Stansbury scored three of its five touchdowns in the fourth quarter Friday night in Tremonton to beat Bear River 34-22 for its third region victory.
The Stallions scored two touchdowns in the first half to lead 14-8 at intermission, and then both teams turned on the offensive fireworks in the fourth quarter after a scoreless third quarter.
Stansbury was more proficient in the final quarter with 20 points compared to Bear River’s 14.
The Stallions drove 64 yards on their first possession of the game thanks to the blocking of offensive linemen Allan Havili, Connor Littlefield, Iosua Opeta, Jarom Gleed and Spencer Wihongi. Stansbury kept the drive alive on a fourth-down pass from quarterback Gage Manzione to Tyler Jensen. Alex Mackay blasted into the end zone on a 20-yard run and Jordan Shields added the PAT to make it 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Two plays later, the Bears were on the board on a quick strike 70-yard TD pass to Colton Jensen. The senior wide receiver ended up scoring twice on long TD passes in the game, and had 282 all-purpose yards of Bear River’s 508 yards of total offense.
“We prepared for No. 36 (Colton Jensen) and he still had a big game against us,” said Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen. “We blew some coverages and mis-aligned a couple of time.”
The Bears faked a PAT kick and ran it in for a 2-point conversion to take their only lead of the game at 8-7 with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
The two teams played the field-position game in the second quarter, and Stansbury punter Shields came through with several great punts throughout the contest to keep the Bears pinned deep on their side of the field.
Stansbury’s defense also came through with some big hits in the second quarter to contain the Bears. With Bear River driving midway through the second quarter, a tackle jarred the ball loose and Hudson Conrad pounced on it at the Bear River 49.
Stansbury then gave Bear River a steady dose of speedy Alex Mackay. The Stansbury tailback sprinted to the sideline for three long runs, including a 29-yard TD run to give the Stallions a 14-8 lead at halftime with the PAT kick by Shields.
“We swapped out a bit on the offensive line and we’re coming together there now much better than earlier in the season. You have to win the battle up front and we have a lot of speed we can use. We’re much more aggressive up front now. We wanted to take the edges and our stock blocking was good. We were able to get our fast running backs (Alex) Mackay and (Hudson) Conrad to the edges to use their speed.”
The Stallions opened the third quarter with another long drive from their own 31 down to the Bear River 19, but an interception ended the drive. Bear River had a similar drive in the third quarter, but it stalled at the Stansbury 19 with four incomplete passes.
The final play of the third quarter was a good one for Stallions when the defense tipped a Bear River pass which was intercepted by Wihongi who carried it to the Bears’ 38.
Both offenses turned it on in the fourth quarter with Stansbury holding a 14-8 lead.
A keeper by Manzione and a run by Alex Mackay put the ball on the 22. Manzione then hooked up with Conrad for a 22-yard TD pass called back because of a penalty. Coach Christiansen said he was displeased with the officiating after watching film of the game, and that the flag on the TD pass was one of several poor calls by officials.
A pass to Nick Mackay went to the 16. After a 1-yard loss, Manzione kept the ball up the middle behind Havili for a 15-yard TD run. Manzione covered the final 5 yards on his own with great effort on the run. A 2-point conversion try failed and Stansbury led 20-8.
“We’re pleased with the way Gage has filled in at quarterback. He’s not as fast as Chase (Christiansen), but we like to play to his strengths. He throws well and is strong and he’s been working hard in the weight room. His hard work has paid off out on the field,” the coach said. Coach Christiansen said he anticipates his senior quarterback and son should be back to play the final game of the regular season and the playoffs. “We don’t want to rush it; he will need to be 100 percent.”
Another great punt by Shields midway through the fourth quarter pinned the Bears on their own 3-yard line. But then Jardee Nessen threw over the top and hit Jensen in full stride for a 97-yard touchdown pass to quickly slice the lead to 20-15 with 6:04 left in the game.
Zayne Anderson returned a short kick to the Stansbury 48, and on the next play Alex Mackay broke several tackles and raced down the sideline to the Bear River 6. Two penalties against Stansbury placed the ball on the 16. Manzione hooked up with Conrad on the same pass route they scored on earlier but had it called back. There were no penalties this time and Stansbury led 27-15 with 5:15 left in the game.
With time running out, Bear River was forced to try for a first down on a fourth-and-11 from its own 28 and the pass fell incomplete. Manzione behind Havili up the middle was unstoppable late in the game. The quarterback ran to the 6, and Alex Mackay scored his third touchdown of the game on the next play to push the lead to 34-15 with 3:30 remaining.
Two completed passes and a face mask penalty helped Bear River score the final TD of the game which made it 34-22.