High school football: Lone Peak's defense steps up against Highland
HIGHLAND — Lone Peak rebounded from its tough loss last week to beat Highland 35-11. The Knights capitalized on a bevy of Ram mistakes in the second half to build a big lead and then cruise to the victory.
After giving up 36 points and chunks of yardage against Timpview last week, the Lone Peak defense stepped up — particularly junior defensive lineman Taylor Nelson who played a part in forcing three critical Highland turnovers.
"I'm just thrilled about the defense," said Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary. "They stepped up … I'm so proud of our defensive coaches and our staff and the players really responded well after our last game."
Things didn't start well for the Knight defense in the second half with the Rams mounting a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive on the first possession — cutting the lead to 14-11 after a successful two-point conversion. Before it could regroup on the sidelines the Knight defense had to reenter the game immediately following a Lone Peak turnover on its first offensive play.
From that point the defense stiffened and turned the tables.
The defense gave up no yards on the next possession and put the offense in great position on the Ram 28-yard line after Highland's punter's knee hit the ground before he got off his kick. Two plays later the Knights were in the endzone courtesy of a 9-yard run by quarterback Baron Gajkowski.
"We trust our defense and they really stepped up and put us in some good spots," said Gajkowski. "When you get a (short field) it's like alright, this is a given and we just got to get it in. We have great leaders on defense like Josh Buck and Spencer Reinstein … when we made mistakes the defense stepped up."
Highland encountered punt difficulties after its next three-and-out — giving Lone Peak possession on the Ram 30 yard line. Gajkowski made quick work of the Ram defense again, mounting a three-play scoring drive that culminated with him hitting receiver Talon Shumway in the end zone from 14 yards out to put his team up 28-11 with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
On Highland's next play from scrimmage, Nelson recovered his third fumble of the night setting up the Lone Peak offense with another short field.
This time it took the offense five plays to drive 28 yards for the touchdown. Gajkowski ran the ball in from seven yards out for what was the final touchdown of the game.
Gajkowski finished the night with three rushing touchdowns and two passing. Both of his scoring throws went to Shumway from 29 and 14 yards, respectively.
The junior quarterback is filling some big shoes left by star quarterback Chase Hansen this season and even sports Hansen's old No. 15 jersey. With every game, however, Gajkowski is looking more and more like his predecessor.
"No. 15 was the only jersey left when we chose numbers and I've gotten some dirt from friends about trying to replace Chase, but Chase has been such a role model for me and has taught me so much, so it was kind of rough at first to be honest," said Gajkowski. "I couldn't think of bigger shoes to step in, but Chase is the best and we talk and stuff and I've talked to Chase and he's cool (with me wearing his number) … I've been able to learn so much from his example and hopefully I can help lead my team to some of the same success that he did."
With the win Lone Peak moves to 2-2 on the year and will next take on West.
Highland drops to 2-2 and will travel to take on Clearfield a week from Friday.