Herriman (4-6) at Cottonwood (9-0)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Cottonwood by 48
All-time series: First meeting
Coach vs. Coach: Herriman's Larry Wilson and Cottonwood's Josh Lyman, first meeting
Last meeting: First meeting
Construction delays, a wildfire and a tough Region 3 schedule couldn't prevent Herriman High from becoming the first first-year 5A football program to qualify for the playoffs.
Now comes the hard part. The Mustangs travel to Cottonwood on Friday to play the second-ranked Colts in a first-round playoff game.
"It's going to be a huge challenge," said Herriman coach Larry Wilson. "I don't think anybody would think otherwise. Cottonwood is one of the top-tier teams in the state without question. We'll have to be very solid in every phase of the game. It'll take our best effort, our best game of the year to beat them."
It'll be a daunting challenge for Herriman to get past Cottonwood, but the Mustangs have been overcoming difficulties all season.
The Mustangs didn't have their own practice field to work out on until early August. Before then, they worked out wherever they could find a patch of grass, as Wilson says, although Copper Hills High eventually was generous with its facilities. Then there was the Machine Gun fire in Herriman that disrupted the team and the players' and coaches' families for a week.
Still, the Mustangs found a way. Region 3 wins over West Jordan, Taylorsville and Copper Hills got Herriman in the playoffs and the chance to play in the postseason.
"It's tremendous to be able to make the playoffs," Wilson said. "As a first-year school, it's huge and not just from the standpoint of making the playoffs. It sets the expectation from here on out. If we can make it our first year, we should be able to do it every year. The kids are not going to look at it if it's possible because it's already been established. It should pay great dividends for us."
And the Mustangs can look back at their first time reaching the playoffs as being a huge accomplishment considering what they went through in their first year.
"It's been an interesting year," Wilson said. "It's been a year of adversity, and that's how life is. There are great lessons in that. The kids have been able to accept those challenges and overcome them."
Overcoming Cottonwood would be Herriman's biggest accomplishment.
The high-powered Colts are one of just two unbeaten 5A teams and are rolling into the playoffs. Cottonwood hasn't had a close game since beating Skyline by a touchdown last month. Only two of the Colts' victories have come by less than double digits.
Cottonwood interim football coach Josh Lyman isn't looking past Herriman despite how well his team has played this season. When he played at Skyline High, he faced Wilson, who was then the head coach at Highland, and knows what his teams are capable of.
"They do some good things," Lyman said of the Mustangs. "Any game in the playoffs is scary, and we're not going to take anyone lightly. They're a lot better than what you'd expect out of a first-year school. This is not going to be a gimme."
The Colts are led by a 1,000-yard rusher in Nadan Hosea and a balanced passing attack.
"The biggest thing is we're healthy and eligible, fully loaded and ready to go," Lyman said. "We've got a hard road to go in our bracket, but we're ready."
Herriman statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 15.2 ppg
Scoring defense: 26.5 ppg
Passing leader: Tueni Lupeamanu (76-of-152, 50%, 1,026 yards, 4 TDs)
Rushing leader: Francis Bernard (130 carries, 722 yards, 8 TDs)
Receiving leader: Tanner Rush (31 receptions, 444 yards, 1 TD)
Tackles leader: Not Provided
Sacks leader: Not Provided
Interceptions leader: Not Provided
Cottonwood statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 42.7 ppg
Scoring defense: 14.0 ppg
Passing leader: Cooper Bateman (90-of-159, 56.6%, 1,357 yards, 17 TDs)
Rushing leader: Nadan Hosea (134 carries, 1,023 yards, 13 TDs)
Receiving leader: Inoke Lotueluel (35 receptions, 583 yards, 8 TDs)
Tackles leader: Luke King (70 total tackles)
Sacks leader: Luke King (8.5 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Kami Sofele (4 interceptions)