No. 2 Seton got pushed around much of Saturday night's Division IV quarterfinal game by stout No. 7 Winslow.
But most coaches will throw out the style points this time of year as long as there's another game to be played the following week.
Such was the case for defending state champ Seton Catholic. The Sentinels withstood a late rally from Winslow in the final seconds to hang on for a 27-20 victory over the Bulldogs at Seton. Seton moves on to the semifinals on Saturday (Nov. 23) and faces No. 6 seed River Valley, which upended No. 3 Snowflake, 28-14. The game is set for 6 p.m. at North Canyon High School.
"We didn't play our best game, but maybe it was our guttiest," Seton coach Re Bowser said. "It wasn't pretty, but it was a win."
Seton (11-1) did plenty of good things. The Sentinels had their usual passing game flowing as senior quarterback Kyle Johnson connected on 19 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns -- one each to Brandon Garcia, Niko Villegas and George Wolter. Two of the three came in a four-minute span of the third quarter to give Seton the edge, 27-13. The Sentinels couldn't shut the door on Winslow -- particularly running back Kelly Wood.
Wood delivered a punishing effort, carrying 40 times for 281 yards and all three of Winslow's TDs. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior gave Seton fits with a powerful style and good speed. He amassed 187 yards in the first half and a 61-yard run in the third period set Winslow up in Seton's red zone. Seton's defense tightened and denied Winslow (8-4) a score after it reached the Sentinels' 6-yard line -- the first of two huge second-half stops.
Winslow kept Seton pinned deep in its territory after the failed scoring chance and got the ball back at its 37 to begin the fourth quarter. Winslow then marched 63 yards in 11 plays with Wood capping it with his third TD from 14 yards out. That cut Seton's lead to 27-20 with 7:40 to play.
Seton punted after picking up one first down on its next possession. Winslow took over at its 13 with 5:22 left and needing a TD to tie. Seton ended that possession, forcing an incomplete pass with 1:43 left and at Seton's 37.The key play was Wood tackled for a 3-yard loss on a third-and-seven play -- one that could have been a big gain had Seton lineacker Patrick Larsen not made the play -- one of a two big ones he made down the stretch.
One first down and the game was over. But Seton didn't get a first down. It fumbled instead on its third play with Winslow recovering at its own 47 with 1:13 to play.
Winslow hadn't thrown with much success all night, and hadn''t needed to with Wood running roughshod. But quarterback James Martinez found a wide open Demetrius Gamez for 45 yards on a blown coverage and a first down at Seton's 11 with 30 seconds left.
A penalty, an incomplete pass and Seton's only sack of the game by George Wolter left Winslow with one more chance -- a fourth-and-27 at the Seton 28. Martinez threw a desperation pass to the end zone to wide out Rodney Davis that fell incomplete. Seton, however, was called for pass interference, giving Winslow one more shot at the 14.
Larsen put an end to Winslow's hope by intercepting Martinez for the only Winslow turnover. Seton ran one play and ran out the clock.
Larsen had vivid memory of both plays he made in the final minutes.
"I knew on that run when I grabbed him I couldn't let go," Larsen said. "He was dragging me for a second and I got scared, but I didn't let go.. .... On the interception I was reading him all the way. I don't know if he saw me, but I stepped in front."
Bowser had nothing but praise for Winslow and its effort to knock his team from postseaason, the first time in Seton history a team has reached the semifinals three years in a row.
"Winslow is a tough, physical team," Bowser said. "Their back was the best back we've seen all year. I have nothing but admiration for him. When it was crunch time we rose to the occasion. We made plays when we had to make plays."