Bill Quick, for the Deseret News
HIGHLAND — It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start.
Lone Peak beat down visiting Bountiful 32-14 to give first-year coach Mike Mower his first victory.
The game featured a strong start, some sloppy and lackadaisical play in the middle, but most importantly, a strong finish from the Knights.
“I’m proud of our kids and I felt we did some good things,” Mower said. “We just have to iron out some of the mistakes — the turnovers and not be our own worst enemy.”
Senior quarterback Baron Gajkowski led the way, scoring the Knights' first four touchdowns on the ground and then finishing the Braves off with a long touchdown pass late.
“When the chips are down, we can always count on him,” Mower said about his quarterback. “He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve coached, and he’s just a kid who knows what he needs to do to get it done.”
The Knights set the pace early, taking the opening kickoff 67 yards in 11 plays to take an early 6-0 lead. Gajkowski capped it off with a 2-yard keeper and had eight rushes for 38 yards on the drive.
After the teams traded possessions, Lone Peak took advantage of a short field after Bountiful fumbled a snap for its second score early in the second quarter. Four plays and 54 yards later, Gajkowski ran it into the end zone from 11 yards out to give his team a 13-0 lead.
The Braves didn’t go away, however, and fought back.
Inspired by a goal-line stand and a couple of turnovers late in the second quarter, Bountiful cut the lead to 13-7 at the half after quarterback Jordan Hayes hit Sam Merrill with a 31-yard touchdown pass with just 1:42 left.
It was the type of response Mower was expecting.
“Bountiful is a class act and they’re always one of the most fundamentally coached teams we play,” Mower said. “I have all the respect in the world for that coaching staff. We told the kids this was the type of team that doesn‘t quit — that they always come back at you.”
Bountiful continued its momentum into the second half — taking the lead 14-13 courtesy of a 13-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 7:19 minutes off the clock. Houston Heimuli finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Lone Peak quickly snatched back the momentum with consecutive scoring drives of 80 and 51 yards respectively. Gajkowski again led the way with a bevy of quarterback draws and bootlegs that kept the Braves on their heels.
“You have to credit the offense line, but Baron just has real good explosion,” Mower said. “He can read the front line very well and pick the hole, but a lot of it is just desire. He’s just a great competitor and has a great heart.”
The Knights ultimately finished the Braves off when Gajkowski hit a streaking Dylan Murdoch with a 76-yard touchdown pass with 3:14 left in the game.
In between the offensive fireworks was a solid defensive effort that Mower may have been most proud of.
“I’m real proud of how our defense has come along,” he said. “We have lots to work on, but I can tell defensively that we’re going to be real good this season.”
Defensive lineman Taylor Nelson punctuated the defensive effort with a sack on a fourth and goal situation late in the fourth quarter.
With the win, Lone Peak starts the season 1-0 and will next take on Alta. Bountiful will try for its first win versus Viewmont next week.
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