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Sandy Journal

Hawks bow out in state football semifinals

Dec 01, 2023 10:42AM ● By Josh McFadden

By a narrow margin, the Alta football team just missed a chance to play for a Class 5A state title. 

Alta lost in the state semifinals Nov. 9 to 10th-seeded Bountiful by the count of 20-19, ending the Hawks’ season at 10-4. The game was back and forth all night long, but Bountiful scored the winning touchdown with a minute left to play, erasing a 19-14 deficit to go up for good. 

Alta scored first in the opening quarter when Matt McKea crossed the goal line from a yard out. After Bountiful answered in the second quarter with a score, the Hawks went up 13-7 when McKea completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Weber. Bountiful regained the lead just before halftime and went into the locker room with a 14-13 advantage. 

The offense struggled in the second half. 

Alta managed just a pair of field goals after halftime—both in the third quarter. Jack McAllister hit one from 35 with 6:58 in the third and another form 28 yards with 1:12 to play in the period. But the Hawks couldn’t get back on the scoreboard. 

In defeat, Kepa Niumeitolu went 19 of 32 passing for 195 yards. Abe Jager had a nice outing, catching six passes for 104 yards. McKea also caught six passes, in addition to completing a pair of passes, one for a score. 

Getting to the semifinals was not something a lot of people would have expected from the Hawks. Alta was the 11th seed coming into the state tournament after placing fourth in Region 6 with a 3-3 record. 

Alta began the tournament Oct. 20 with a 34-10 blowout over No. 22 Highland. It was a nearly identical outcome to the previous meeting when the region rivals met Sept. 14. On that night, Alta won at home 34-14. In the first round of the state playoffs, Alta used a dominant 21-point fourth quarter to turn a close come into a comfortable win. The Hawks were up just 13-10 after three quarters but scored on three touchdown runs in a 9 ½-minute span to secure the win. McKea had a 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter, followed by a 46-yard TD run from Anthony Cottis with 6:08 to play. Nolan Lohness punctuated the victory with a 24-yard scamper into the end zone with 2:16 left to go. 

Cottis had 103 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Lohness had 65 on just four carries. Niumeitolu had 148 yards passing, with 111 of the yards going to Wyatt Johnson on five catches. Dammion Singleton had seven tackles for the Hawks. 

In an Oct. 27 second-round matchup with West, Alta was on the road facing a sixth-seeded foe. But the Hawks weren’t intimidated. In a classic showdown, Alta prevailed 36-34 in a marathon four-overtime game. Alta claimed the win in the fourth overtime with a successful two-point pass. Niumeitolu had 85 yards rushing and a touchdown along with 201 yards passing and a TD. Nine Hawks caught at least one pass, led by Wyatt Johnson, who grabbed seven for 60 yards. 

The Hawks reached the semifinals by defeating third-seeded Roy on the road, 13-9. Alta handed Roy its lowest point total of the year. Roy didn’t manage a single offensive touchdown, as it had a kickoff return for a TD to start the game as well as a field goal. Neither team scored in the second half in a game where Alta score a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter. Cottis scored on an 8-yard pass from McKea, and Tele Afu hauled in a pass from McKea from 18 yards out. Cottis had a huge night with 186 yard rushing on 16 carries. McKea added 68 yards on the ground and 90 yards passing. Alta limited Roy to only 27 yards passing. 

Alta will miss Cottis, who will graduate. He rumbled for 1,120 yards this season. However, McKea will return next season as a senior. He rushed for 422 yards and 11 touchdowns and threw for 654 yards and eight scores. Also, Niumeitolu is just a sophomore. The quarterback had 2,492 yards passing with 14 touchdowns this season. λ