SALT LAKE CITY — One word comes to mind to describe the Bountiful Braves' performance Friday night at Highland High.
The Braves, trailing all but four minutes, battled back time after time and ultimately found themselves down 27-24 on third-and-15 in overtime.
Highland's Adam Webber had made consecutive tackles for a loss, pushing Bountiful into desperation. However, just like he had done all game, Braves' quarterback Jordan Hayes came up big.
The mobile signal-caller, who had hurt Highland both through the air and with his feet, rolled out of the pocket and tossed a prayer to Sam Merrill, who outleaped the intended coverage and secured the 28-yard reception to the 1-yard line.
On the ensuing play, Jakob Hunt rumbled in for his third score of the night and the 30-27 win.
"That's as good of high school football game as you're going to see," said Bountiful coach Larry Wall, whose team improved to 5-1. "Two good teams that just battled right to the very end.
"That's what you try to do in overtime. If you can hold them to a field goal — that's why it's so important to win the toss," Wall continued. "Highland is a heckuva football team. We feel real fortunate to be able to come back and make the plays at the end. That was a big throw and a big catch there in the end when we needed it."
Bountiful, known for its vicious downhill rushing scheme, didn't shy away from its strength. Although Highland stacked the box in anticipation for Hunt, one of the premier runners in 4A, he was still able to do serious damage.
"I got to give credit to my line and my fullbacks," said the soft-spoken Hunt. He finished with 140 yards on 27 carries.
But, still it was Highland's game to lose. The Rams started quickly, scoring on a four-play 70-yard drive that culminated with a 9-yard scamper from Vili Sekona on their opening possession for the 7-0 lead.
In what proved to be very atypical of high school programs, both teams strung together long, methodical drives consisting of 10-plus plays throughout the entire game.
Bountiful clawed back and tasted its first lead of the game with 4:13 left in the first half on Hunt's second score from two yards out — pushing the scoreboard to 13-10 after a blocked PAT attempt.
The Rams, on the ensuing possession, recaptured the 17-13 lead with 30 seconds before halftime when Sydney Lauti cut at the numbers on a toss sweep after a great separation block from his receiver for the 6-yard score.
After both teams' opening drives stalled, the Braves cut the lead to one on a 30-yard field goal by Caleb Maynard with 1:55 in the third quarter. But, just like before, Highland (3-3) wasted no time responding with a 48-yard score by Sekona on the fourth play of the next drive.
The Braves' odds were slipping — trailing 24-16 entering the final quarter.
Behind Hayes, the Braves composed a nine-play drive that ended when Hayes found Tanner Redding on a 9-yard post. Then, on the two-point conversion, Hayes lofted a perfectly placed fade to Ryan Curtis to notch the score at 24-24.
"Jordan Hayes was dynamite at quarterback," Wall said. "He made some good decisions and some great throws under pressure. I was proud of him."
Bountiful's defense, despite allowing the Rams to penetrate into potential scoring range, held and ultimately forced extra time.
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