SALT LAKE CITY – Making big plays is a trait not limited to a single branch on the Smithson family tree.
Highland quarterback Anthony Smithson showed Bountiful that he takes after his older brother, Utah Utes receiver Shaky Smithson, in generating game-changing performances. The Braves could do little to stop the junior from tormenting them on both sides of the ball.
Smithson threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 8-of-14 passing and also returned an interception for a third score to help the Rams rally for a 31-17 victory on Friday night.
He did not begin the season leading the Highland offense and took over at quarterback only after an injury to senior Colby Earl.
Since that time, however, Smithson has made the most of his chance to lead the team and has progressed in a manner Rams coach Brody Benson hoped for when he first put his faith in the talented junior.
"He makes good decisions and you like to have the football in his hands," Benson said. "What I'm liking out there is I'm starting to see him make some checks and he's reading defenses. He's able to make checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage, which in our offense we have to be able to do."
Smithson certainly made enough plays to get the offense going at just the right time. After Bountiful scored on its first two possessions to seize a 14-0 lead, he helped Highland spring to life to get back into the game.
Smithson connected with Samson Kaloni on a 17-yard swing pass to cut the deficit to 14-7 on the final play of the first quarter. He wasted no time following one big scoring play with another.
Just 56 seconds into the second quarter, Smithson stepped in front of a pass by Cam Zollinger and returned it 25 yards to make it 14-14.
"It's just what I'm supposed to do," Smithson said. "Coaches put me there because they know I can do it and I had to make a big play."
Smithson had no trouble making more big plays on offense either. With his team backed up on its own 1-yard line, he found Nate Fakahafua for a 78-yard strike to the Bountiful 20. From there, it took three plays to take the lead for good – with Justin Weaver doing the honors on a 7-yard run that made it 21-14 with 2:47 left before halftime.
Smithson never had any doubt the team could make it out of the shadow of its own end zone and go 99 yards in just 7 plays while burning 3:03 off the clock.
"Our coaches know our offensive line and backs and receivers can get it done," Smithson said. "So it don't matter where we are on the field – the 1-yard line, at the 50 or their 1-yard line. We're going to punch it in."
It didn't really matter where the Braves were on the field either. The Rams shut them down over the final three quarters.
Teau Satauala scored on an 8-yard run to cap Bountiful's opening drive and Zollinger found Dillion Salazar for a 46-yard touchdown pass to help the Braves cash in on their second drive.
After allowing 143 yards on those possessions, Highland limited Bountiful to just 120 yards the rest of the way.
Benson said that the Rams did not change their game plan after the first quarter. For him, the difference came in the team settling down defensively.
"I don't know if we were expecting them to throw as much in the flat," Benson said. "They did a great job of exposing us on some things. But after we settled down, we did a really good job. We bent but we didn't break."