HOLLADAY — Soaked after standing in the rain for three hours, Olympus coach Aaron Whitehead was conflicted as he looked at the scoreboard after Thursday night’s region showdown with Kearns.
Of course he was happy about Olympus’ 42-34 victory, but he was also extremely frustrated about the numerous major miscues that repeatedly gifted Kearns points.
“Turnovers killed us, special teams play killed us,” said Whitehead. “We did not play playoff caliber football tonight, and that’s not going to help us in the postseason. I know we’re taking it for granted saying we’ll be in the postseason, but at the same time we cannot play the way we played tonight and expect to have success in the long run.”
At the end of the day though, any victory in a steady rainstorm is a positive, and Olympus is in a great position in the Region 6 standings now at 2-0, with Kearns falling to 1-1.
Both teams struggled with the conditions, combining for four turnovers and then two bad snaps on punts that resulted in a turnover on downs.
Olympus’ defense was the difference all night though, particularly late in the fourth quarter. Leading 35-27 with five minutes remaining, the Titans stuffed Kearns on a fourth and goal from the 2-yard line to maintain their lead.
“My favorite part of the game was when they’re down there and they go for it on fourth and goal,” said Whitehead.
Six plays earlier, Kearns appeared to score on a 48-yard screen pass, but a block in the back behind the play at the 10-yard line denied the Cougars the potential tying touchdown.
Olympus eventually increased its lead to 42-27 on a Ben Bywater 6-yard touchdown run with 2:48 remaining, but Kearns wasn’t about to go quietly as Sam Fetzer returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to keep things close.
The Titans recovered the onside kickoff, however, and Bywater and Sawyer Pierce helped run out the clock by picking up a key first down. Bywater finished with 84 rushing yards on 15 carries, while Pierce added 54 yards and three TDs on 12 carries.
Sese Felila led Kearns with 127 rushing yards and two TDs in the victory. His first TD came on a 12-yard score on the game’s third play after an interception by the Titans.
Olympus responded with touchdowns on three straight possessions — two Pierce 1-yard TD plunges and then a Pierce 1-yard TD pass to Chase Thatcher — to go ahead 21-7.
With Kearns’ offense going nowhere, it got a huge break when Olympus bobbled a pitch on a fourth-down play and Journey Buba raced 65 yards to cut the lead to 21-14.
Kearns only had 59 yards of total offense in the first half, but it was still very much in the game.
“The majority of their points came off of our miscues, and even though they had 34 points on the board, our defense played pretty well,” said Whitehead.
Olympus extended the lead to 28-14 early in the third quarter on a Sam Sherwood 33-yard run. Kearns clawed right back though.
It cut the deficit to 28-21 on a Buba 84-yard TD pass from John Bass, and then after a botched Olympus punt it capitalized on good field position with Felila scoring on a 3-yard run with 3:21 left in the third, making it a 28-27 game after the missed extra point.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, the momentum was short-lived as Pierce scored on a 1-yard plunge two plays later, following a big pass play by Tyler Smith that set the Titans up with first and goal.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: email@example.com