San Juan football wins third in a row in crazy shootout with Milford

The San Juan High School football team hit the road again on Friday, September 3 for a 320-mile trip west to Milford to take on the tough 1A Tigers.

Coming into the game, 2-1 San Juan was ranked #3 in 2A football while 2-1 Milford was fourth in 1A. It promised to be an exciting matchup between two teams that hope to be playing for a state championship in November, and it didn’t disappoint.

The Broncos wasted no time getting underway as Cooper Black returned the opening kickoff 35 yards to midfield. Senior running back Jensen Grover then took four straight handoffs, rushing for 44 yards in the first minute of the game to drive the ball down inside the Tiger ten.

A couple plays later, Landon Black stepped in to take his first handoff, diving into the end zone to open the scoring. Qwentyn Petty added the extra point, and after just two minutes and five plays the Broncos led 7-0.

On the first Milford possession of the game, two things became evident: the Tigers were prepared to play the San Juan Broncos and both defenses would have their hands full on this night.

Beginning on their own 20, Milford used the powerful, skillful running of Blake Barnes and quick, precise passing of Bo Hardy to convincingly march 80 yards and respond to tie the game on an eight-yard run from Barnes.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Jerzy Nieves returned the ball 42 yards to set the Broncos up at the Tiger 47. Following the two big returns by Black and Nieves, the Tigers never kicked the ball deep again.

The Milford defense thought they had gotten some momentum when they sacked San Juan quarterback Jace Palmer on first down.

But Jensen Grover erased that thought on the very next play when he rumbled 53 yards to the end zone, breaking tackles and hurdling a Tiger defender along the way. This time Petty missed the PAT, and the Bronco lead remained 13-7.

On the San Juan kickoff, Barnes put together a nice return of his own, a 30-yarder to the Milford 40. Then the Tigers showcased the talent of their junior quarterback and senior running back again, marching 60 yards in just two minutes to once again answer the Broncos.

When Alex Montoya added the extra point, Milford seized the lead 14-13. Just 8:27 into the game, neither defense had figured it out and the two teams had combined for four touchdowns.

On the next San Juan possession, Palmer threw to Landon Black at the Milford 20 yard line. The ball hit Black in the chest, but as he and his defender, Corbyn Dalton tumbled to the turf, it was Dalton who came away with an interception.

So the Tigers had all the momentum and San Juan needed their defense to come up with their first stop of the game. They were up to the task, forcing a Milford punt with under a minute to go in the quarter.

Momentum feeds momentum, and the Bronco offense took control from that point. A Jace Palmer 46-yard run to the Milford 12 set San Juan up to retake the lead.

Just seven seconds into the second quarter, Palmer connected with Cooper Black from nine yards out for the first of five passing touchdowns on the night. After a two-point conversion, San Juan led 21-14.

It was the first of three straight Bronco touchdowns as they began to take command of the game. Eight minutes later, Palmer hit Nieves in the end zone to hit paydirt and increase the lead to 28-14.

On the ensuing Milford possession, Ladd Ivins leapt high into the air to snag his first of two interceptions on the night, setting the San Juan offense up near midfield.

On first down, an interesting offensive pass interference call erased a beautiful touchdown pass from Palmer to Cooper Black, but as they have all season when facing adversity, the Broncos immediately bounced back.

Palmer connected with Nieves for a 30-yard pass to set San Juan up near the Milford red zone. Then he struck for his third straight passing touchdown, hitting Ivins in stride for a 21-yarder to increase the Bronco lead to 35-14.

Though the Tigers orchestrated a nice scoring drive to pull to within two touchdowns at the end of the first half, the San Juan defense got key stops early in the third quarter, allowing the offense to get back to work.

Midway through the period, Palmer connected with Cooper Black again for a 38-yard touchdown pass, then followed that with a 38-yard TD run of his own two minutes later as the Broncos seized a 49-20 lead.

For the remainder of the game, the teams traded touchdowns. Cooper Black caught his third of the game, a 20-yarder from Palmer two minutes into the fourth quarter.

Landon Black accounted for the final Bronco score of the night when he went right up the middle of the field, outracing the Milford defenders 49 yards into the end zone.

Over the course of the final period, the game became increasingly chippy and penalty calls became more and more steady. With emotions high, the situation eventually boiled over with 2:07 remaining.

As Milford punted, a Tiger player pinned Jensen Grover to the ground and began throwing punches. Flags flew as both team’s coaches came onto the field.

The fracas created a lengthy delay, and when the dust settled, the Milford player was ejected and Bronco Head Coach Barkley Christensen received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Following the game, the teams amicably shook hands at midfield. It truly was an exciting, emotional battle between two excellent teams, resulting in a big 62-41 win for San Juan – the Broncos third win in a row.

Following the game, Coach Christensen offered some observations. “I thought the offense played well,” he said. “The defense had great moments too but needs to make plays on third and fourth down.

“We’re right there, but we need to tighten up the tackling, play assignment football, and pay more attention to detail,” he explained. “Milford is a great team and showed us where we need to get better.”

Quarterback Palmer was outstanding in the win, throwing for 259 yards. He got his money’s worth with five of his 14 completions going for touchdowns. He ended the night 14 of 18 for 78 percent passing and added a rushing TD.

His favorite target was Ladd Ivins, who caught six passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. But Cooper Black factored greater on the scoreboard, catching three Palmer TD passes.

He ended the night with 69 yards on four receptions. Jerzy Nieves caught the remaining touchdown pass and finished with 59 yards on three catches.

It was the best running game of the season so far for the Broncos. They collected 332 yards on 29 carries, an average of 11.4 yards per run.

Jensen Grover led the way with 139 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Jace Palmer was impressive, with 128 yards on seven carries and a TD. And Landon Black ran the ball four times for 60 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively Ladd Ivins was a beast for San Juan, factoring on 15 tackles and snagging two interceptions. He caught an additional interception that was called back on a penalty.

Magnum Nielson was stout also, getting in on 11 Bronco stops. Jensen Grover had ten, Landon Black nine, and Eoin Kaer and Collin Baker got eight apiece.

Tyler Bayles racked up an impressive four sacks on the night. Bronson Snyder and Magnum Nielson sacked Bo Hardy once apiece.

Stat-wise San Juan is making some national noise. Palmer’s 1,030 passing yards through the first four games is 14th in the country. Ladd Ivins has 459 receiving yards, eighth nationwide.

Magnum Nielson’s 48 tackles is tied for 11th in the nation. And Bronson Snyder and Tyler Bayles are tied for second in sacks with eight apiece.

The Broncos will be put to the test again this Friday, September 10 with another long road trip to Cedar City to take on the 3A Canyon View Falcons. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Check out the action live on Redrock 92.7 FM and

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