OREM — Highland made no qualms about it in the 4A quarterfinals at Orem Friday. The Rams, resembling an old-fashioned, hit-you-in-the-teeth like offense, loaded up behind their offense line and pounded.
Oh, did it work.
Highland (8-4) rushed 62 times for 408 yards, with three runners eclipsing the century mark in its 34-25 win over the Tigers to return to the semifinals for the second time in three years.
"I feel great right now. We got ourselves another Monday practice," Highland coach Brody Benson said. "I'm excited that these kids get a chance to go up (to Rice-Eccles Stadium) and experience that. It's something that they'll remember forever but obviously our goal isn't just to make it up there. We've got some business to attend to."
Rams' quarterback Austin Peterson led all rushers with 139 yards on 27 carries. The senior gradually compressed the defense in the second half with 20 of his attempts and 108 yards in the final two quarters. Fullback Viliami Sekona and wingback Thomas Pembroke combined for 28 carries and 231 yards..
"They came out in that 3-5 (defense) and our offensive line just overpowered them up front," Peterson said. "It was 11 guys — effort. We had a 11 guys on the same page and it pays off to work hard."
Highland, atypical of high school teams that often struggle remaining penalty- and turnover-free on long drives, habitually strung together clock draining series. The Rams had four drives of nine or more plays with two 13-play possessions and one consisting of 14 plays.
Orem (8-4) early on looked efficient through the air behind quarterback Taylor Camp. The Tigers took the 6-0 lead on the opening series when Camp found Ben Bergeson over the middle from 54-yards out.
Highland answered by reeling off 21 straight points on an 11-yard run by Sekona, and 23-yard and 63-yard sweeps from Pembroke.
The Tigers opportunistically clawed back with a methodical drive of their own along with the added help of a botched snap on Highland's punt with 1:32 left in the half to head into the lockers down 21-19.
Camp had thrown for 256 yards in the first half alone. But behind Malcolm Card-Turner the Rams secondary made the necessary adjustments and ultimately held Camp to 70 yards in the second half.
Card-Turner finished with three inceptions but most importantly stunted the Tiger's chance for an improvable comeback with an acrobatic pick deep into Highland territory with 3:26 left in regulation.
"He had one of those special nights tonight and he's capable of doing that every week," Benson said. "I think he's really starting to realize (that) and he definitely gave us a chance tonight."
With the win Highland will meet Mountain Crest, the No.1 seed from Region 5, on Friday Nov. 9. The Mustangs (10-2) defeated Bountiful 41-0 Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.
"We don't want to go home, we want to keep playing. We're looking forward to (Mountain Crest)," Peterson said. "We're going to look at this film tomorrow, look at what we did wrong, fix it and come out Monday ready for practice."
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