Warriors look to Wright in grind out win against Falcons

Snow Canyon at Canyon View, Oct. 5, 2017, Cedar City, uT | Photo by Kurt Meacham, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — The Snow Canyon Warriors were able to beat out the Canyon View Falcons 7-0 Thursday night at Falcon Stadium behind the power attack of Toshfatafehi Wright.

“He had a big night,” Warriors head coach Mike Esplin said. “But we still kind of stalled. We’d get big yards and get moving and doing good things. Then all of the sudden, we’d stall. We’ve got to fix the stall to get all the way to the end zone.”

After electing to receive in the first half, the Falcons went on a 15-play drive that took over eight minutes off the clock. Senior quarterback Stockton Rigby started the game for the Falcons, his first start this year.

Rigby and star running back Kyler Bergener combined for seven carries and 40 yards in the first seven plays, forcing the Warriors to call timeout to adjust the defense. The timeout proved to be helpful, as the Falcons were unable to put the ball in the end zone later in the drive.

As is common with both teams, the run game was the key feature. Keeping the ball in the trenches forced time to melt off the clock, as both teams could only manage one possession each in the first quarter.

File photo of Snow Canyon’s Toshfatafehi Wright (28) | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

With just over four minutes left until halftime, Wright found a hole through the defense and looked to be going all the way for a 66-yard touchdown. A Canyon View defender was able to catch up to Wright, bringing him down at the Falcons 14-yard line. The Falcons caught a break on the next play as Ryan Bethers fumbled the ball away and the CV pounced on the loose ball.

The Falcons were forced into a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and punted the ball back to Warriors. With only two minutes left in the first half, the Warriors had to drive 48 yards to get six points on the board.

After a Falcons penalty set the Warriors up inside the 10-yard line, Wright and quarterback Austin Staheli looked ready to give momentum to their team. The Falcons defense had other plans, however.

Wright was able to get the Warriors to the 4-yard line before Snow Canyon called timeout with 31 seconds left. Knowing they would not have a lot of time to get a second play in, Esplin called a two-play set for his offense. Wright got the hand off on third-and-4, but was stopped at the 1-yard line.

The Warriors quickly got back to the line and tried a quarterback sneak with Staheli. The Falcons’ defense was able to stop Staheli on fourth down with just inches to spare.

“You have to give Canyon View credit for what they did,” Esplin said. “They played really tough on defense. That’s not all us not doing our job. That’s them doing their job, too.”

And just like that, the first half was over. Only 50 minutes had passed from the opening kickoff to the final first half snap. While Dixie and Hurricane were just getting into their second quarter of play, the Warriors and Falcons were ending theirs.

One worry was how each team would come out of halftime. Would the Warriors find a way around the stifling defense? Would the Falcons let another game slip away in the second half? It did not take long for those questions to have answers.

Falcons head coach Skyler Miller said his team was confident and poised coming out of halftime.

“Our leadership responded really well,” he said. ” They all seemed to understand that this was truly about business. It truly was a 0-0 game at that point. Halftime was great. We just had to dial in some adjustments. We came out. Nothing out of our control.”

“It was a little quiet (during halftime),” Wright said. “My coaches kept telling me to keep my head up. We just got to come out with fire and we’ll be fine.”

With the Warriors receiving the second half kick, Wright wanted to strike fast.

After taking the kickoff to their own 40-yard line, the Warrior offense was helped out with 35 yards worth of Falcons penalties from a pass interference, personal foul and facemasking call. With 9:17 left in the third quarter, Wright finally got the ball past the goal line for a 2-yard touchdown.

“I feel like I did pretty good. My O-line was there. Without them there’s nothing,” Wright said. “Everything goes to them. Without them, there’s no team.”

File photo of Canyon View’s Colten Shumway (15) | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The ensuing Falcons possession saw Colten Shumway step in at quarterback in place of Rigby.

“We thought it would be a cool moment for him to return, in his final home game, and show our kids what perseverance was all about,” Miller said. “We knew it would only be for (a little bit).

“He actually came off, showed tremendous humility, and said, ‘I had my time. Thanks coach. But let’s give our younger quarterback those reps.’”

Shumway answered the call, giving the Falcons positive yardage on plays that most players would have lost 5 or 6 yards on.

As the Falcons were driving down inside the Warriors 25-yard line late in the third quarter, the defense was able to force Shumway into fumbling the ball, preserving the shutout.

The Warriors joy was not long-lived, though. On the very next play, Staheli underthrew his receiver as the ball went right into the hands of Falcons defensive back Gabe O’Connell.

Neither team could come up with an answer on offense. The Warriors had a shot after the Falcons muffed a punt, but fell short when Staheli just barely overthrew wide receiver Andrew Day past the end zone on a fourth down.

The Falcons were ready to answer the call. First, Shumway ran the ball for a 14-yard gain, then found wide receiver Tyler Nelson on a quick slant route for an 18-yard gain a couple plays later. The Falcons were unable to get another first down after a penalty, and elected to trust their defense into holding the Warriors to a three-and-out.

After two handoffs to Wright only netted 5 yards, the Falcons called their second timeout of the half to stop the clock. The tension in the stadium at this point could be cut cleanly with a knife. Even the Warriors had to call a timeout to calm their nerves.

Snow Canyon’s Brooks Sampson (35). | File photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

With 2:41 left in the game, on third-and-five from their own 40 yard line, Staheli gave the ball to Wright, who started running to his right. Wright then pitched the ball back to receiver Brooks Sampson on a reverse. Sampson was able to take advantage of the trickery by running 36 yards to the Falcons 24, icing the game for the Warriors.

“We were having a hard time getting out of the box,” Esplin said. “So we figured that something they hadn’t seen with a lot of misdirection would work. And it did, thank goodness.”

“I was screaming it the entire possession,” Miller said. “I knew it was in their package. I can confidently say I knew that’s what they were going to do. We just over-pursued and over-committed. It’s just an assignment breakdown and they made a great play.

“They finished off with great effort. Nothing but respect for Snow Canyon and where they’re going with themselves.”

The game would end with the Warriors running out the clock in the low scoring 7-0 final.

Both Wright and Miller were impressed with the effort of the Canyon View team, with Wright saying that the Falcons did not play like a team that does not have a win yet on the year.

“They were really good,” he said. “To be honest with you, I didn’t expect them to be that good. But they came out and played with all their hearts. They did great. Props to them. They came out with fire. They’re a really good team and no one should doubt Canyon View.”

“Man, I love my team,” Miller said. “Their effort was tremendous. I think that we’re gaining respect. These kids came out and literally gave every single thing they had. I just love them. I’m just so thankful to be their coach.”

The Warriors, on the other hand, knew they could have done better.

“I think we really gotta go watch film,” Esplin said. “We obviously weren’t seeing what the fix was. I think there was some offensive line things we need to fix. Some of it physical, some of it technique, some of it mental block.”

The Warriors are still glad they won the game, knowing that it can go a long way in the Region 9 race.

“We’re thankful we won,” Esplin said. “I don’t know what happened to the rest of the teams, but we could still potentially be a two-seed. You just don’t know. That’s just the fun of Region 9.”

The Warriors (2-2, 5-2) will travel to Hurricane next Wednesday, looking to stay in the hunt for a higher seed in Region 9.

The Falcons (0-5, 0-8) have a bye next week and will not play again until Oct. 20 when they travel to Pine View for their final game of the season.

Quick Stats
Snow Canyon
Austin Staheli: 6-14, 52 yards, 1INT, 7 carries, 21 yards
Toshfatafehi Wright: 20 carries, 128 yards, 1TD

Canyon View
Stockton Rigby: 11 carries, 42 yards
Colten Shumway: 2-7, 25 yards, 5 carries, 33 yards

Box score: Box Scores for Snow Canyon @ Canyon View

Thursday’s Region 9 results
Pine View 42, Desert Hills 14
Dixie 42, Hurricane 7
Snow Canyon 7, Canyon View 0

REGION 9 STANDINGS
1. Dixie 4-0 (7-1)
2. Desert Hills 3-1 (5-2)
2. Cedar 3-1 (4-3)
4. Snow Canyon 2-2 (5-2)
4. Pine View 2-2 (5-3)
6. Hurricane 1-4 (2-6)
7. Canyon View 0-5 (0-8)

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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