LOGAN — The Logan defense thwarted a late Highland comeback to beat the Rams 28-13 in the second round of the 4A state playoffs Friday evening.
Highland head coach Brody Benson said the game came down to two plays.
"I'm proud of my kids," Benson said. "We played, we fought, we did a great job. It boiled down to two or three plays."
Down by three touchdowns, Highland quarterback Anthony Smithson started off the fourth quarter with an 8-yard touchdown run, but the Logan special teams blocked Dewey Clark's point-after-touchdown attempt.
Logan quarterback D.J. Nelson marched the Grizzlies down the field to the 13, but his pass to the corner of the end zone intended for senior receiver Johnny Luke was picked off by Highland defensive back Jerry Padilla for a touchback with 7:29 left in the game.
Smithson took the Rams into Grizzlies' territory on the next drive, but was stopped short when Highland went for it on fourth down. On the next play, Nelson was stripped and Highland had the ball back on the Logan 23-yard line with 3:30 left to play.
An interception in the end zone by Logan defensive back Jameson Hartman ended all hopes for a Highland comeback.
"It was fun," Nelson said of the win. "That's the first full game that we've played in a long time. They're a really good team. They had a tough go of it in the regular season, but credit to them. They battled all night long."
Nelson scored first for the Grizzlies on a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:30 to go in the first quarter to make it 7-0.
The 5-foot-10 USU commit seemed poised to take a two-score lead in the first half, but junior receiver Beau Artist fumbled away the ball on the 1-yardline.
On the next play, Hartman intercepted a pass from Smithson on the 41-yardline.
The pick led to an 18-yard touchdown toss from Nelson to junior receiver Jesse Braddy to go up by two scores.
Highland struck back with under a minute until halftime with a 1-yard touchdown run by Smithson to make it 14-7.
The Highland secondary gave Nelson problems all night, especially in the first half by dropping eight men into coverage.
"They were finally back at full strength," Logan head coach Mike Favero said. "They're defending state champs; they put up a great effort. We knew they weren't going to die easy."
With just under four minutes to play in the third quarter, Nelson threw a 33-yard touchdown to wide receiver and kicker Jake Thompson.
Nelson tossed a 24-yard pass to Hartman less than two minutes later to make it 28-7.
"It was tough," Nelson said. "They came out and spat in our face for a little bit."22 comments on this story
Nelson had 96 yards rushing and went 16 for 25 through the air for 303 yards and four total touchdowns.
Logan remains undefeated with the win.
"All that means is that we have a target on our backs," Nelson said. "People are gunning for us now."
The Grizzlies face Bountiful Thursday at 11 a.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.