San Juan holds off Layton Christian in knock-down-drag-out football season opener
by Rhett Sifford
It took all night, but the San Juan High School football team finally outlasted the Layton Christian Eagles this past Friday, August 12 in the first game of the 2022 season for a 46-38 win on the Broncos’ home field.
It was a hard-fought marathon affair that lasted nearly four hours. The game was riddled with miscues by both teams, injuries, cramps, and slow pace.
It even came to a halt for a lightning delay late in the third quarter. Despite a certain strangeness, it was still an entertaining tough battle.
Give the Eagles credit. They had a much smaller contingent on their sideline but hung with the Broncos from start to finish, despite trailing for the entire game. San Juan definitely had their hands full with the bigger bodies on the opposing side.
It took just over seven minutes of gameplay for the first points to appear on the scoreboard. The Broncos drew first blood when new quarterback, junior Parker Snyder, scampered into the end zone from the one yard line.
They added a second touchdown on a ten-yard pass from Snyder to senior Jerzy Nieves with 1:29 left in the opening frame. Though both PATs failed, San Juan held a two-touchdown lead headed into the second quarter.
But Layton Christian erased that deficit swiftly. A 65-yard pass from quarterback Jose Ribeiro to All-State receiver Malik Johnson set the Eagles up on the one yard line not quite five minutes into the quarter.
Ribeiro, also playing in his first-ever varsity game, ran the ball in to pull the visitors to within one touchdown. LCA tied the game just two minutes later when Johnson intercepted a Parker Snyder pass and returned it 70 yards to the house.
San Juan reestablished their lead when Magnum Nielson ran for his first touchdown of the season less than a minute later, and they went up by two scores again when Zack Conway caught a 16-yard TD pass from Snyder with 35 seconds left in the half.
It was Snyder who set the Broncos up for the second touchdown drive when he intercepted a Ribeiro pass at the San Juan 40 with Layton Christian driving and looking to tie. Shawn Black tacked on his first two extra points of the season on both of those touchdowns.
So it looked like San Juan would head into halftime with a comfortable lead. But the Eagles showed their explosiveness when they streaked down the field on a three-play, 67-yard scoring drive in just 24 seconds.
The Broncos began to gain some distance on LCA in the third quarter, scoring two unanswered touchdowns. The first was another pass from Snyder, this time to Garrett Young. The second was a one-yard run by Magnum Nielson.
San Juan had the Eagles on the ropes, and their exhaustion was becoming evident. But immediately following the Broncos’ TD that put them up 39-19 the game was halted for lightning in the area.
Following a 30-minute delay with the teams in their respective locker rooms Layton Christian returned to the field with new life. They made the score 39-26 just over three minutes into the fourth quarter when Ribeiro found receiver Ilai Tagidugu for a four-yard strike.
After forcing the Broncos into a quick three-and-out, the Eagles clearly had the momentum and the Broncos needed a defensive stop. They got it when a high snap eluded Ribeiro’s reach and Zack Conway flew into the backfield, scooped up the loose ball, and ran it 23 yards into the end zone.
San Juan had their 20-point lead back and it seemed they had deflated Layton Christian’s momentum and they would be able to hold them off for the remainder of the game. But it was a good thing the Broncos got that defensive touchdown because they were going to need all those points.
With 3:42 left in the game Ribeiro struck for his third touchdown pass of the night – a 70-yarder to Oaklin Sandoval. The Eagles scored again just 13 seconds later when Jessaia Giatras scooped up a Bronco fumble and took it 60 yards to pay dirt.
Suddenly San Juan players, coaches, and fans were a bit nervous, and rightfully so. Layton Christian was displaying some impressive tenacity as they had all game and weren’t going anywhere.
But the Broncos mustered a solid drive in the final 3:29 of the game, picking up a huge first down by inches with 2:20 left. That allowed them to maintain possession of the ball and run out the clock to hang on for the 46-38 win.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but San Juan moved to 1-0 on the season with the victory. Following the game Bronco Head Coach Barkley Christensen said, “That was one of the weirdest games I’ve ever been a part of.
“It was a roller coaster where both teams saw some highs and lows. Our young, inexperienced team pulled out a tough win against a good team and hopefully we can build on it.”
He talked about the team needing to correct the mistakes they made in game one. “We couldn’t run the ball,” he detailed. “It’s nice to have film because now we can tighten up things we’re weak on.”
Despite the ups and downs, the Broncos didn’t look too bad on paper. Parker Snyder was 19 of 38 with 216 yards passing and three touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions in the game, but it’s still a pretty impressive outing in his first varsity game.
Snyder also ran for a touchdown and Magnum Nielson got two rushing TDs. Nielson rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries and Snyder got 64 on seven carries. Zack Conway added 30 rushing yards to the Broncos’ total of 163 in the win.
Garrett Young led San Juan’s contingent of receivers with 64 yards on eight catches, Jerzy Nieves had 49 yards on four catches, and Zack Conway caught two passes for 45 yards. All three scored a touchdown apiece.
Defensively Nielson led the Broncos with 14 tackles and Trace Bennett had 11. Snyder and Hudson Whatcott intercepted one Layton Christian pass each. Conway and Will Hoopes both got a fumble recovery apiece.
As Coach Christensen said, the team will need to tighten up weak areas to prepare for week two. It will be a tough matchup on the road with the top-ranked team in 2A North Region, Summit Academy.
The Bears handily beat Cottonwood, a 5A independent school, 41-13, and look to upstage the defending 2A champions on a home field.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. this Friday, August 19 in Bluffdale, UT. Redrock 92 Radio and PictureItPalmer.com will broadcast the game, with the pregame starting at 6:30.