SMITHFIELD — Sky View head coach Craig Anhder jokingly said the only adjustment he made after watching his Bobcats give up two touchdowns early in the third quarter of a 4A playoff game was that he "prayed more."
God must have heard him, because those were the only two touchdowns Anhder's Bobcats allowed as they beat the Highland Rams 27-14 on their home field in the first round of the 4A state playoff tournament Friday afternoon.
"I think our kids just realized that we're going to have to stop their run if we're going to win this game," Andher said afterward, jokes aside. "We had guys in the right position. (Highland is) a good team; that's a good O-line. Our biggest adjustment was that we needed to just buckle down and put our feet in the ground and be successful."
Sky View struck first with a pair of touchdown throws from senior quarterback Braxton Godderidge.
The first came from 23 yards out to receiver Justin Evans to make it 7-0 with 8:57 left in the first quarter. The second was a 40-yarder to senior Logan Miller — who later left the game with an apparent broken bone — to double the score less than three minutes later.
"We came out that first half and looked pretty sluggish," said Highland head coach Brody Benson. "I don't know if we were thinking about the bus ride over here or what, but we were just kind of heavy-legged."
A 42-yard field goal as time expired by Sky View's Zayden Clark made it 17-0 at halftime.
"As far as what they were doing and what they were giving us, it was what we'd been practicing all week. It was just the execution," Benson said. "We challenged them at halftime to come out and run our stuff and do what we've practiced all week, and they responded well, I thought."
Shortly after halftime, Sky View could do little to stop the powerful Ram running game. Highland quarterback Jamahl Greer marched his team for scores on back-to-back drives on the first two possessions as the Rams rammed the ball up the middle, then hit receivers on the edge when the Bobcats pulled more players inside to stop the run.
"It's funny how momentum can have such an impact on a game," Anhder said. "In the second half, they came out. You have to give them credit. Their coach got them excited, had them ready to play football, and they played tough."
Greer punched the ball in from the 1-yard line to make it 17-7 with 8:37 left in the third quarter. On the first defensive play after the kickoff, junior defensive back Alassane Niang picked off Godderidge near midfield. The turnover — and more smash-mouth, up-the-gut football — set up Greer's 12-yard scoring toss to junior tight end Brandon Jones to make it 17-14 with 4:31 in the third.
For the rest of the quarter, Highland did everything it needed to win — except reach the end zone.
The Rams forced Sky View to go three-and-out on its next drive and intercepted another Godderidge pass at the 43-yard line to end the following possession. Ram senior kick returner Viliami Sekona put Highland in great field position with a big return to the Bobcat 45.
But then Highland fumbled with 7:18 left in the game, killing hopes for a comeback and handing Sky View the win.
"That fumble recovery was huge," Anhder said. "I think that was the nail in the coffin."
Godderidge went 23 for 35 passing for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the win, with eight carries for another 59 yards. Clark had two field goals, adding a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The win brings Sky View to 9-2. The Bobcats advance to the second round of the 4A playoffs.
Tavin Stucki is a senior journalism student at Utah State University and editor in chief of The Utah Statesman, the Aggie campus newspaper. Twitter: @stuckiaggies EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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