MIDVALE "It's a pretty happy ending to a sad story."
That's how Hillcrest High senior wide receiver Payden Dallimore described the Huskies' 33-29 victory over Taylorsville High in Friday night's Class 5A, Region 2 football tilt. The Huskies played with determination on both sides of the ball, scoring 20 straight points and holding off a late Warrior rally to emerge victorious in the homecoming finale of their tumultuous season.
Dallimore caught one touchdown pass and threw another to his own quarterback. Husky quarterback Kolby Koplin hit receiver Josh Young on a 13-yard touchdown strike midway through the fourth quarter that gave Hillcrest the points it needed to hang on to the win.
Hillcrest was the subject of controversy early in the season when 22 players left the team. Head coach Kirk Mehrish was elated to end the season in a positive way. The Huskies (2-8) had not won since a Week 2 triumph over Murray High.
"For these boys to have been through a ton of scrutiny ... they fought through it. It feels great for these seniors to go out on a win," Mehrish said.
Taylorsville came into the game with a versatile offense and showed that early. The Warriors took the opening drive 80 yards as Lafi Faumina capped the march with a 14-yard touchdown run to make it 6-0.
On the Warriors' next possession, quarterback Mike Ramirez fumbled and Hillcrest's Justin Judd recovered at the Taylorsville 34. Koplin rolled out on the next play and hit Dallimore to give Hillcrest the lead at 7-6.
Taylorsville's next drive was the epitome of efficiency. Starting at their own 18, the Warriors had a first down on four straight plays - including three consecutive completions by Ramirez. The junior QB added a fourth completion, to big tight end Wyatt Brown, for a 5-yard score to regain the lead.
Later in the quarter, Hillcrest came back with another one-play drive. After a punt, Koplin found Dylan Anderson on a 53-yard bomb for Hillcrest's second score.
Taylorsville took the lead back on a 33-yard field goal by Stephen Leeds, but that was the last lead the Warriors held. Hillcrest got it back when Dallimore ran a reverse and lofted it to Koplin, who took it 57 yards to paydirt.
A stretch from the third quarter to the fourth was a microcosm of how Hillcrest played inspired in all facets of the game. After Taylorsville held the ball for more than eight minutes, the Husky defense buckled down. Calvin Lloyd sacked Ramirez - who was dropped four times - on first down and a gang of green jerseys smothered him again on third and 24 to force a punt.
The kick took a bounce and Dallimore scooped it up and ran to the Taylorsville 45. The Huskies then rattled off a drive that ended with Anthony Biven's 4-yard TD sweep to give Hillcrest a 27-15 lead.
Hillcrest's Sean Choi blocked a Warrior punt on the next series. The ball was recovered by Austin Neilson at the Taylorsville 25. That led to the game-clinching score.
Ramirez capped the scoring with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Blake Henricksen as time expired. He was 14-of-22 for 268 yards and 2 touchdowns, but faced heavy pressure and went only 7-15 after the first quarter.
"I haven't felt this excited in my whole life," said Neilson, who helped lead the defensive charge.