St. Paul Completes Comeback To Capture 5A State Title
A perfect gumbo of big plays in all phases of the game resulted in a classic as the St. Paul Saints (15-0) defeated the Pleasant Grove Spartans (12-3) 29-21 in the 5A state title game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Saints broke the game open with a 57-yard touchdown from Bestor McFadden to Will Passeau with 8:37 to go in the first quarter. This gut punch was answered by a methodical drive led by senior quarter back Zyquez Perryman, who went 6/7 for 64 yards that included a 15-yard touchdown toss to Christian Lewis that tied the game at 7-7 with 4:01 to go in the first.
After a 40-yard return from senior running back Javonte Graves-Billups St. Paul put three on the board to end the quarter with a 10-7 lead.
The second quarter showed a rejuvenated Spartan defense that produced a string of key 3-and-outs. Refusing to allow the Saints’ run game to establish a rhythm. These stops created short fields and yielded an 11-yard TD run from Demarcus Lacey with 2:23 to go in the first half.
A quick 3-and-out from the Saints gave the ball right back to the Spartans. A 49-yard strike from Perryman put the Spartans in position to score before the half but Saints finally stopped the bleeding and moved into halftime with the 14-10 in favor of the Spartans.
A 76-yard bomb from Perryman to Lewis started the second half on a high note and pushed the lead to 21-10. However, this would be the last time the Spartans would have the ball for the rest of the quarter.
Power run schemes and crucial 4th down conversions kept the Saints on the field for close to 6 minutes. A steady dose of junior running back Jaylen Sutton (16 rushes 102 yards) and senior running back Javonte Graves-Billups (32 rushes, 83 yards) would be capped off with 2-yard TD run from Billups with 5:56 to go in the 3rd cutting the score to 21-17.
A surprise onside kick recovery gave another chance for the Saints to play keep away and they obliged. A 16-play drive drained the clock, but the Spartans ability to make goal line stops forced a field goal resulting in a 21-20 score with 10:54 remaining in the game.
Perryman who only threw one interception throughout the entire season threw a second to Blake Nelson who returned the ball to the Spartan’s 47. A few plays later Will Passeau found pay-dirt for the second time this game. Turning a curl route into a 39-yard TD with a Madden-like array of jukes giving St. Paul a 26-21 lead with 8:12 remaining in the third after a failed 2-point conversion.
The Spartans’ comeback seemed over before it started after a bone crushing hit that caused a fumble. However, the Spartans defense stood tall and forced a field goal with their backs on the wall. Leaving the game at 29-21 with 5:47 to go.
A comeback was still in play as the Spartan offense found a rhythm and found themselves near midfield. Perryman who just saved the drive by escaping a sack and converting a 4th down found the ball in his hands again.
A deep ball that sailed found itself in the hands of Zack Grey who picked the ball off the with 3:39 to go gave possession to St. Paul at their own 12-yard line.
A 30-yard gallop by Sutton served as the straw that broke Pleasant Grove’s back. A few plays latter St. Paul found themselves in the victory formation.
The St. Paul Saints would cap off the Cinderella story as buzzer sounded. An undefeated season saved by a comeback victory on the biggest stage in the state also marked the programs 400th win. Will Passeau won MVP as he caught six passes for 111 yards and two TDS.