SANDY — The four days that the Allentown (N.J.) High football team spent in the Salt Lake Valley went by quickly, but the fastest part of their trip here might have been on the field Saturday afternoon.
The Cardinals couldn’t keep up with the hometown Alta Hawks, who broke loose for 22 points during a six-minute span in the second quarter and went on to claim a 44-7 nonregion win in the first game of the Xfinity High School Football Challenge at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Tanner Sansom rushed for 181 yards and scored three times, and quarterback Chipper Lucero threw for 185 yards and a pair of scores to Nate Teahan as Alta improved to 2-2 overall. A small crowd in the cavernous stadium saw Alta shake off a disappointing loss last week to Timpview and a 52-24 drubbing to another New Jersey school — Don Bosco — last year at this same event.
“I thought they were a good team. We knew we really had to work to get better,” said Alta coach Bob Stephens. “We had three tough weeks and we planned this game by design.”
After facing local powers East, Lone Peak and Timpview, Alta didn't seem to be fazed by Allentown. Cardinals quarterback Dean Apostolico was under pressure most of the day, and had to break several tackles to keep drives going. Allentown also had a 255-pound running back — Daivone Thomas — who gave Alta troubles.
Allentown’s problem was it simply couldn’t stay with Alta’s team speed. Sansom was the biggest difference-maker. Perhaps taking advantage of Rio Tinto’s immaculately cut short grass, he ran 46 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Then, after Allentown failed to make a short field goal following a long drive, Sansom took a handoff around the right end and outraced everyone for another score. His third touchdown came on Alta’s opening drive of the second half that built the lead to 36-0 and essentially put the game away.
“We saw how fast and big they were,” said Allentown coach Jay Graber. “There were just two or three plays in that first half where we just didn’t execute. We just blinked and they were by us.”
Mack Richards had a 71-yard punt return for a score and Alta also had an interception return for a score negated by a penalty. In fact, if there was a downside to the Hawks’ big win, it was penalties. They amassed 130 yards in fouls, compared to just 15 for Allentown.
Alta also had to get by without its kicker — Taylor Hintze — who became ill and wasn't able to recover in time to play. Alta went for two-point conversions after each touchdown and converted four of six chances.
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.