Prep football: Box Elder runs away from Bear River in 103rd Golden Spike Game
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Prep football: Box Elder runs away from Bear River in 103rd Golden Spike Game

Aug 09, 2023

GARLAND — One hundred years ago in 1923, football teams from Box Elder and Bear River high schools played for the first time in what has since become Utah’s longest continuously running prep football rivalry.

Anyone who watched Friday’s edition of the Golden Spike Game, the 103rd all-time meeting between the schools including postseason games, saw the 2023 Box Elder football team continuously run the football, run its winning streak over the Bears to three games and run its 2023 record to 3-0.

Senior running back Dax Sumko scored four touchdowns — three on the ground and one on a catch and run. Combined with senior Mason Jeppsen’s two TD runs and a late rushing score by Quinlan O’Neal, the Bees pulled away from Bear River to win 49-28.

“We know they’re going to play us hard, happens every year, but I don’t know, I’m feeling great. It’s a good win, always feels good to beat these guys,” Sumko said.

After the Bees led 21-14 at halftime, the teams went back and forth in the third and most of the fourth quarters. Finally with a 42-28 lead, Jeppsen intercepted a tipped pass and O’Neal cashed in with a 24-yard run to seal the game.

“Offensively I think we did a great job; 49 points for our offense is huge,” Sumko said.

At the start of the season, the offensive line was a huge concern with four new starters in a run-heavy offense. So far, the Bees have embarked on their trademark huge running games, with the O-line creating some big running lanes, particularly on Friday.

“Any time you put up 49 points, you gotta credit the line. Because we don’t get the job done without them, especially a Wing-T, you got sometimes nine dudes on our front five or six, and you’re expecting them to kick all them out and do their job, so huge praise to those guys,” Sumko said.

They racked up nearly 400 rushing yards in the opener, more than 250 last week and then, unofficially, at least another couple hundred yards Friday.

“Dude, they’re killing it. Getting up to backer, getting up to that second level, absolutely killing it. Even the third level, getting to those safeties, they’re just as aware as our running backs are on what the play is,” Jeppsen said of the offensive line.

Box Elder was slow-going and went nowhere its first two drives, but conversely stopped BR early, with Gauge Carrigan blocking a field goal.

Jeppsen burst for a 68-yard TD run in the first quarter for a 7-0 BE lead. Bear River responded with Owen Olsen’s 1-yard quarterback sneak.

Sumko went up the gut for a 9-yard score in the second quarter and, after a bad Bears punt gave Box Elder a short field, a 3-yard score with 3:13 left in the first half.

Bear River crucially scored with 15 seconds left as Olsen found Brody Miller for a 1-yard TD. The Bears trailed 21-14 at halftime.

Bear River got the ball back to start the second half but went three-and-out. Jeppsen said the Box Elder coaches placed a big emphasis on getting a stop to open the second half.

Sumko punched in another 3-yard rushing TD at the end of the third (28-14) before another Olsen QB sneak early in the fourth brought Bear River within 28-21.

Sumko took a short pass from Ryan Griffin 58 yards for a score (35-21), Bear River responded with a nice TD pass from Olsen to Jace Roberts up the seam (35-28), then Jeppsen went down the left side for a TD (42-28) with 3:14 left in the game.

“We talked a lot this week about their two backers playing so close to the line, but having a Wing-T offense, you want to play everyone in the box,” Sumko said. “Those two dudes step up and having their D-ends shoot up the gaps, opens up a lot of things, opens up a lot of runs for me, for Mase (Jeppsen), it’s very complementary to the two of us.”

Jeppsen’s pick and O’Neal’s TD run were the icing on the cake for Box Elder, which is 3-0 for the first time since 2012. Penalties and BR’s passing success (270 yards) left a sour taste for Box Elder, which has allowed 25, 20 and now 28 points its first three games.

Though Bear River may be 1-2, the Bears flashed big-play capability, particularly with Roberts. Unofficially, he had 10 catches for 142 yards and the one TD.

The games get even more real for Box Elder next week, as a tough, seven-game Region 5 schedule begins with the Bees still on the road until late September due to delays with their new turf field.

Bear River has two games before Region 11 games begin.

Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at [email protected], Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.

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