The fierce rivalry between Salem Hills and Payson was anything but fierce as the explosive Skyhawk offense had its way with the Lions' defense all night, resulting in a 42-7 rout by Salem Hills.
The night started off on a bad note for the Lions when, in their opening drive — on fourth and long — their punter was tackled by Skyhawk defensive end Tim Flemming for a huge loss, resulting in a turnover on downs. Taking over on Payson’s 20-yard line, Salem Hills came out with guns-a-blazing and quickly landed its first blow just one minute into the game when Isaac Parrish darted into the end zone from the 5.
As the night wore on, things seemed to go from bad to worse for the Lions as the relentless offensive barrage by Salem Hills proved too much for Payson to overcome. By the end of the first, the score had climbed to 12-0 for Salem Hills when Jordan Taylor picked off Easton Smith’s pass on Payson’s 30-yard line and sprinted for the uprights. Chad Peterson converted for 2, making the score 14-0.
The second quarter found the Skyhawks' momentum surging even stronger as quarterback Porter Gustin stormed down the field three times for three consecutive scores, making the halftime numbers read 35-0 in favor of the Skyhawks.
Gustin's first TD came on a quarterback keep when he crashed over the line from 1 yard out. Thirty seconds later, a Payson fumble put the ball back in Gustin’s hand and he immediately fired a 40-yard toss to Trevor Gasser, who scampered in for six. Gustin then led a third and final charge that ended with him rifling a 15-yard strike to Lafe Frandsen with two minutes left in the half.
After the break, the Skyhawk offense showed no signs of slowing when, just minutes into the third quarter, Gustin hit a streaking Jordan Taylor with a 30-yard bomb, upping the score to 42-0.
At that point, Salem Hill’s coach Joel Higginson pulled his starters and let his second team offense and defense run the show, for which he was very impressed. “I loved the way our younger kids and reserves came off the bench for us tonight and made a big statement about who they are and what they’re about,” Higginson said after the game. “I’m proud of what they accomplished — all of them. As a team we were disciplined, united and committed to our goal of winning this game. I couldn’t have asked for a better showing tonight.”
Payson’s only score of the night came late in the fourth on a short run by Bryson Tanner, bringing the score to 42-6. Payson's offensive woes were due in large part to the steady and stellar play of the Skyhawk defensive squad, which swarmed the Lions with heavy hits, blocked pass attempts and three bone-rattling sacks coming at the hands of linebacker Porter Gustin, who also racked up a slew of tackles and caused havoc for the Lions all night. Skyhawk defensive end Tim Flemming had a whopping five pass deflections, and the two-man wrecking crew of Jaxon Bowden and Hayden Albrecht piled up tackles throughout the game, yielding little ground to the Lions' offense.
After the game, Higginson told his team, “When I see guys putting their whole heart into winning for their team, like I saw you all do tonight, it makes me feel good about what this team can accomplish. We played from our hearts tonight, and that is why we won.”