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High school football: Spanish Fork prevails in a close one with Salem Hills

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 2:21 a.m. MDT

The Captains for Salem Hills in their game against Spanish Fork Thursday night. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb) The Captains for Salem Hills in their game against Spanish Fork Thursday night. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb)

The downfall of the Salem Hills Skyhawks in Thursday night’s contest with the Spanish Fork Dons can be summed up in one phrase: “missed opportunities.”

Stopped twice in the red zone deep in the second half, the Skyhawks offense could not run, throw or kick their way into the end zone, and it cost them the game.

Their first shot was a failed field goal attempt late in the third that would have given them the lead in a tied game. The second missed opportunity came in the game’s final drive. Spanish Fork had just taken the lead at 28-21 with two minutes on the clock.

To counter, a desperate Salem Hills stormed down the field, positioning themselves deep in Spanish Fork territory. With just 48 seconds left, the Skyhawks were now 20 yards and one well-placed pass away from tying the game. That pass from Skyhawk quarterback Chad Peterson came, but it landed in the hands of a Spanish Fork Don in the form of a timely and crucial interception. Game over.

Captains for Spanish Fork. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb) Captains for Spanish Fork. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb)

The triumph of the Spanish Fork Dons, on the other hand, is summed up in one phrase as well: “Money talks.”

It turns out, Spanish Fork quarterback Jason Money had a lot to say in the win over Salem Hills. Clearly, he does all of his talking on the field, usually in the form of great drives and spectacular scores. Built like a fullback, quick and agile like a running back, and with the arm of a good quarterback, Money was impressive as he commandeered an offense that pounded away at the Skyhawk defense, ultimately prevailing in the end.

Spanish Fork’s "Money-driven offense" scored on its first drive, a crushing, impressive effort that was capped by a 10-yard bullet to Bennett Bradford. Spanish Fork struck gold again when Money exploded up the middle for a 10-yard strike. Adding to their lead with a two-point conversion that came at the hands of Money, who yet again picked his way around the end and plunged into the end zone for two, making the score 14-0 just minutes into the second quarter.

Taylor Noles being brought down by Salem Hills. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb) Taylor Noles being brought down by Salem Hills. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb)

From there, it was all Skyhawks. Their struggling offense finally caught flight halfway through the second quarter and went on a 21-point tear producing three scores. The first had come on a Jacob Armstrong 13-yard rush. Soon after that, wide receiver Gunnar Gustin caught a TD toss when Peterson feathered a short pass to him in the end zone late in the second quarter. The final score of the night came with just 10 seconds left in the first half when Peterson connected with a streaking Ammon Fifita, giving them a 21-14 advantage going into the locker room at the break.

The Skyhawk momentum that carried them into halftime shifted dramatically on the first play of the third quarter when quarterback Chad Peterson fumbled the ball into the hands of a tenacious Don defense. This set up an immediate 26-yard strike from Money to wide receiver Joey Anderson bringing the score back to even at 21.

Ammon Fifita with a reception and carry. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb) Ammon Fifita with a reception and carry. (Oct. 24, 2013) (Monica G. Gibb)

With the inconsistent Skyhawk offense languishing again, the Skyhawk defense stepped up and kept the pressure on the Dons, not allowing a score the rest of the third quarter all the way down to the wire, when Jason Money, with 2:01 left to play, sprinted into the end zone to retake the lead.

Leading a formidable defensive charge for the Skyhawks was linebacker Porter Gustin with a game-high 12 tackles including four sacks. Walker VanTassel, who has been a beast for the Skyhawks all season, added nine tackles. Pick-off specialists Cooper Smith and Jordan “Vegas” Taylor each had an interception as well for Salem Hills, but in the end it was not enough to overcome the Don’s offensive onslaught.

“It was a battle of two really tough teams," Salem Hills head coach Joel Higginson after the game. "A break here or there had the potential to change the outcome. Hats off to Spanish Fork. They capitalized when they needed to.”

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