San Juan High football team exacts opening night revenge on Delta in Blanding August 14

A year ago, the San Juan Broncos opened the football season with an extremely entertaining triple-overtime thriller against the 3A powerhouse Delta Rabbits in Delta, UT. Sadly, San Juan came out on the short end.

Although many of the Broncos who started that game graduated in May, the team was still looking for some revenge when they opened the 2020 season against those same Delta Rabbits on Friday, August 14 in Blanding.

The players and coaches weren’t the only ones chomping at the bit to get the season underway. The stands were packed with Bronco fans on a warm Blanding night. However, their anticipation may have turned to nervousness in the early minutes of the game.

Delta received the opening kick of the year and steadily marched down the field, taking just under four minutes to punch in the opening score of the season on a three-yard run by senior William Finlinson. The point after was successful and the Rabbits led 7-0.

Following the quick Delta score, the Bronco offense got their first opportunity to shine, and that’s exactly what they did. Using a combination of passes and runs, junior quarterback and first-year starter Jace Palmer decimated the Rabbit defense.

San Juan took just 3:09 to answer the Rabbits, scoring on an 11-yard pass from Palmer to fellow junior Cooper Black, who toed the sideline for a beautiful catch. The point after attempt failed, however, and the Broncos trailed 7-6.

Then it was the San Juan defense’s turn to shine. When they forced a fumble early in Delta’s next possession, the Bronco offense was able to strike on a quick three-play drive that culminated in a 15-yard pass, once again from Palmer to Black.

The two-point attempt failed though, and San Juan led by just five, 12-7, with 3:11 remaining in the first quarter.

When Delta fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Broncos were poised to take firm control of the game. But Palmer committed one of his only errors of the night when he threw an interception moments later.

Delta was able to convert the turnover into a 66-yard touchdown pass just 12 seconds into the second quarter. When the extra point try failed, the Rabbits led 13-12.

Delta maintained the momentum for the next three minutes, forcing a San Juan turnover on downs, then promptly taking the ball back down the field for a scoring drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass, a failed PAT, and a 19-12 lead.

The Rabbits continued to hold the Broncos in check until once again the San Juan defense came up big, forcing another fumble with 6:07 remaining in the half.

The momentum they created helped the Bronco offense to strike quickly when Palmer punched in a three-yard TD run two minutes later. San Juan scored their first successful extra point of the game and tied the score 19-19.

San Juan got a solid defensive stop as Delta used up the majority of the time remaining in the half, and the two squads headed into halftime knotted at 19 apiece.

The Broncos had possession to start the second half and were moving the football, but fumbled in their own territory, giving Delta an excellent opportunity to regain the momentum.

It looked like the Rabbits would take advantage. They drove the ball to the goal line and were poised to score with 4:50 to go in the third quarter.

But the Bronco defense got their biggest stop of the game when they forced a Delta fumble and took over on their own one-yard line.

The ensuing 99-yard scoring drive was a thing of beauty, despite one blemish. After the Broncos drove the ball to midfield, Palmer hit junior Ladd Ivins with a perfect 50-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline… a score was promptly called back for a holding penalty.

Following a 10-yard mark-off, on the next play, Palmer was flushed out of the pocket. As he scrambled he threw an even more beautiful ball, this time to junior Bronson Snyder, who proceeded to take it 59 yards to the house, giving San Juan a 25-19 lead.

It was the only catch of the night for Snyder, who played on the line most of the game.

A successful extra point gave the Broncos a 26-19 lead, and for the remaining 12:40 San Juan played lights-out defense, shutting down the Rabbit offense.

Delta had one final opportunity to tie when San Juan was forced to punt the ball with a minute remaining in the game. But an interception by Palmer with 10 seconds remaining sealed the exciting victory for the Broncos.

After the game, Bronco Head Coach Barkley Christensen was emotional and excited for his players on the win.

He said the players are “winners” and “scrappers” and that this showing bodes well for the season.

He also stated that he “might have underestimated [Jace Palmer’s] athletic ability.”

The first-year starter certainly showed some excellent playmaking ability. Offensively, he was the story of the game.

The junior factored into all four San Juan touchdowns on the night – three through the air and one on the ground. He completed 20 of 28 pass attempts, threw for 206 yards, and rushed for 98 on 13 carries.

The Bronco line also blocked very well for their quarterback all night long. Cooper Black had nine catches in the game for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

Ivins caught eight Palmer passes for 59 yards, and Snyder had the one TD catch for 59 yards.

Junior running back Jensen Grover was solid, carrying the ball 20 times for 105 yards.

But you can’t win a football game without good defense. The Broncos consistently got key stops when they needed them, which helped turn the tide in the back-and-forth battle.

It was a tale of heart, but the game was far from perfect. San Juan had to overcome several miscues, including big penalties at key moments and three turnovers.

It’s a huge win for the Broncos and sets a positive tone for the rest of the season. They’ll try to keep the early momentum alive when they hit the road for a long trip to Bluffdale, UT to take on the Summit Academy Braves this Friday, August 21. Kickoff’s set for 7 p.m.

San Juan Record

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