HIGHLAND Emotions overflowed from every player, coach and fan in the stadium at Lone Peak High School as two heated rivals took their intense competition to a new level this year, with American Fork finally taking it 30-20 in what turned out to be a battle to the end.
These two programs have met 11 times over the past 11 years and just like most rivalries, records coming into the contest rarely matter in the least.
"I think there's a lot of emotion, and I think there's a lot of hidden emotion as well," said American Fork coach Davis Knight after the victory.
And some of that emotion was caused by the controversial transfer of ex-Lone Peak player Scott LaFrandt to American Fork three weeks ago.
LaFrandt took the field at cornerback against the Knights, causing a great deal of jeering from the Lone Peak fans. Bitter feelings are nowhere near dissipated. But it wasn't just the transfer that caused both teams' blood to overheat, it's the mere fact that these kids from both schools know each other so well off the field.
"When you go head to head and living so close, that just causes emotions," said Knight, who noted that his team won't carry any residue from this game into the important contest next week against Pleasant Grove, a game with major playoff implications.
Just two minutes into the game, American Fork seized hold of the momentum with a 35-yard touchdown run by Chris Wernli, who finished with 142 rushing yards in the first half alone.
Eddie Holloway then kept the American Fork fans off of their seats with a 53-yard field goal to make things 10-0. But it was barely two minutes later that Wernli broke one open for 70 yards to put the Cavemen up 17-0 early in the second quarter for what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.
The Lone Peak offense was getting more yards off of American Fork penalties
through much of the first half than it was fighting for itself. But finally the Knights held one together for a decent drive down the field, which ended in a touchdown pass from Tannon Pedersen to Brian Hale, who made the first of several spectacular catches in the contest.
"We expected a good football game, and I thought our defense for the most part played well," said Knight.
And it wasn't the Cavemen defense that handed over the momentum to the Knights at the start of the third quarter, it was the special teams as the Knights successfully completed an onside kick, which eventually led to another acrobatic catch by Hale in the end zone for the 13-yard touchdown.
The Knights were within three points, and American Fork seemed to be losing steam and on the wrong side of some gale-force winds.
And everything turned on what would have been the game-tying 35-yard field goal. The Knights had driven down to the Caveman 18-yard line but were halted there by some tough defense. A 35-yarder is typically an easy touch for Lone Peak kicker Jon Hess, who nonetheless missed with just minutes left in the third quarter.
Knight says that's the play that turned the game around.
"That missed field goal was a momentum changer. We might have dodged one right there," he said, remembering how just a couple of weeks ago the Dons tied it up with a field goal and stole the win in overtime.But this time the Cavemen added another pair of touchdowns, giving up only one to the Knights and preserving a passionate victory over a long-time emotional rival.