HYRUM — Sometimes, the difference between winning is, like a good ol' country-boy buddy of mine used to say, finer than frog fur.
Yep, that's a mighty fine line indeed.
And Friday night's duel between Lone Peak and Mountain Crest certainly served as Exhibit A.
When Mountain Crest's Faimafili-Laulu Pututau hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jamison Webb with just 37 seconds left, and Weston Kasey kicked the go-ahead PAT to give his team a 21-20 lead, victory appeared well within the Mustangs' grasp.
And it definitely looked like the win was secure when Lone Peak quarterback Baron Gajkowski was tackled at the M.C. 29-yard line and the last few frantic seconds ran off the clock. Heck, the Mustangs' players and coaches even ran joyously out onto the field to celebrate their apparent victory.
But Lone Peak's coaches alertly called a timeout right when Gajkowski was stopped, and despite protests from the Mountain Crest coaching staff, the officials adamantly put one second back on the clock. That was just enough time for the Knights' Michael Smith to hustle out onto the field and drill a 47-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to give the defending 5A state champions a dramatic 23-21 victory.
"I'm glad we called the timeout on time, and I'm glad I got a chance to put it up there," Smith said after the first field goal — and a last-gasp game-winner no less — of his high school career. "It felt great. That was my first one of my life."
Gajkowski, who turned in a superb performance in an emergency role for Jordan High in last year's 5A semifinals against the Knights, wound up transferring to Lone Peak this year. And after Friday's showing, the Knights must be mighty glad he did.
The junior quarterback completed 15-of-25 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown — a great 7-yard TD grab by Talon Shumway early in the fourth quarter — and he also carried the ball 26 times for 120 yards and a pair of 1-yard scoring plunges.
Funny thing is, long after the game ended and the teams had gone to their respective locker rooms, and the Knights were headed for their bus ride home, the scoreboard still read "Mountain Crest 21, Lone Peak 20."
And hey, you couldn't blame Mountain Crest for feeling frustrated. After all, the Mustangs rallied from a 20-7 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns — and they had two more scores that were called back.
Eddy Hall, whose 1-yard TD run pulled M.C. within 20-14 midway through the final period, broke off a scintillating 58-yard punt return for an apparent TD, only to see that score wiped out when the Mustangs were flagged for having too many men on the field. And moments before his touchdown catch, Pututau caught another 16-yard TD pass from Webb, only to be ruled out of the end zone.
None of that seemed to matter much when the Mustangs — whose first touchdown came on a 4-yard run by Gaje Ferguson — finally took the late lead.
But the defending 5A champs had other ideas.3 comments on this story
And with the wild finish leaving both teams at 1-1 on the young season, it reminded us once again why so many fans love these Friday night lights of high school football.
"We knew we had one second to go," said Lone Peak head coach Tony McGeary, "and we've been practicing coming off the sideline to get a kick set up, and our guys were automatic in the absence of our specials teams coach tonight.
"We've got a couple of good kickers, but we've been struggling with our kickers a little bit, and Mike Smith came in cool as a cucumber and kicked that one through for the game-winner. We felt like we had to make a switch (after the Knights missed their second PAT attempt) and it really paid off for us.
"Baron ran the ball well and got the yardage that we needed," McGeary said, "and he threw the ball when we needed to — especially right down there at the end. We went empty (backfleld) and just continued to chip away. They were in the prevent and we just chunked 'em down the field. We were just hoping to get good field position and we happened to get it and kicked it through."