So close. In 16 seconds, the Kanab Cowboys went from the thrill of victory … to the agony of defeat. When Brandon Southwick broke free on a wide receiver screen and didn’t go down until he was corralled on the nine yard line, Kanab and their fans were ecstatic. Two plays later, when quarterback Layne Anderson scored on a two yard keeper, everyone wearing red and white was on cloud nine. Kanab led #1 ranked Diamond Ranch 20-16 with 3:53 left in the 1A state championship game.

Then ... just 16 seconds later, one play after a 63 yard burst by Diamondback running back Aaron Kern put the ball on the Kanab two yard line, they scored on a two yard plunge by quarterback Thomas McCann for a 23-20 lead with 3:37 left to play. Kanab had one last chance, but fumbled the ball on their own 44 yard line with 2:21 left, and Diamond Ranch ran out the clock for the win.

Head coach Bucky Orton told his team after the game that he was very proud of them, calling them warriors. He told his ’Boys not to hang their heads, that he was prouder of the silver trophy this team won, than the championship trophy his team won as a Cowboy player in 1994. Orton said the defense played a great game, and even with six turnovers, their stellar play gave the Cowboys a chance to win the game at the end.

Defensive coordinator Klint Glover praised the team’s efforts, calling them champions ... maybe not state champions ... but they are champions in his eyes. He told the team that anytime you work that hard in life, whether it’s football or marriage or whatever, it hurts when you get your heart broken.

Coach Orton then told his players to thank the Cowboy fans for supporting them. Most of the town was there at the game in Cedar City.

Kanab got on the scoreboard first on a three run up the middle by Anderson. On the extra point try, Diamond Ranch jumped offsides, so coach Orton decided to go for two points instead of kicking. Anderson was stopped short and the Cowboys led 6-0 with 4:47 left in the first period. The drive was set up when Diamond Ranch went for a 50 yard field goal and the snap sailed over everybody’s head. The kicker was tackled on the DR 41 yard line. The six play drive had several big plays, including a 14 yard run by Alex Foster to the 12, and a beautiful diving catch by Monte Glover at the three yard line.

Kanab’s “D” held and Diamond Ranch was forced to punt after three plays. Danion Barnson tackled Jarod Clemons for a seven yard loss on first down, and DR could not pick up the first down. However, on the punt, the Cowboys muffed the ball and DR took over on Kanab’s 13 yard line. Kanab’s defense came up big, holding the Diamondbacks to a 35 yard field goal by Corey Wilson. The kick came with 2:17 left in the first period to make the score 6-3.

After the kickoff, Kanab’s second turnover came on a pass play when a Cowboy receiver had the ball poked free after making a big catch and run of 20 yards. Diamond Ranch recovered on the Kanab 40 yard line. This time, the Diamondbacks reached the end zone on an eight yard run as Kern got to the outside on a third and five play. The extra point kick made the score 10-6, with 10:32 left until the half.

A couple minutes later, Kanab dodged a bullet when a 54 yard pass from McCann to Tyus Millhollin reached the end zone. The scoring play was called back on a penalty on Diamond Ranch. Neither team could get a drive going and the score stayed 10-6 at the half.

After holding Diamond Ranch on the first possession of the second half, their punter boomed a 58 yard kick down to the Kanab six. Two plays later, Diamondback linebacker Jack Dowdell intercepted the ball at the 10 yard line and returned it for a touchdown. The pick-six, Kanab’s third turnover of the game, gave DR a 16-6 lead at the 8:21 mark of the third quarter. Kanab blocked the extra point.

Kanab suffered their fourth turnover on the next series, fumbling the ball at their own 33. The Cowboy defense held once again when linebacker Parker Collins sacked the quarterback for a seven yard loss, and the D’Backs missed a 40 yard field goal.

Three plays later, on another pass and catch, Kanab fumbled on the Cowboy’s 37, their fifth turnover. The Diamondbacks made it to the Cowboy 20, when faced with a third and 10, Cowboy Kyle Tullis made a diving interception of a tipped pass on the two yard line. Kanab’s offense picked up their game and put together a 98 yard drive to get back in the game. Sixty-six of those yards came on an Anderson to Glover pass play. The score came with three seconds left in the third period on a four yard pass from sophomore QB Tavin Ott to Southwick. The other big play on the drive was a third and 11 pass and catch from Anderson to Kason Whitesides, which was good for 18 yards, to put the ball on the DR 15. The extra point kick was good and the Cowboys trailed 16-13 heading into the final frame.

Diamond Ranch committed their second turnover when they fumbled on the DR 42, with Foster recovering for Kanab. The Cowboys did not take advantage of the turnover, however, and they punted the ball back, down to the 17. After a big pass play put the Diamondbacks into Kanab territory at the Cowboy 38, the defense stiffened once again. Collins chased the DR quarterback, slowing him down enough for Barnson to get a big sack for a loss of eight yards. Another tackle by Cowboy Kade Jackson and the D-Backs were forced to punt.

With 6:54 left in the game, Kanab started on their own 20. Facing a third and 13 from their own 27 yard line, Anderson hooked up with Southwick on a wide receiver screen. Southwick zigged and zagged, eluding numerous Diamondback defenders, then streaked down the sideline, before finally being tackled on the DR nine yard line. Another quick pass to Southwick to the outside got the ball down to the two yard line, which set up Anderson’s go ahead score with 3:53 left in the game. The extra point kick made it 20-16, meaning Diamond Ranch could not tie the game on a field goal, but would need a touchdown to win. That set the stage for the long Diamond Ranch run that set up the winning touchdown.

Diamond Ranch finished the season 11-0 for their first state title.

Beaver, who edged Kanab 14-13 earlier this year, trounced South Summit 33-0 for the 2A championship. South Summit had won 21 straight games heading into the game. It was Beaver’s first state title since 1990. In 3A action, Juan Diego, Kanab’s old nemesis in 2A, knocked off Morgan 28-13.