Faith Lutheran has spent most of the season slinging the ball around the field with quarterback Sagan Gronauer.
Friday night, the Crusaders turned to the ground game.
Faith Lutheran rushed for 318 yards and six touchdowns on the way to a 48-35 road win over Canyon Springs in the Class 4A Mountain Region semifinals.
“I’m really proud of the way we were able to move the ball on the ground,” Faith Lutheran coach Vernon Fox said. “Throughout the game we were able to pound it, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, having a balanced attack.”
Gronauer, Kendall Lightfoot and Sebastian Burke each had two TD runs for Faith Lutheran (8-4), which will face Arbor View for the region title next Friday.
“We’ve been able to throw the ball well with Sagan, and he made some good plays this weekend with his feet,” Fox said. “Between those three guys that ran the ball tonight, I’m really proud of the effort and what they were able to do.”
It was more impressive when you consider Lightfoot and Burke havespent most of the season playing defense. Lightfoot had four carries entering the game, but finished with 18 carries for 137 yards. Burke hadn’t had a rush all season, but had eight carries for 99 yards, including a 49-yard TD run with 2:53 to play that gave Faith Lutheran the lead.
“I was teasing those guys, I was like, ‘You guys know nothing about running back,’ ” Fox said. “We’ve kind of been dilapidated due to injuries. For those guys to step up and learn as much as they did in a short period of time and then go in and perform the way they did, my hat’s off to them.”
Gronauer added 82 yards on 10 carries, including a 45-yard TD run with 9:17 to play that cut the Canyon Springs lead to 35-33.
The Crusaders allowed a pair of kick=return touchdowns, including an 81-yarder by Shakureon Dukes that gave Canyon Springs (7-4) a 35-26 lead with 10:14 to play.
“We all kept our composure and we kept on fighting, and that’s why we ended up with the victory that we did tonight,” Lightfoot said. “And, hopefully, we’ll do the same thing from now on.”
After Gronauer had thrown a pair of interceptions, the Crusaders turned almost entirely to the run in the fourth quarter with Lightfoot carrying the load. The bruising back proved difficult to bring down as he demonstrated on his 14-yard TD run with 1:27 to go that essentially iced the win. He carried defenders for the final 5 yards on that play.
“Considering I haven’t played it in years, it was fun,” Lightfoot said of playing running back. “I prefer defense, because defense is just more contact. But running the ball on offense was just a whole other thing.”
Jayvion Pugh had 173 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to lead Canyon Springs.