High school football: Nielsen-Still connection returns as Dons pound Skyhawks
SPANISH FORK — Spanish Fork quarterback Hayden Nielsen said the team's star receiver "played like a new Travis."
Travis Still, however, felt more like the old Travis — the one who caught 12 touchdown passes in 11 games last season. Whichever Still it was, it worked.
Still had seven catches for 84 yards and three touchdowns as Spanish Fork rolled to a 30-7 win over Salem Hills on Friday night.
"It felt like it was me again," Still said. "Me and Hayden's chemistry was back there. We were struggling with that for a while, but it was finally back tonight. Hopefully it progresses through the next game."
That chemistry helped the Dons (2-0 Region 8, 4-2 overall) overcome a sluggish start to put 24 points on the scoreboard in the final three quarters and pull away from the Skyhawks (1-1, 2-4).
"We just came out slow," Christensen said. "The second half, we were like, 'All right, it's time to bear down. It's a rivalry game, and we got our jitters out."
The pivotal moment for the Dons came just before the half, when a punt return for a touchdown by Salem Hills was called back on a block-in-the-back penalty.
The Dons then forced a fumble and scored on the final play of the half. Nielsen found Still in the end zone for a 3-yard score to give the Dons a 12-0 lead.
"That gave us some confidence that, even though we were in a bad situation, we could come out with some positives," said Spanish Fork coach Matt Christensen.
The teams combined for just 206 yards in the first half, but much of the struggles were because of a host of penalty flags thrown against both teams.
They combined for 28 penalties and an astounding total of 260 yards.
"It was ridiculous," Still said, laughing. "Every time I'd turn around, I'd be looking for a flag, and every time I turned around, there pretty much was one."
Spanish Fork alone was flagged 18 times and penalized 185 yards. The Dons had several big plays, including a 61-yard touchdown reception by PJ Inoke, called back on penalties.
"There were a ton of penalties," Christensen said. "There were a few I've never heard of."
Despite all the penalties, Christensen found a rhythm after a slow start, completing 11 of 13 passes in the second half.
Christensen finished 18 of 32 for 278 yards and four touchdowns, running for another.
Inoke, meanwhile, had five catches for 131 yards.
"That's the only kid on the team that is absolutely a top-notch team player," Nielsen said. "He doesn't need the ball one time in the whole game but blocks his butt off. He'll be happy with the win."
The Dons struck first when Nielsen scored on an 11-yard run in the first quarter. After halftime, Nielsen found Still on an eight-yard touchdown pass for an 18-0 lead.
Nielsen threw two more touchdown passes, a 20-yarder to Andy Perkins and a 32-yarder for Still.
Joseph Butler scored the Skyhawks' only touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
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