Any type of game plan Dutch Fork had in trying to defend it’s Class 4A, Division I state championship went out of the window in the second quarter when quarterback Tate Fant left with what Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts called an apparent concussion.
Hillcrest scored the final 41 points in routing the Silver Foxes 47-17 Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Knotts said the team didn’t respond well after losing Fant.
“We really didn’t have one,” Knotts said of the game plan when Fant left the game. “We just floundered around with two back-up quarterbacks. We couldn’t ever run the ball, which is our forte. It was just an embarrassing performance on our part.”
Hillcrest coach Greg Porter said his team’s defensive attack changed when Fant left the game. Dutch Fork had 121 yards of offense before Fant was hurt and 63 over the final two-and-half quarters.
“When I saw their quarterback was out, it changed their whole game plan,” Porter said. “I hate to use the analogy of animals smelling blood, but I think we started attacking a little more, because we knew they became one-dimensional. They had to run the ball, and passing wasn’t going to be one of their strengths.”
Fant took a hard hit on a scramble play with about 11 minutes remaining in the first half and remained in the game for two more series before leaving for good after a pick six by Marco Westfield gave the Rams the lead for good, 19-17, with 6:17 remaining in the half. Fant tried to make the tackle on the return and he looked visibly shaken after the play.
“We lost a lot of confidence when Tate went out,” running back Matt Colburn said. “We weren’t the same. We could never get in a rhythm. We were up and we blew it and made some bozo mistakes. We kind of panicked, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Dutch Fork had to turn to freshman Bryce Thompson and junior Cole Douglas in the second half. They combined to go 2-for-9 for 10 yards. Colburn could never find much running room, either. The Louisville-bound standout was limited to 75 yards on 22 carries with his longest run being 12 yards.
The end result was a 38-yard effort in the second half. The Silver Foxes had a negative two yards of offense in the decisive third quarter, when Hillcrest pushed the lead from 19-17 to 40-17.
That is a far cry from the 440 yards per game the Silver Foxes were averaging coming in.
“Our philosophy is to stop the run and run the ball,” Porter said. “You do that, and you win championships.”
Porter said the key all week was to limit the damage done by Colburn. Even before Fant left with the injury, the Rams were doing a good job of bottling up Colburn before he could get going. The senior had 1,632 yards this season and more than 5,500 in his career coming into the game, but he was held to 35 yards in the first half.
“Matt was taking some shots, and I knew he was getting tired as the game went down,” Porter said.
It was a bitter ending for a Dutch Fork team that was in its third consecutive state championship game.
“All the work we put in the off season and adversity we had to overcome, it would have been nice with another state championship,” an emotional Colburn said. “It just wasn’t meant to be. We’ll learn from it.”