High school football: Layton gets past Copper Hills in 6A playoffs

There was a celebration waiting at Copper Hills High School Friday night.

Would it be the home team, which finished the regular season 4-6 and had lost its last five contests to Region 2 opponents and limped into the 6A playoffs as the No. 15 seed?

Or would it be Layton, which hadn’t won a single game all season under first-year coach Trevor Thomas and finished at the bottom of Region 1?

Not surprisingly, it was a close game that wasn’t decided until the Lancers stopped the Grizzlies’ fourth-down pass play eight yards short of the end zone to secure a 24-20 win.

“The kids need it (the win); the community needed it,” said Thomas, who was hired last June and felt like his squad was six months behind every opponent while preparing for its games.

“We’re a young team and we wanted to win one for our seniors. I told the kids to give their all here or they would always regret it.”

Madden Sargent threw three touchdowns — all to Gabe Lopez — as the Lancers rallied from a 14-0 deficit.

Thomas said the game changed when Sargent found Lopez on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 1:43 left in the second quarter. Then, after Layton recovered a fumble, Taylor Egbert connected on a 50-yard field goal.

“The kids realized they could compete and play with these guys,” said Thomas. “It was a real momentum boost.”

“It took us a while to get started,” said Sargent, who completed 8 of 19 passes for 175 yards. “Our second touchdown (a 50-yard pass to Lopez) was really the play that tuned us up and we took it from there.”

Lopez was easily Sargent’s favorite target, finishing with four catches for 117 yards. Ryan Wensel also made a difference, rushing for a season-best 122 yards on 26 carries.

Layton also found the Grizzlies’ Achilles’ heel — turnovers. The Lancers forced three fumbles, and that kept the momentum on their side of the field for much of the second half.

Copper Hills looked like it would turn the game into a rout early behind quarterback Maverick Bowles and Nate Kitchen, and the Grizzlies gave their fans some hope of ending their 28-year winless playoff drought when they cut the margin to 24-20 with 7:30 left.

They got the ball back a couple of minutes later but their final chance was extinguished with 1:16 left after Bowles lofted a pass toward Logan Batt on a fourth down play.

Batt, who caught a 5-yard touchdown pass earlier, had the ball slip through his hands just before taking a tough hit from a defender, which extended the Grizzlies’ futility and gave the Lancers their biggest celebration of the year.

It may be short-lived, though, as this game’s winner advanced to play at second-seeded Corner Canyon next week.

“We’ll have our hands full, for sure,” Thomas said, “but we get to enjoy this one and we have (at least) one more week of practice. We may be starting from behind, but this team is making progress and we’re building something.”

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