The dream postseason ends. The dream championship matchup continues.
Kerry Hicks, Highland's 6-foot-6, 216-pound standout lineman, knocked down Provo's game-tying point-after kick, preserving the Rams' overtime 24-23 overtime victory in Friday night's 4A prep football semifinal playoff at Rice Stadium.With the win, Highland advances to meet Skyline in next week's 4A championship. The third-ranked Rams, now with a 10-2 record, are the only team to have beaten Skyline this season - and the Rams would like to prove it was no fluke. And Skyline is relishing a chance to avenge its sole loss.
Meanwhile, Provo was a PAT kick away from prolonging its postseason, which included earlier playoff victories over traditional powers Alta and Bonneville. All that added credibility to the Bulldogs' 4A semifinal appearance despite a 3-5 regular-season record - Provo finishes with a 5-6 mark - and a winless record in home games this season. "Hey, Provo's for real," said Highland Coach Tom Kingsford after the game.
With the game tied 17-all at the end of regulation, both teams were given four downs from 10 yards out to score any way possible. Highland scored on the opening possession on a fourth-and-two, as quarterback Joe Sheffield followed fullback John Tenifa for an OT TD, with Mark Dahl kicking the PAT for a 24-17 lead.
Provo scored on its first overtime play, with QB Rick Jorgensen finding Cory Lundberg for a 10-yard TD toss. However, Hicks blocked Ben Carrick's PAT try, leaving the Bulldogs a point short at 24-23 and leaving the Ram fans ecstatic.
"We've got a lot of heart up front," said Hicks as he was mobbed by teammates and Highland students. "Our group did it when it counted."
Provo did outgain Highland in total offense, 337 yards to 218. Jorgensen completed 28 of 45 passes for 299 yards and three TDs, while resurgent receiver Terence Saluone had nine catches for 131 yards, including a 50-yard TD catch.
Last week, Jorgensen's receivers were having a hard time hanging on to the ball, with Provo plagued by a number of dropped passes. This week, the 'Dog receivers - Saluone, Lundberg, Tony Harward and Scott Cloward to name a few - were hanging on to the passes, despite being dropped themselves by vicious hits from the Ram defensive backs.
"Defensively, we had some great efforts and there was some real hitting going on," said Kingsford. "That's Highland football ever since I've been here - not a lot of size, but a lot of character."
Provo started the scoring with Jorgensen's 50-yard throw to Saluone on a third-and-24 from midfield. Saluone sped down the sidelines and snagged the line-drive thrown ball for the score; Carrick's kick made it 7-0 Provo.
Highland tallied 10 points in the second period, starting with a 25-yard field goal by Dahl. The Rams added a 9-yard TD run by Sheffield and a Dahl PAT later for a 10-7 advantage.
The Rams opened the second half with an 80-yard, seven-minute scoring possession, with Tenifa's 1-yard TD and Dahl's PAT good for a 17-7 lead. However, However, one the final play of the third period, a fourth-down Highland snap to Hicks, who also punts for the Rams, went over his head for a 24-yard loss back to the Highland 19.
The 'Dogs soon scored, with a fourth-down Jorgensen-to-Saluone pass setting up a 7-yard TD toss to Lundberg, with Carrick's kick bringing Provo to just a 17-14 deficit. Carrick later knotted the score at 17-17 on a rainbow-arcing 37-yard FG that just barely dropped behind the crossbards.