Senior quarterback Jayden Clemons leads Skyridge football into 5A state title game
For the second straight year, Skyridge quarterback Jayden Clemons will take the field with his team to compete in the 5A state championship game.
In 2017, the Falcons lost to Lehi, 55-17 — but most people didn’t know Clemons was playing with a broken clavicle and a hamstring injury.
“At that point, I was going to do anything I could to get to the championship and be on the field with my boys,” Clemons said. “It was just pain. There was nothing that was going to stop me. Others had bumps and bruises too. I put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears with those guys and a broken clavicle wasn’t going to stop me.”
Still, the outcome wasn’t the one Skyridge was hoping for. Since that loss, Clemons said the Falcons have used that defeat as motivation.
“It’s been a leading factor in what has driven me because personally I felt like I didn’t play the game I knew I could play,” Clemons said. “I’m sure all of my teammates who played in that game felt that way. I felt like I ended last season on a bad note and I wanted to come out and perform better, as the quarterback I know I am.”
Now Clemons and the rest of the Skyridge team gets another chance as they get ready to face Corner Canyon in Friday’s 5A title game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“It feels pretty good,” Clemons said. “Every team has the goal of getting to the state championship but only two teams make it there. We knew that coming into the season and we just worked our butts off. We’ve been there and experienced it, but we came out with a loss. It left a bad taste in our mouth and we want to come back and hopefully get a win on Friday.”
Falcon head coach Jon Lehman said he remembered watching Clemons battle through the injuries in 2017 and that it told him a lot about the character of the young man.
“It’s been really fun to watch him grow over a couple of years,” Lehman said. “He brings a lot of courage and character and guys trust that in him. He’s grown in the ability to play, in character and in fight, as a leader and in confidence and belief in himself. You see the plays he makes on the field but it’s fun to watching him grow all-around to become the young man that he is.”
But there was still a time when Skyridge faced some big questions. The Falcons lost the season-opener in 2018, 24-21, at Riverton as the Silverwolves took advantage of some costly Falcon interceptions.
“We had to re-dial in on the little things — warmups, individual drills, team drills,” Clemons said. “Resetting everything in practice every single day helped us get wins on Fridays.”
Lehman used that early setback as an opportunity to see how his players would respond.
“The test was on Saturday and on Monday after a loss,” Lehman said. “How do the players handle themselves? Do they shift blame? Do they make excuses? Or do they focus on the process and go to work? We wanted to watch, especially early in the season, because we want to empower our players to grow. We walked in and our leaders were talking, communicating what our goals were and how we needed to respond.”
The efforts of the players and coaches paid dividends as Skyridge started winning consistently.
“I felt like that put us on a straight path and got our heads right,” Clemons said. “We got back to grinding and got in our flow. Once we did that, we won 11 in a row. We didn’t have that chemistry or knowledge going into that first game. That loss got us right and back to knowing how we play football.”
Clemons said he has seen his role as being the distributor.
“My role is to put all of our offensive weapons in good positions,” Clemons said. “I need to watch the film, break down the defense and do my job so all they have to do is just ball out. I need to make the right reads for them to excel and show what they have.”
Lehman said the Falcons have put a lot of trust in Clemons to get the ball in the right place.
“He ability to make the right decision has been really important for our offensive growth this year,” he said. “He’s taken a huge step forward in understanding defenses and the way they try to attack us. Having him make the right decision makes the job of the other guys easier.”
Skyridge knows that it will take an excellent showing by Clemons and the rest of the Falcons to take down the Chargers in a battle between the top two teams in 5A in 2018.
“It’s going to take discipline, focus, execution, all of it,” Clemons said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but you’ve got to take those and flush them and move on to the next play. If you live in the past, then you are going to repeat it and keep making mistakes. I need to trust my guys, play within myself, not try to do too much and I’ll be fine.”
Skyridge and Corner Canyon are scheduled to kickoff the 5A title game at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Friday.