HIGHLAND — Suddenly on the ropes after seeing its once-comfortable 17-point lead disappear in Saturday's 5A first-round playoff game, Lone Peak desperately needed its offense to step up.
Quarterback Baron Gajkowski was up for the challenge.
He drove the Knights 74 yards for the go-ahead score with 6:23 remaining, and Lone Peak's defense responded by forcing Brighton into a fourth-down incompletion in the end zone to preserve the 24-17 victory.
"Champions are made when you come against adversity. We just came together as an offensive unit in the huddle. We didn't get some calls our way the refs were calling, but we just came together and said we've got this," said Gajkowski.
Gajkowski completed 4-of-5 passes for 48 yards and rushed for an additional 19 yards on the decisive drive, which he capped with a 3-yard TD pass to Talon Shumway.
"When our back was against the wall when they tied it up, we went down 74 yards and got the score and that's kind of been the mark of our team. Sometimes we just need a wake up call," said Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary.
Nobody expected the underdog Bengals to go quietly after falling behind.
Brighton continued its second-half offensive dominance and marched right down the field, setting up a first-and-goal with under two minutes remaining. The 14-play drive stalled, however, with an incomplete pass.
With the victory, Lone Peak advances to next week's 5A quarterfinals against the Davis Darts.
Gajkowski finished the game 12-of-21 for 143 passing yards and two touchdowns, in addition to 90 yards rushing.
He led Lone Peak to scores on its opening two drives, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Austin McChesney that put the Knights ahead 10-0 with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, David Bennett blocked a Brighton punt and Taylor Nelson scooped it up for the touchdown, increasing the lead to 17-0.
Brighton whittled it to 17-7 late in the first half on a Josh Thompson three-yard run, and another Thompson TD run late in the third quarter made it 17-14.
Lone Peak could've extended the lead to 24-7 on the previous drive, but it dropped a wide-open pass in the end zone and then fumbled the ball out the back of the end zone a few plays later.
"We just had some miscues offensively, some drop balls and some penalties in crucial times," said McGeary.
After Brighton tied the game on Hunter Dall's 36-yard field goal with 8:50 remaining, the Knights got the response they needed to punch their quarterfinal ticket.
"We've got to do a better job when we've got them down. We've got to put the dagger in the heart full throttle; we didn't really have that mentality coming out in the second half," said McGeary.
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