We went in at halftime and said you're backs are against the wall. You have nothing to lose now so someone needs to start having some fun and enjoying something in this night. They came out like they weren't scared and that they wanted to at least prove something. —Joel Higginson, Salem Hills coach
SPRINGVILLE — Salem Hills and Springville went at each other Wednesday night to see who would have the inside track for finishing second in Region 8. Both teams entered the game with only a single loss on the season — to region rival Timpview.
After falling behind 27-0 in the first half, Salem Hills seized momentum early in the second half and scored 35 unanswered points to claim a thrilling 35-27 win over the Red Devils on Springville’s home field.
“Springville is such a tough team,” said Skyhawks coach Joel Higginson. “We came over here and we weren’t prepared for how fast and big they were and they just punched us right in the mouth.”
The Red Devils jumped out in front with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter when Jarom Hendricks capped a five-play, 56-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown run. He added another touchdown at the start of the second quarter when he broke free and rumbled 89 yards to put Springville out in front 13-0. The long run came after Springville's Zach Gordon picked off a pass by Salem Hills QB Chad Peterson deep in Red Devil territory.
With a little less than four minutes remaining in the first half, Dylan Slavens connected with Devyn Tate on a 9-yard pass into the end zone that pushed the lead to 19-0. That was followed by a 9-yard run by Gordon on a direct snap that pushed the advantage to 27-0 right before halftime.
“We went in at halftime and said, 'Your backs are against the wall,'” said Higginson. “'You have nothing to lose now, so someone needs to start having some fun and enjoying something in this night.' They came out like they weren’t scared and that they wanted to at least prove something.”
The Skyhawks certainly had fun in the second half and no doubt proved something to themselves and to the Red Devils.
The second half started with an onside kick by Springville that the Red Devils recovered at midfield. When Slavens threw an interception three plays later, Salem Hills drove down to the Springville 28, where Peterson found Gunner Gustin for the touchdown that switched the momentum over to the Skyhawks.
Following the touchdown the Skyhawks tried an onside kick of their own and recovered at the Springville 33. After converting a fourth-and-1, Peterson connected with Zack Zobell for 10 yards and a touchdown that brought Salem Hills within two scores at 27-14.
Two minutes later Salem Hills recovered a fumble at midfield. The Skyhawks capitalized on the turnover when Peterson found Ammon Fifita in the end zone, which narrowed the decifit to 27-21.
Peterson then found Gustin again on an 18-yard pass with 7:04 remaining to tie the game at 27. Trevor Gasser’s extra point put the Skyhawks ahead 28-27.
Springville had some nice plays as it was attempting to come back, but ultimately the Red Devils threw three interceptions on their final three possessions. The back breaker came when Jordan Taylor intercepted Springville's QB with about 90 seconds remaining and returned it for a touchdown to cap the Skyhawks’ improbable comeback.
Salem Hills improves to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in region, while Springville drops to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in region.
Drew Daniels is a Utah County native and has covered local sporting events for several news organizations including the Deseret News since 1988.