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4A high school football preview: Highland at Logan

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 2 2011 11:01 p.m. MDT

Highland (7-3) at Logan (11-0)

4A state tournament quarterfinal

Friday, 5 p.m.

Parry's Power Guide: Logan by 12

All-time series: Logan leads 1-0

Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Highland's Brody Benson and Logan's Mike Favero

Last meeting: Nov. 17, 2000, Logan 14, Highland 0 (4A championship at Weber State)

LOGAN — Facing the only undefeated football team in 4A on their home field could be an intimidating proposition for some teams.

Highland, however, is looking at their tough second-round draw of top-ranked Logan as the kind of moment an athlete prepares for all season long.

"We're looking at this as a great challenge, an opportunity," said Highland coach Brody Benson of Friday's meeting with Logan. "We're playing a great team."

Logan head coach Mike Favero said his team is approaching the game with a similar mentality.

"They're the defending state champions," Favero said of Highland. "They've been injured this year, but they're getting their quarterback back, as well as their running back, and they're certainly a much better team. We expect an absolute dog fight. … It's easy to get excited to have an opportunity to play the defending state champs."

It's no secret that Logan's offense can put up massive points led by quarterback D.J. Nelson, who is dangerous because he runs as well as he throws. He has accumulated 1,287 yards rushing and 20 rushing touchdowns, while amassing an incredible 2,636 yards passing and 40 touchdowns. He spreads the ball out well with six receivers in triple-digit yardage. John Schmidt leads the receivers with 768 yards and 12 touchdown receptions.

"There is always pressure on your defense," Benson said. "We know we're going to have to play well, but we're looking at it as a great challenge. They're right up there with Lone Peak as far as scoring."

Benson said he went up to Logan and watched them defeat Herriman in the first round of the 4A tournament.

"We've seen the spread and we know what they're capable of doing," said Benson. "They thrive on big plays and other teams' mistakes."

The game will be more interesting now that the Rams have all of their starters back in the lineup.

"We're as healthy as we've been since week four," said Benson.

Starting quarterback Anthony "Fish" Smithson's return will offer the Rams more options offensively, as well as a boost emotionally.

"We gain quite a bit actually," said Benson. "Offensively he gives us a little bit better passing game. … That just comes from experience. He can read the defense a little better, as well."

Justin Weaver filled in for Smithson while he was recovering, and while he did a great job, the Rams missed his blocking and running ability.

"When we lost Fish, we lost our running back too because we had to move Weaver (to quarterback)," Benson said. "Justin is by far our best blocking wing. Having him back helps us so much in our offense. He is also probably our best receiving running back."

The Rams also have Sione Houma, who's verbally committed to Michigan, at running back and on special teams. Another player who could have an impact is Hayes Hicken, who plays receiver, defensive back and is the team's kicker.

"We also gain confidence with Fish in the lineup," he said. "He doesn't get rattled. He's pretty calm and cool under pressure."

The Logan defense doesn't get as much attention as Nelson's offense, but it's one of the best in the state. Johnny Luke leads the team in interceptions with 10 this season.

Highland statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 34.1 ppg

Scoring defense: 19.9 ppg

Passing leader: Justin Weaver (27-76, 35.5%, 572 yards, 5 TDs, 8 INTs), Anthony Smithson (17-29, 58.6%, 353 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT)

Rushing leaders: Justin Weaver (127 carries, 664 yards, 8 TDs), Sione Houma (57 carries, 508 yards, 6 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Hayes Hicken (16 receptions, 314 yards, 2 TDs), Malcolm Card-Turner (12 receptions, 294 yards, 5 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Adam Webber (52 total tackles)

Sacks leaders: Dylan Coggins, Steven Nonu (2.5 sacks)

Interceptions leader: 5 tied with 1

Note: Does not include last week's stats.

Logan statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 45.9 ppg

Scoring defense: 16.2 ppg

Passing leader: D.J. Nelson (216-341, 63.3%, 2,636 yards, 40 TDs, 5 INTs)

Rushing leaders: D.J. Nelson (196 carries, 1,287 yards, 20 TDs), John Schmidt (49 carries, 369 yards, 4 TDs)

Receiving leaders: John Schmidt (68 receptions, 768 yards, 12 TDs), Jesse Braddy (43 receptions, 490 yards, 7 TDs), Beau Artist (35 receptions, 562 yards, 6 TDs), Jake Thompson (30 receptions, 496 yards, 4 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Chasen Andersen (111 tackles), Hunter Ballam (69 total tackles)

Sacks leaders: Jacoby Wildman (6.5 sacks)

Interceptions leader: Johnny Luke (10 interceptions)

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