Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — They say defense will win a lot of football games for you.
It certainly won this one for Highland High on Friday night.
Senior defensive back Ben Bergeson returned an interception 76 yards for the game’s only touchdown, and the Rams’ defense repeatedly came up with big plays at critical times to give Highland a 7-3 victory over Herriman in their nonregion matchup.
With Herriman driving into Highland territory late in the first quarter, Bergeson stepped in front of a Mustang aerial attempt. The pass hit him square in the No. 6 on his chest and, 76 yards later, he was dancing into the end zone for six points that gave Highland a 7-0 lead with 3:15 showing on the first-quarter clock.
“Our D-line gave good pressure on their quarterback; the quarterback made a bad throw; and I was able to break on it and get to the end zone,” said Bergeson. “It was gift-wrapped, if you want to call it that.
“But the D-line, man, they’re the ones that caused that play by putting pressure on the quarterback.”
So just what was Bergeson thinking as he headed for the end zone with his decisive pick-six?
“Just don’t get caught. That’s what I’m thinking,” he said. “I felt somebody pretty close to me when I got down close to the pylon. But other than that, I had open grass, so I shouldn’t have been caught anyway.”
The Rams also got key defensive stops from Viliami Sekona, Stanley Sitani, Keanu Netzler, Pita Tonga and Cody Hilborn along the way, as they limited Herriman to just a 37-yard field goal by Colt Andolsek in the third quarter and continually shut the door by coming up with key stops throughout the game.
“Our defense played well, and their defense played well, too, and shut down our offense pretty well,” Bergeson said. “But I still think our offense took it down the field quite a bit. We’ve just got to finish more.”
Speaking of finishing, Bergeson finished the game by picking off another Herriman pass attempt on the game’s final play deep in Highland territory to preserve the victory for the Rams (2-1), who bounced back from last week’s disappointing double-overtime defeat against Syracuse.
“They fought,” Highland coach Brody Benson said of his team. “We’ve been saying all week that we need to come out and we needed to fight for four quarters and finish the game. And defensively, I thought that we did that.
“Offensively, I thought that we left a lot of opportunities on the field. We had chances to put it away. We’re just having a hard time finding the end zone.
“We made several stupid penalties that were drive-killers,” Benson added. “We’ve got to clean that up. We have to have the same passion on both sides of the ball.”
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.