parker Buchanan 12 run (Jerrin Weaver run), 8:44
GC — Lundin 1 run (kick blocked), 6:36
BE — Braylon Majors 30 pass from Buchanan (Keaton Lamb kick), 4:22
GC — Lundin 3 run (Landon kick), 0:06
GC — FG Landon 31, 1:22
BE — Majors 53 pass from Buchanan (Lamb kick), 0:29
BE — Weaver 11 run (Lamb kick), 5:15
GC — MaKade Hellstern 26 run (Landon kick), 7:50
GC — Regen 4 pass from Lundin (Landon kick), 0:24