Illegal takedown of Lund quarterback breaks rules in every way

As a bull rider, Lund’s Luke Hair is used to taking some brutal hits.
But no eight-second ride compares to the bruising he took during an eight-man football game Oct. 1 against Sorenson’s Ranch (Utah).
Running an option on the second play of the game, the senior quarterback rolled right and took off for the first-down marker. After picking up the 10 yards, he stepped out of bounds and turned back to the field.
In a flash, a Sorenson’s Ranch player — whom coaches and players could only call No. 99 — ran into him at full speed. Hair, who stand 5 feet 11 inches and 145 pounds, absorbed the hit from the 6-foot, 250-pound defender, flew into a bench nearly 15 feet away and stood up with difficulty breathing.
Every bit of the play was illegal. Not because of the hit or the injuries Hair suffered, but because the player who plowed into him was a 21-year-old high school graduate.
At halftime, a spectator informed Lund’s coaching staff that No. 99 had graduated with him — nearly three years earlier. They approached Sorenson’s Ranch coach Tevita Vakautakakala, who eventually confirmed two of his players were 21 years old.
“Once I found that out, I lost my composure,” Lund coach Geoff Bryan said. “I knew the rules were that it was an automatic victory on our side.
“I had one guy in the hospital, and the ref was telling me to calm down. I couldn’t calm down. I didn’t even know how (Hair) was. I went away from where everybody was at just to vent.”
Hair was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a bruised lung and three bruised ribs.
“After the football game, I called my buddy, and said, ‘I’m gonna quit football and start riding bulls more because it’s a lot safer,’ ” Hair said.
Despite losing a handful of players — including Hair and running back Austin Ladd — in the first half of the game, the Mustangs elected to play second half as a scrimmage, on the condition that Sorenson’s Ranch remove the two over-age players. Vakautakakala agreed, and Lund, which trailed 42-12 at halftime, won the second half, 32-6.
It’s a problem over which the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association has kept a watchful eye: rural schools playing games against out-of-state opponents when it’s easy for rules and regulations to be bent. But Sorensen’s Ranch is not your average school. The campus for troubled teens isn’t recognized by the Utah High School Activities Association, the state’s governing body for prep athletics.
Sorenson’s Ranch director Shane Sorenson did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Sorensen’s Ranch plays in a three-team “independent conference” with Abundant Life Academy (Kanab, Utah) and Diamond Ranch Academy (Hurricane, Utah), both of which have played other 1A schools from Nevada. The schools are not affiliated with the UHSAA, as it does not sponsor eight-man football, a spokesman said.
NIAA rules prohibit Nevada schools from playing such programs, unless given permission by executive director Eddie Bonine.
In Lund’s case, NIAA assistant director Jay Beesemyer said the fault lies with the school for not inquiring earlier about Sorenson’s Ranch affiliation, as it would with any other school.
“(Lund) athletic director Bill Harris had no idea of their Utah status,” Beesemyer said. “They were lucky that no one was seriously hurt.”
All schools need to be aware of their opponents’ affiliated status, Beesemyer added.
“We just try to stress to our schools that they are only allowed to play member schools,” he said. “We’ve got all these schools popping up that are appearing on their schedules, and they aren’t member schools.
“(Nevada schools) aren’t supposed to be playing them, unless they get the OK from this office to play them.”
Lund, a high school with 26 students and a senior class of seven, isn’t an eight-man football powerhouse, having lost its other five games this season by an average of 55.6 points. But as a Class 1A independent, the Mustangs have had to find other schools to play, especially while other 1A schools are entrenched in league play. Lund’s season ended earlier than most, with an Oct. 23 loss to Sandy Valley.
Ladd, who was forced out after a brutal hit on special teams by No. 99, eventually returned late in the fourth quarter. But lingering back pain limited him to playing at “about 75 percent” the rest of the season, Bryan said.
Lund officials know what it’s like to field a football team from a small community, and Bryan admits he’s had former players joke about “suiting up even after they’ve graduated.” But that any school would try such a scheme is baffling to him. Lund has even had to get help from five players from nearby White River Boys Ranch to field a team.
“I just can’t believe it happened, that’s what it comes down to,” Bryan said. “It’s unbelievable that people are willing to go to that distance to win a football game. I’d rather go down proudly and lose with the guys you have.
“I teach my kids to play fair; how to play the game with respect and honor. And they learn a lot of that on the field.”
Most of the players were able to return to finish out the season, albeit with lingering injuries. Hair says he still feels pain from the hit, nearly a month after the game.
“I was very, very frustrated,” Hair said. “That was supposed to be our last homecoming game. I was ready to go out there with everything I had, and I got taken out in the second play of the game.
“I kind of felt like I let the team down.”
Bryan said he won’t schedule Sorenson’s Ranch again, and he’s more reluctant to play other states’ schools without checking them out first.
“We’re not going to play them next year,” he said. “We’re not even going to put them on our call list. That was uncalled for. I don’t understand the mentality, I guess, from their coaches to do something like that.”