Scrappy Delta football team gives the Broncos a little bit of a scare

There’s a chance that six fairly easy wins over the past six weeks lulled the San Juan High School football team into a relaxed state that finally allowed them to glance past an opponent in anticipation of their upcoming matchup with the defending 2A state champion Beaver Beavers.

The problem didn’t rear its head until early in the second quarter in Delta this past Friday, October 1. In the opening quarter against the Rabbits, it looked like the Broncos were going to run away with another game.

They racked up 135 yards of offense in the first quarter and led 21-0 just 21 seconds into the second frame on three unanswered touchdowns. They were on pace for over 500 yards of offense and 84 points.

But after the impressive start, top San Juan receiver Ladd Ivins left the game with injury, and that’s when the wheels started to come off. Delta broke through for their first score of the game just over a minute after the Broncos had scored their third TD.

San Juan fumbled the ensuing kick return on their own 12-yard line and the Rabbits made quick work of the mistake, turning it into six points just three plays later. All of a sudden, the Broncos had a game on their hands, and Delta had all the momentum.

The Rabbits continued to gather steam, scoring to tie the game less than four minutes later when running back Wayland Crane broke loose on a reverse for a 21-yard touchdown run.

San Juan had opened with three straight TDs, but the Rabbits had answered with three of their own and it was a brand-new ballgame.

The Broncos were able to right the ship a bit when they put together a scoring drive that culminated with a nice ten-yard touchdown pass from Jace Palmer to Collin Baker, his first TD catch of the year.

But Delta wasn’t going down easy. They wrestled the momentum right back on a stunning 70-yard halfback pass from Josh Jackson to Trey Butler for a touchdown just 40 seconds later.

So, amazingly, at the end of one half of play the 2-5 Delta Rabbits were tied with the 6-1 San Juan Broncos 27-27 and were set to receive the ball to begin the second half.

Delta’s momentum did not wane in the third quarter. They got a nice kick return to their own 38-yard line to start the half, then put together a steady, methodical offensive drive that took over seven minutes.

It ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Jackson and, with 4:54 left in the third quarter, gave the Rabbits their first lead of the game 34-27.

It was also the first time San Juan had trailed in a game since the start of the second quarter in Milford on September 3. But the Broncos didn’t allow their concern to paralyze them.

Beginning at their own 20 on their next possession, San Juan went right back to work, building a steady drive of their own that eventually resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by running back Jensen Grover.

The Broncos elected to try for two following the TD, and when Palmer connected with Landon Black in the end zone, they retook the lead 35-33 with 43 seconds left in the third quarter.

Delta fumbled the ball on their next possession, but San Juan was unable to take advantage when the Rabbit defense stood strong to force a turnover on downs.

The Broncos began to take control of the game when, early in the fourth quarter, Delta quarterback Cam Skeem threw an interception on the Rabbits’ very next possession.

Beginning from their own 45, San Juan drove steadily downfield to the Delta 16 where Grover ran in his third touchdown of the night, breaking a couple tackles and bouncing to the outside on the way.

So with 7:48 left in the game, the Broncos had a 41-34 lead. From that point, they held Delta at bay, and put together another strong offensive drive.

The Rabbits got an impressive goal line stand to keep San Juan out of the end zone and give themselves a chance with 2:48 remaining. Delta had the ball trailing by just a touchdown, but they were starting on their own one-yard line.

That’s when the San Juan defense, which has been stout all season, again took control of the game. They gave no ground to the Delta offense, and on third down sacked Skeem in the end zone for a safety.

The Broncos then deftly recovered a solid onside kick attempt from the Rabbits to close out a hard-fought, tightly contested 43-34 win.

Following their seventh-straight victory, Bronco head coach Barkley Christensen admitted his team was maybe a little guilty of looking past Delta in anticipation of facing Beaver this week.

He also explained that the team believed they had a good game plan coming into the game in Delta, but as it turned out, they weren’t as prepared for the scrappy Rabbits as they thought.

It was another useful lesson at just the right time, Christensen believes, and like all lessons will make the team better as they head into the final two games of the regular season.

Still, despite the challenges, the Broncos got some good performances. Palmer hit 23 of 38 pass attempts for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

Incredibly, before Ivins left the game, he caught nine of Palmer’s completions for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone. He was the Broncos’ leading receiver in the game though he only played the first 12 minutes.

But San Juan’s “next-man-up” mentality was on display in this win. Cooper Black had six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown, Collin Baker caught three passes for 26 yards and a TD, and Jensen Grover helped out with three catches for 44 yards.

Grover was key once again in the running game also. He got one of his best performances of the season with 124 yards rushing on 23 carries and three touchdowns.

Defensively, Bronson Snyder led San Juan with 11 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Tyler Bayles made ten tackles and had one sack on the night. And Cooper Black had the key fourth-quarter interception that helped close out the game.

The Broncos improved to 7-1 with the win and remain ranked #3 in 2A football. This week, they hit the road for the final road trip and most anticipated matchup of the regular season.

They’ll face 2A defending state champion Beaver, a team that has built a 34-game winning streak – the fourth-longest in Utah state history and 11th-longest current streak in the nation.

San Juan is hoping to bring that streak to an end this Friday, October 8. It goes without saying, but it’s a game Coach Christensen says his team will most definitely not look past.

He expects a very challenging attack from one of the best Wing-T offenses in the state. And, he said, the Beavers are another team, like Delta, who will “beat up on you physically.”

Christensen expects to have both Ladd Ivins and Jerzy Nieves back for the game, and that’s very good news for Bronco fans. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday night. Tune in to Redrock 92.7 FM and pictureitpalmer.com for all the action live.

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