SANDY — Rarely has there been a dull moment with this year's Alta Hawks team.
Coming off a tough loss to rival Jordan, the Hawks chose to celebrate homecoming against another rival — Brighton. With national power Don Bosco (N.J.) coming to town next week, Alta couldn't afford a letdown.
Alta got two touchdown returns from its special teams, and quarterback Chipper Lucero had one of his best nights as the Hawks held off Brighton 48-31 Friday in a Region 3 contest.
Alta improved to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in region by beating the Bengals for the fourth straight time. It was Brighton's first loss after five straight victories.
"Losing to Jordan was hard. It got us pumped up for this game," said Alta wide receiver Harrison Handley, who caught eight passes for 85 yards, including a 23-yard scoring pass from Lucero that put the game away.
"Huge win," said Alta coach Bob Stephens. "Special teams was phenomenal. It was a huge boost for us."?
While many fans were finding their seats, Alta opened the game with a 99-yard kickoff return by Taylor Ogden. A few minutes later, Mack Richards returned a punt 92 yards for another score and it appeared a rout was on. Instead, Brighton rallied with one of its best quarters of the season. The Bengals took a 24-21 lead into halftime and seemed to have plenty of momentum, but everything quickly changed when the teams returned to the field.
"We had a three-and-out and they made a lot of big plays," said Brighton coach Ryan Bullett. "We didn't match their intensity; I don't know why. They came out and controlled the ball."?
Lucero was a big reason. The junior signal caller, who had just 45 passing yards at halftime, hit 8-of-9 throws in the next 12 minutes as Alta's offense roared down the field. Lucero had five touchdown throws on the night. The biggest was probably an 85-yarder to Ammon Barker that helped Alta take the lead for good.
"He was just 'on,'" said Handley, the 6-foot-6 University of Utah recruit. "We all made mistakes in the first half, but we got it rolling after that."?
Lucero finished with 278 yards passing. He completed 12 of 13 throws in the second half. That also helped Alta eventually establish its running game, and the Hawks held on to the ball.
"That's what we wanted to do," Stephens said."We wanted to keep their offense off the field. They're dangerous. We knew that."?
Brighton showed its potential, but for only one quarter. Freshman quarterback Drew Jensen threw two touchdown passes and Osa Masina surprised the defense by throwing a 32-yarder to Tyson Reid. Uaea Masina, who had missed three games due to a knee injury, also got the Bengal fans cheering with an 82-yard kickoff return.
The Bengals' normally vaunted running attack, however, never materialized. Jensen had 87 yards on 17 carries, but the Hawks corralled Osa Masina and Brighton's coaching staff didn't feel like Uaea Masina was healthy enough yet to take too many hits.
"We have some injuries, but we'll be back," said Bullett, whose team plays Cottonwood next week. "We weren't as aggressive as we needed to be and we need to work on that."?
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company