HERRIMAN — For the Herriman Mustangs to be successful, either Tueni Lupeamanu or Francis Bernard have to step forward.
Friday night, it was Bernard's turn.
The electric senior rushed for 104 yards and returned an interception 33 yards for a score late in the game to secure a 31-14 victory for the Mustangs over Highland in what might become a decent cross-valley rivalry.
"(Wearing them down) was our game plan," said Herriman coach Larry Wilson, whose team had an obvious depth advantage. "That was something we emphasized all week. We ran no huddles and tried to change the tempo.
"It wasn't until Francis's interception that I started to breathe easier."
Wilson, of course, coached at Highland from 1996-2000 and enjoyed a record of 43-14 at the school. He is in his third season at Herriman and the Mustangs — now 2-1 overall — have their sights set on a possible Region 7 title and a 4A state playoff berth.
With two of 4A's top players, plus a cast of others who made a big difference, those goals are certainly possible.
Lupeamanu completed 13 of 19 passes for 105 yards. More importantly, the 6-foot-2, 242-pound senior connected on several third-down plays. Herriman controlled time of possession. However, despite the final score, the Mustangs didn't control the game because of Highland's big plays.
Highland quarterback Austin Peterson had a nice game until Bernard's pick with 3:35 left. Peterson made a lot of progress, throwing for 193 yards, including a 75-yard scoring toss to Adam Webber and a 50-yarder to Malcolm Card-Turner.
Highland might have built an early lead but numerous penalties in the first quarter destroyed their drives and Herriman took advantage.
"Don't even get me talking about the penalties," said Highland coach Brody Benson. "They happened, and they made a difference." Benson said he felt depth (at one time, Highland had 10 players on the field who were going both ways) and the Rams' inability to establish the fullback up the middle were the reasons for their demise.
Highland is known for being an aggressive "smash-mouth"?team, which is why Wilson called Benson last year to schedule the game.
In this case, the roles were reversed.
The Rams still had 176 yards on the ground, led by Peterson's 73 yards on 13 carries. However, without strong fullback play, Herriman eventually strung out the sweeps. The Rams' 14 points came in the second quarter, and they were scoreless after that.
Brandon Farmer and Gabe Ruflin were involved in Herriman's first two scores and the Mustangs seemed to have all the momentum until Peterson found Webber alone over the middle for the Rams' longest play so far this season.Comment on this story
Peterson tried to go deep often, especially to the fleet Card-Turner, who caught three passes for 91 yards. Down 24-14 and needing a big play on fourth down, he tried to find Card-Turner again, but Bernard stepped in front of the pass and raced down the sidelines to thrill the home crowd.
Farmer had a great second half and finished with 84 rushing yards on 11 carries. The Mustangs had 292 yards on the ground, compared to 176 for Highland. The teams are scheduled to play next year at Highland, a chance for Wilson to return to the place where he won so many games.