Down 11-10 with less than a minute remaining, the Logan Grizzlies were at risk of losing their first – and most important – game of the 2011 season. But then it happened: The Logan offense, led by all-state QB DJ Nelson, who had struggled all game, kicked into high gear for one play. With 36 seconds left on the clock, Nelson connected with senior wide receiver Jameson Hartman for a 40-yard touchdown, giving the Grizzlies an 16-11 lead and their fourth state championship since 2000. “I just threw it up and let him run under,” Nelson said after the game. “They were coming with pressure the whole day so what we had on was a double move with (Hartman.)” It was a special play, one that even after the game had Logan Coach Mike Favero remarking about how special it was. Talking about the call to go with Nelson to Hartman, Favero said he wanted to put the ball in the hands of the players who had put the most work in not just through this season, but through their careers. “It was a classic,” said Favero, who had coached Logan to championships in 2000, 2005, and 2007 prior to Friday’s game. “It was do-or-die at that time and what a great opportunity to be a part of that play, that call.” A Nelson-to-John Schmidt two-point conversion gave the Grizzlies an 18-11 lead and the defense held East scoreless on their ensuing desperation drive, giving Logan a chance to celebrate its latest title with a crowd of about 3,000 Grizzly supporters at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium. Looking at the stat sheet, it would appear that the East Leopards dominated the game from start to finish. East outgained Logan 272-182. They held a 17-9 first down advantage, and more than doubled Logan in time of possession. The game was the closest and lowest scoring of Logan’s undefeated season, but that wasn’t a surprise to Favero. “They did a great job and had a great plan,” Favero said. “I’m personally not surprised by the low scoring game.” In the post-game, Favero particularly complimented East’s defensive line, which averages 6-foot-3 and 290 lbs. He said it was the strongest defensive line since a Highland line anchored by current Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. East’s aggressive defense and time-consuming drives on offense created unusual scenarios for Logan’s typically prolific offense. DJ Nelson had arguably his worst game of the year (8 of 23 passing for 135 yards and one touchdown, with 65 yards rushing on 20 carries and a touchdown) but it was that one play, just enough at the right time, to give Logan the title. Even that final play needed a little help from East, however. With 1:15 left in the game and Logan driving, East’s Nela Tuuhetaufa speared Nelson after a throw, racking up a personal foul penalty for the Leopards. The penalty allowed Logan to move recover a first down and move to East’s 40 yard line, setting up the game-winning Nelson-to-Hartman pass. It was just one of 10 penalties East incurred for 85 yards during the game, but none was as costly. Reflecting back on the season, Favero said he knew at the beginning of the year that there were a lot of holes to fill, and he wouldn’t have bet on the team having an undefeated season, but he was extremely proud to be able to be part of another championship team. The night prior to the game, Favero said, Logan’s current players had dinner with members of Logan’s previous state championship teams. The former players told Favero’s current crop that if they wanted to be part of their elite club, they’d have to bring home the championship trophy Friday. They met the challenge. Even if it took 47 minutes to get there. “It’s powerful and it’s impressive,” Favero said. “It’s neat for me as a coach to be able to provide that to the school, to the community, and most importantly to these players.”
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