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Sugar-Salem Survives OT Thriller, Defeats Homedale for Third Straight Title
The Diggers found themselves down 20-0 in the first half but rallied to win 34-28 in overtime
Published: 11/21/2020 5:15:21 PM


It took all but 40 seconds for the tides to turn in the 3A State Championship. 

After losing two consecutive title matchups to the Sugar-Salem Diggers, the Homedale Trojans took the first half of Saturday’s game by storm, eager for a chance at redemption. But Sugar-Salem would persevere, holding on in overtime to win its third-straight state championship 34-28.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Sugar-Salem receiver and kicker Crew Clark. “I’ve won three state championships at this school, and none feel better than this one.”

Behind the arm of quarterback Jaxon Dines, Homedale’s offense rattled off three straight touchdowns, taking a 20-0 lead in the blink of an eye. Dines threw his first strike on an 18-yard completion to receiver Eli Heck. After running it in himself for the Trojans’ second score, Dines found Mason Strong streaking down the field. Dines threw an absolute dime, hitting Strong in stride as he crossed the goal line. 

Sugar-Salem closed out the first half with an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jonah Schulthies, highlighting Homedale’s defense’s refusal to allow an inch against a Digger squad that entered Saturday averaging 27 points per game. 

But little did the Trojans know, that kickoff return would spark a thrilling comeback, capped off by a goal line overtime stand. 

“It comes down to perseverance. We want to take advantage of adversity, but do well with it. Every game we’ve played in this year has been a battle,” said Sugar-Salem Head Coach Tyler Richins. “When the cards are stacked against them, they always find a way to win.”

Sugar-Salem opened the third quarter with its first offensive touchdown, scoring on a rush up the middle by quarterback Kyzon Garner on the goal line. 

On the very next drive, Homedale, facing a long field after a kickoff return miscue, saw the beginning of a second-half implosion. Dines, with little room to maneuver, was sacked, fumbling the ball. Spencer Blaser recovered in the end zone for Sugar-Salem, and after a Clark extra point, the Diggers took their first lead of the game 21-20. 

“Crew is big in every game. Having him out there on the field, with his athletic ability and leadership, is outstanding,” Richins said. 

Clark, who broke his collarbone in Sugar-Salem’s first game of the season, made his return in the state playoffs. Richins said his mutli-faceted abilities were greatly missed during the regular season, but having the Digger senior back for his final game made the victory that much sweeter. 

And while Clark had a quiet first three quarters, he burst onto the scene in the game’s final period. Homedale reclaimed its lead after running back Hayden Kincheloe took a Dines handoff for a six-yard score, Homedale’s last of the afternoon. 

On the ensuing drive, Clark showcased his speed, catching a Garner pass in the end zone for the final touchdown in regulation, bringing the Diggers within a point 28-27 with just over two minutes left. Clark’s extra point sailed true, and Homedale and Sugar-Salem found themselves knotted up at 28. 

With time ticking down in regulation, Sugar-Salem again was gifted a chance to score, but the Homedale defense held strong on three downs. Instead of trying the hail mary, Richins opted to send Clark out for a potential game-winning field goal. Clark’s kick fell short of the mark, sending the game into overtime. 

Clark, undeterred, said he went to the sideline confident he’d have another chance to win his team the game. 

“We were so motivated. Diggers don’t lose, it’s not in our DNA,” Clark said. “We’re not losing the game because of that. We’re getting a stop and we’re not losing.”

The Diggers struck first in overtime, again on the speed of Clark. On the first play of the extra period, Garner handed off to Clark, who streaked 10 yards for the score. 

Homedale, on the next series, needed at least a touchdown to stay alive. But the Diggers, who keyed in on running back Hayden Kincheloe for most of the game, bottled up the electric running back, holding him just short of the goal line. 

That’s when Homedale Head Coach Matt Holtry dialed up the play action, hoping to catch the Digger secondary off guard. Dines rolled out to his right and threw a prayer to receiver Keagen Christensen, but Christensen couldn’t come down with the catch, ending Homedale’s 2020 bid for a state title. 

Kincheloe finished the game with 203 yards. Dines threw for 220 yards, 103 of which going to Strong. 

For the Diggers, Clark finished with 43 yards rushing. Garner threw for 122 yards. 



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