Getting off to a great start is obviously something that will help us a lot against a very potent Salem Hills team. I was very pleased with how the players prepared for last week’s game and how they came out, and hopefully that continues. —Woods Cross coach Justin Spencer
WOODS CROSS — Salem Hills has never been in this position, and the program and its fans couldn’t be more excited.
The Skyhawks received an incredible amount of support last week when they downed No. 1-seeded Orem on the road (35-14) and are hoping for the same as they travel to take on Woods Cross.
“The community has really gotten behind this team, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that,” said Salem Hills coach Joel Higginson. “We packed the visitors side and that really helped the players play at their best I think. We’re going to need all the help we can get against a great team like Woods Cross.”
The Wildcats are riding high as well following a 42-14 beat-down over Box Elder in the first round. The team dominated the contest from the outset — scoring the game’s first 34 points before coasting to victory.
Woods Cross coach Justin Spencer is hoping for a similar effort this week.
“Getting off to a great start is obviously something that will help us a lot against a very potent Salem Hills team,” Spencer said. “I was very pleased with how the players prepared for last week’s game and how they came out, and hopefully that continues.”
Woods Cross’ balanced offensive attack was firing on all cylinders last week while the defense was able to limit the Bees at almost every turn.
“They have terrific athletes up there — both powerful and fast, and it’s an impressive team to watch on film,” Higginson observed. “I think their defensive backs will be some of the best we’ve faced all year, and man, that’s just a good, solid football team.”
Spencer hopes his defensive backs prove equal to Higginson’s praise going against Salem Hills’ wide-open attack.
“They can score from anywhere on the field with how they spread the ball, and that’s a dangerous thing for a defense,” Spencer said. “I think we’re pretty balanced on defense, but I really hope our defensive backs prove as good as they seem to think they are because Salem Hills has some outstanding receivers.”
Gunnar Gustin led the production at receiver last week with his 155 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Chad Peterson threw for 378 yards and four touchdowns. Peterson also threw four interceptions, which can’t happen this week, according to Higginson.
“We really need to cut down on turnovers,” Higginson said. “That’s obviously a big key in any football game.”
Woods Cross feels that limiting Salem Hills’ big play opportunities and maintaining ball control on offense will be key.
“We need to keep things in front of us on defense and put together good and consistent drives on offense,” Spencer said. “We were successful with those things last week, but this is a whole different week with a whole different opponent. We’ll need to play our best football to beat Salem Hills.”
As mentioned, the Wildcats present a balanced offense led by quarterback Clay Kidman and receiver Xequille Harry. Kidman was the model of efficiency last week, completing 16-19 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Harry added a 71-yard touchdown pass himself while hauling in seven passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’re just a danged good football team and I think we’re going to need a perfect game from our guys to beat them,” Higginson said. “I really believe we’ve been able to improve every week and that we’ll be going in playing the best we have all season, but man, it’s going to take everything we have to beat Woods Cross.”
Salem Hills statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 29.0 ppg (10th in 4A)
Scoring defense: 21.8 ppg (11th in 4A)
Passing leader: Chad Peterson (93-187, 49.79%, 1,249 yards, 14 TDs), Porter Gustin (63-107, 58.9%, 1,248 yards, 13 TDs).
Rushing leaders: Chad Peterson (87 carries, 339 yards, 2 TDs), Jacob Armstrong (78 carries, 536 yards, 3 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Gunnar Gustin (46 catches, 854 yards, 15 TDs), Zack Zobell (54 catches, 992 yards, 8 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Walker VanTassell (99 tackles), Conner Sorensen (63 tackles)
Sack leaders: Hayden Albrecht (4 sacks), Conner Sorensen (3 sacks)
Interception leaders: Jordan Taylor, Scott Lyman, Cooper Smith (2 INTs)
Woods Cross statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 33.3 ppg (7th in 4A)
Scoring defense: 16.0 ppg (3rd in 4A)
Passing leader: Clay Kidman (86-142, 60.6%, 1,298 yards, 14 TDs), Luke Jowers (31-62), 50.0%, 408 yards, 5 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Braxton Gunther (75 carries, 632 yards, 8 TDs), Lawrence Brown (57 carries, 309 yards, 4 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Xequille Harry (30 catches, 692 yards, 8 TDs), Sean Gallagher (20 catches, 482 yards, 8 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Deion Saumalu, Mason Newton (55 tackles), Braxton Gunther (50 tackles)
Sack leaders: Tomasi Giles (9 sacks), Gavin Moore (8 sacks)
Interception leaders: Xequille Harry (5 TDs)
Felt’s Facts for Salem Hills High School
All-time record: 22-40 (6 years)
Region championships: 0
Playoff appearances: 3
All-time playoff record: 1-2 (including 2013)
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-02 comments on this story
Felt’s Factoid(s): Salem Hills is one of just 11 schools to qualify for the playoffs in its first year of football.
Felt’s Facts for Woods Cross High School
All-time record: 143-218 (37 years)
Region championships: 2 (1988 co, 2012 co)
Playoff appearances: 15
All-time playoff record: 11-14 (including 2013)
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Felt’s Factoid(s): When Kitt Rawlings rushed for 423 yards in a game in 1989, no one knew if that was a state record or not — prompting research that led to compiling a history and records of Utah prep football. Incidentally, Rawlings missed the record by 11 yards and now ranks third.