In the annual Wednesday night football game, the Tooele Buffaloes won a nail-biter at home against the visiting Uintah Utes. Tooele led wire-to-wire in the close victory, but the win wasn’t secure until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Entering the final quarter of play with a 20-15 advantage, Tooele didn’t have quite enough breathing room to relax on defense. Only a minute into the quarter the Utes trimmed the Tooele lead to 20-18 after a 34-yard field goal.
Trying to kill some clock Tooele went back to work on offense and rushed for a first down following a 17-yard pickup on the ground by Adam Pace. However, the Buffaloes failed to garner another first down and were forced to punt the ball with just under 8 minutes remaining in the game.
On its own 25-yard line, Uintah moved the ball down the field on a combination of passes and rushes to Tooele’s 14-yard line. With the game on the line, the Buffaloes stepped up their level of play on defense.
Lawson Ross sacked the Ute quarterback Braxton Coonis for a short loss with 5:16 left. On second down, Tooele’s defensive backs played excellent coverage and forced Coonis into an incomplete pass. On third down, defensive tackle Maka Kioa made possibly the biggest play of the night as he broke through the Utes’ offensive line and chased down Coonis for a sack that resulted in a loss of 12 yards. Facing fourth and forever on the 28-yard line the Ute’s attempted a long-range field goal.
The entire stadium peered down onto the field as the Utes snapped the ball and attempted a kick, but Kioa’s sack knocked the Utes too far away as the kick fell well short of being complete.
“When we need to make a big play we have guys that are doing that, that are stepping up and making plays,” said Tooele coach Kyle Brady. “We had Maka Kioa get a huge sack that knocked them out of field goal range. I’m proud of everybody; they did a good job.”
With the game in their own hands Tooele stepped back onto the field needing only a few first downs to secure a victory with only 4:35 remaining and a two-point lead. Ryan Brady rushed twice for five yards then Pace galloped for a 10-yard gain and a first down to move the chains. Pace then rushed up the middle for a short gain before exploding through the defense on another run for 22-yards and one more first down. With the clock still ticking, Pace and Brady each rushed the ball again for another first down, finally allowing Tooele quarterback Jake Brady to take a knee and let the clock wind down to zero, securing the home victory 20-18 over the Uintah.
“(The coaching staff) told the players during that last timeout that three first downs and you guys are going to win this game,” Brady said. “Our players took it as a challenge and moved the ball downfield and did a good job to finish the game.”
The Utes presented a unique challenge for the Buffaloes with their style of offense, which was primarily a passing attack, a stark contrast to Tooele’s running approach on offense.
“(Passing defense) has been our Achilles’ heel this year,” said Brady. “We’ve been working on that really hard. They had a few big pass plays on us but I thought overall we did a good job defending the pass.”
Tooele started off the game strong by forcing a fumble on the first play, which led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Pace. Jake Brady also rushed a two-yard score in the first quarter. In the third quarter Brady scored again on a 52-yard run. Andrew Spendlove and Stratton Atherley also rushed the ball during the game to help move the ball.
Ross, Kioa, Ethan Reynolds, Nathan Reynolds, Tony Leakehe, and Nick Schwartzman constantly forced their way into the backfield on defense and registered sacks.
“We have one more next week against Ben Lomond, then once you get into the playoffs I think we can beat anyone,” said Brady.
The game on the road against the Scots next week will be the final regular season game of the year.