Spanish Fork senior wide receiver Cameron Money stood on the turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium, helmet in hand, as teammates rushed past, many offering excited congratulations.
With a sweeping glance around the stadium, Money recalled the pain from a year ago, when the Dons lost to Hurricane in a tense shootout in the state semifinals.
On this night, elation replaced Cameron's heartbreak. On this night, the Dons made history.
A late touchdown capped a rally from an early deficit to give Spanish Fork a 35-28 win over Desert Hills in the Class 3A football semifinals Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, sending the Dons to their first title game in the school's 50-year history.
"Last year was the worst feeling you could possibly have," Money said. "Coming back this year, building this team like we've worked so hard, this is one of the best feelings. But we're not done yet. We've got one more."
The Dons were led by a player who watched last year's semifinal defeat from the stands. Jason Money, Cameron Money's cousin, was a freshman then, but felt the crushing disappointment, nonetheless.
Now a sophomore, Jason Money was instrumental in reversing the Dons' fortunes from last season's semifinal. He completed his first eight passes and directed the offense like a veteran, finishing 22 for 29 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The sophomore connected with his cousin for both touchdowns, including a game-tying strike on the Dons' first play from scrimmage of the second half.
"It's so fun having him out there," Cameron Money said. "Having someone I've been around every day of my life has been really special.
"For a sophomore to step up like he has and lead Spanish Fork to its first championship game, it's something really big. We need one more game out of him, and I think he can do it."
Tied at 28 midway through the fourth quarter, a Spanish Fork victory was anything but assured, as Desert Hills had the ball with a chance to take the lead. A Thunder scoring drive likely would have left little time on the clock for the Dons. But Cooper Beck intercepted a pass from Thunder quarterback Ty Rutledge, giving the Dons the ball in Desert Hills territory. Spanish Fork marched to the goal line and Gunner Bues' two-yard touchdown run gave the Dons the game-winning score with 2:47 left.
"It's kind of crazy [to go to the title game] as a sophomore," Jason Money said. "But I've got a great team around me, a great play-caller and a great offensive line that really helps a lot."
Bridger Cowdin had 148 yards on 23 carries for the Thunder in the loss.