HERRIMAN – Friday's high school football season-opener between Hillcrest and Herriman High was one of distinction. Hillcrest coach Kirk Mehrish simply hoped his team wouldn't be known for the wrong kind of feat.
The Huskies eased their coach's worries by rallying to defeat the Mustangs, playing in their inaugural game, 17-7 before a festive crowd at Herriman Stadium.
"I didn't want to be the one in the record books," Mehrish said. "That's a good football team with a lot of energy. They shocked our kids with how good they were. We knew there would be a lot of energy here tonight with the first game."
The Mustangs fed off the momentum early, holding Hillcrest to a three-and-out on its first series and scoring on their initial drive. Travis Johnson's 3-yard touchdown run put Herriman in control early, but things suddenly deflated. Herriman punted seven times after their touchdown drive and never scored again.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs began losing their composure, committing several personal foul penalties. A Herriman player was even ejected.
"That's very indicative of a team that has kids who've never been a varsity starter in their life," Herriman coach Larry Wilson said. "This is all a learning experience for us. I'm very disappointed in the undisciplined things that hurt us. That should never happen and they had a significant impact on us."
Trailing 7-0, the Huskies finally solved the Mustangs in the second quarter and reeled off 17 unanswered points to prevail. The decisive blow was Tanner Kemp's 89-yard touchdown pass to Alex Thompson late in the fourth quarter.
"We were just hoping to get a first down, but it worked out awesome for us," Mehrish said of the play. "This win was very important for a lot of reasons. These guys are not sure of the level they can play at. This gives us a lot more confidence going into our second game. Our kids rose to the occasion when they needed to."
Herriman, which gained just 87 total yards after the first quarter, also missed a field goal and lost two fumbles inside its own 25-yard line. Hillcrest converted both into scores, the first coming on Kemp's 3-yard run in the second quarter. The score was set up by a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
"We've got a group of guys that have to play well together as a team," Wilson said. "We're not talented enough to play individually. I would hope that our kids are extremely hungry and excited to see that this team has the possibility of representing itself in a good manner."1 comment on this story
Kemp, who alternated at quarterback with Tanner Dastrup, threw for 150 yards and rushed for 52 to lead the Huskies, who broke a seven-game losing streak from last season. Thompson had three receptions for 90 yards.
Despite their varsity inexperience, the Mustangs had their share of bright spots. Tanner Rush and Francis Bernard each had interceptions, while Trey Goff blocked an extra-point kick and batted a pass. Josh Wood and Nakita Lealao shared a sack.
"The kids fought and played hard," Wilson said. "I can't fault their effort."