ST. GEORGE — In a state championship showcasing a pair of undefeated teams in 3A, the second-seeded Morgan Trojans showed they deserved to be the classification’s top team, earning a decisive 55-3 win over No. 1 Juab to clinch a state title.
The margin of victory is the largest in the 3A championship game since 1993 when Utah grew to five classifications, passing Judge Memorial’s 63-14 win over Juab in 2014.
Morgan (13-0) ceded an opening possession field goal to Juab but shut down the Wasps the rest of the way, scoring 55 unanswered points.
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Defensive end Shaun Moore with a 50-yard touchdown with two seconds left. Just for fun. 55-3. That’ll do it. Morgan is the 3A state champion. pic.twitter.com/tkb9GuDuqE
— Sean Ellertson (@SeanEllertson) November 12, 2022
The Wasps (12-1) chewed almost six minutes off the clock on their first drive, gaining 45 yards. Juab would gain just 55 yards for the rest of the half.
“Same game plan,” said head coach Jared Barlow on if his team made adjustments after the first Wasp drive. “Juab’s a good offense. They’re going to move the ball, they’re going to have their plays. Our kids just came out and cleaned some things up.”
Nick Despain and the Trojan offense clicked from their first possession.
On the second offensive play for Morgan, Despain rolled to his right and hit Josh Criddle, who picked up some blocks down the right sideline and went the rest of the way for a 69-yard touchdown.
Despain then threw two more scores to Gavin Turner, and a Gunnar Lish 1-yard run at the end of the half punctuated a dominant first-half showing.
Despain completed 10 of 12 attempts in the first half for 208 yards.
A year after throwing the game-clinching interception in a 14-10 loss to Grantsville in the state title game, Despain bounced back in a huge way Friday night.
“It always feels a lot better when you’re able to seal that deal,” Barlow said. “The kids put in a lot of work, and it’s good to see them being able to reach that success and the fruits of all that work.”
The senior quarterback finished the night 19 of 25 for 371 yards and six touchdowns.
“Last year was a struggle, but it gave me fuel and made me want to just come out and give it my best,” Despain said. “That’s what happened. We got it done.”
Despain threw two touchdowns each to Turner, Tate Nelson, and Criddle.
Turner and Nelson each had 98 receiving yards while Criddle finished with 89.
In a night that featured a Juab offense that scored almost 50 points a game and a Morgan defense that allowed little more than a touchdown every Friday night, the Trojan defense announced itself as the best overall unit in the class.
The Wasps could only muster 118 yards of total offense and averaged just 2.5 yards per play. Alex Jackson was limited to just 108 yards passing, while the Wasp rushing attack could only manage 10 total yards.
“It just took all of us and we all wanted it so bad,” said Despain. “We fell short the last two years. We knew it was our year. We came out and we were all in … It definitely could’ve been our best game of the year, but it was definitely our best team game of the year.”
The win caps an undefeated season for Morgan, completing their first unbeaten season since 1997. In this season’s 13 games, Morgan outscored its opponents 536-90 and held six without a touchdown.
Morgan has now knocked off Juab three times in the past four years in the playoffs, including a win in the 2019 state championship game, and 54-38 win in last year’s semifinals.
Morgan’s Shaun Moore (41) wraps up Juab quarterback Alex Jackson for a loss in the 3A football state championship game Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in St. George.
Morgan High players hold up the 3A football state championship trophy after defeating Juab 55-3 on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in St. George.
Morgan receiver Gavin Turner (11) crosses the goal line for a 46-yard touchdown reception against Juab in the 3A football state championship game Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in St. George.
Morgan quarterback Nick Despain readies to throw what became a 69-yard touchdown pass to Josh Criddle (not pictured) against Juab in the 3A football state championship game Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in St. George.