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High school football: Salem Hills stymies the Swarm, topples Wasatch 28-21

Published: Saturday, Sept. 21 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

Salem Hills' Dallin Poulson and Max Robison converge to make the tackle as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect) Salem Hills' Dallin Poulson and Max Robison converge to make the tackle as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect)

An old adage suggests, “There’s nothing like your first”. Tonight at Salem Hills the Skyhawks found out just how true that is when they notched their fourth win of the season making it the first 4-1 start in Skyhawk history. But the firsts didn’t end there. It was also the first homecoming victory in four years for the Skyhawks, and the first time they held a region opponent scoreless in the first half.

In order to achieve this oh-so-sweet night of firsts, Salem Hills exerted tremendous defensive pressure on the Wasps of Wasatch High all game long, not allowing a score until late in the third quarter. The stellar defensive charge was led by Walker Van Tassel who has been a beast all year, piling up tackles by the truckloads. He forced a Wasatch fumble in the third quarter and was a huge factor in two, very crucial, back-to-back stops that came deep in the fourth quarter when a surging Wasatch was looking to tie the game with just over three minutes to play.

Salem Hills' Cooper Smith takes the handoff and turns upfield as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect) Salem Hills' Cooper Smith takes the handoff and turns upfield as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect)

Also coming up huge for the Skyhawks was Max Robinson and Cooper Smith who combined for 3 interceptions for the game. The first pick of the night was snagged by Max Robinson late in the first quarter which set up a 20-yard strike from quarterback Chad Peterson to Zac Zobell, putting the Skyhawks up 9-0.

Then, a speedy Cooper Smith picked off two more passes in the second quarter and kept the Skyhawks momentum rolling. Smith’s first interception came early in the second quarter and set up a 20 yard TD pass from quarterback Chad Peterson to Gunnar Gustin just seconds later, giving the Skyhawks a 15-0 advantage. Smith’s second pick a few minutes later set up another Peterson-to-Zobell strike right before half making it 22-0 at the break.

Just before the third quarter expired, Peterson dashed 10 yards into the end zone to give Salem Hills their final score of the night. With the scoreboard reading 28-7, it looked to be a drubbing of the Wasps by the tenacious Skyhawks. Then the Swarm stormed back with a vengeance after going on a 14-point run that came on the heels of a perfectly placed on-sides kick and a Skyhawk fumble, bringing the score to 28-21 with five minutes left in the game.

Wasatch quarterback Garret Davis drops back to pass as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect) Wasatch quarterback Garret Davis drops back to pass as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect)

However, the Wasps courageous comeback was stopped short thanks to one quick-handed Gunnar Gustin who trapped the ball on the fifty-yard line after Wasatch’s second on-sides kick. After going out on downs, the Skyhawk offense passed the torch to Van Tassel and Co. who made two gutsy stops with less than four minutes remaining, forcing Wasatch to turn the ball over on downs twice in a row. That sealed the deal for the Skyhawks, giving them a memorable night of “firsts” to last for a long while.

After the game, an elated Van Tassel praised his fellow Skyhawk defenders,

“Our defense had a lot of pride tonight. It showed up big-time in the tremendous effort of our defensive line. Our defensive backs stepped up and made some crucial plays as well. We had to come together as a team to get this win and we did. I’m proud of what we accomplished tonight.”

Salem Hills running back Vilikaleva Wolfgramm takes the ball up the middle as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect) Salem Hills running back Vilikaleva Wolfgramm takes the ball up the middle as Salem Hills plays Wasatch in Utah high school football on Sept. 20, 2013 in Salem, Utah. (Monica Gibb, Deseret Connect)

Aiding in that defensive effort were Jackson Bowden and Connor Sorenson who came up with 5 tackles each followed by Van Tassel with four.

Coach Joel Higginson was beaming after the game and had this to say,

“This win means so much to everyone on this team, the way we fought back so hard when they started making a run. I‘ve never seen a group fight that hard when the chips were down. I told them not to play for themselves tonight but to play for someone else. They did that and that’s why we won.”

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