We stopped shooting ourselves. We had moved the ball, but had penalties. That has a lot to do with nerves. —Highland coach Brody Benson
SALT LAKE CITY — In Highland's four losses during the 2012 football season, coach Brody Benson had one primary concern. Too many penalties. Friday afternoon appeared like it would happen again.
But the Rams rallied in the second half. Their talented offensive and defensive lines shut down neighborhood rival Olympus, and Highland roared to a 20-14 win in the first round of the 4A state playoffs on the Titans' home field.
"We stopped shooting ourselves," Benson said. "We had moved the ball, but had penalties. That has a lot to do with nerves."
Playing mostly mistake-free after halftime, Adam Webber scored the game-winner on a 1-yard run with 19 seconds remaining. It was the first time Highland had led since the first quarter. The final drive was set up by a suffocating defense, which forced Oly to punt deep in its own territory, and Jerry Padilla caught the ball on the run and returned it 27 yards to the Titans' 23.
Webber's score — and the ensuing two-point conversion pass from Austin Peterson to Malcolm Card-Turner — put the finishing touch on a dominating second half. For the game, Peterson rushed for 134 yards and fullback Vili Sekona had 129. Highland ran 36 plays in the second half, compared to Oly's 12, and the Rams (7-4) moved on to play at Orem next week.
Olympus, the No. 2 seed from Region 7, rallied from a 0-3 start to finish with a 6-5 record. The Titans led most of the game and seemed shocked at the loss. However, coach Aaron Whitehead predicted bigger success is likely to come.
"We'll be back next year," he said. "This junior class is loaded and, if they continue to work hard, will be a force next year. Just wait."
Oly's defense did everything it could to prevent the Rams from taking control. In the first half, senior linebacker Tanner Goates pressured Peterson, tipped the ball out of his hand and headed downfield alone for what appeared to be a 38-yard touchdown return. The officials, however, ruled Peterson's arm had been moving forward and called it an incomplete pass.
Then, as Highland opened the second half with a seven-minute drive, Tyler Bradshaw frustrated the Rams by recovering a fumble in the end zone. "We had a lot chances, but I felt good because we were slashing their defense for six, eight, even 10 yards a play," said Benson. "I'm just glad we would eventually convert."
Oly was led by senior quarterback Corbin Anderson, who threw for 163 yards, including a 67-yard scoring pass to junior Coleman Meier in the second quarter. Meier also rushed for 87 yards and was particularly effective early, when Oly took advantage of the majority of Highland's penalty yards. Meier got the home crowd excited when he scored Oly's first touchdown on a 6-yard run.