We watched a ton of film, we knew what they were going to do. We were keyed on quarterback signs, we knew what they were going to do. —Karsen Liljenquist, Lone Peak linebacker
HIGHLAND — Lone Peak did such a great job anticipating what Alta’s offense was doing in Friday’s 5A quarterfinal, linebacker Karsen Liljenquist said it was like he was in their huddle.
“We watched a ton of film, we knew what they were going to do,” said Liljenquist. “We were keyed on quarterback signs, we knew what they were going to do.”
The result was a quarterfinal annihilation.
Lone Peak forced four turnovers and harassed Alta quarterback Chipper Lucero all game as the Knights rolled over Alta 41-22 to advance to next week’s 5A semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“No one thought we could do it, but we’re going,” said Liljenquist.
After losing to Alta 35-17 in week two back in late August, Lone Peak played a perfect game both offensively and defensively to avenge the loss.
Defensively, the key was getting pressure on Lucero, who came into the game with more than 2,500 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.
“We knew we had to put pressure on him. He’s a darn good quarterback, but like a lot of high school quarterbacks, you put the pressure on and they start to struggle,” said Lone Peak coach Mike Mower.
That defensive pressure paid off early and often.
After Lone Peak marched the opening kickoff 80 yards for the 6-0 lead, Lone Peak’s defensive line tipped a pass that Riley Whimpey intercepted at midfield. Five players later, the Knights extended the lead to 13-0 as Baron Gajkowski stiff-armed his way to a nine-yard touchdown run with 3:57 left in the first quarter.
Gajkowski finished the game with 82 rushing yards and 169 passing yards, but offensively Erik Ostrom was just as big, rushing for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Alta found a little bit of success running the ball with Tanner Sansom after falling behind 13-0, but its two red zone trips in the first half resulted in field goals, not touchdowns, and that was never going to be good enough against a poised Lone Peak squad.
Leading 20-6 at the half, Mower challenged his players to put the game away early in the third quarter, which is exactly what they did.
After forcing Alta to punt, Gajkowski capped an eight-play drive with a 12-yard touchdown run, increasing the lead to 27-6. Not to be outdone, the defense got on the board 32 seconds later as Liljenquist returned an interception 30 yards for the 34-6 lead.
“I go to DB film, they tell me where to be. I’ve worked on my drops all week. They said it would pay off, and it did,” said Liljenquist.
Lone Peak capitalized on another Alta turnover to increase the lead to 41-6 with 11:54 in the game as Dylan Murdock hauled in a 12-yard touchdown reception.
“It was really a team win, defense and offense. Baron obviously had a big game, and he’s always going to be our team leader, but a lot of other kids stepped up,” said Mower. “Alta’s a great program, and it makes the win even sweeter to beat a class act like Alta.”