I really liked the way we came out in the first half and took care of business. Keyes made a big play on that punt, too. I really liked our chances at that point. —Brody Benson, Highland coach
SALT LAKE CITY — It had been four years since neighborhood rivals Skyline and Highland played on the same field, but Friday night’s contest might just convince the team’s coaches to keep the rivalry going.
Calvin Keyes’ blocked punt in the third quarter and pass breakup late in the final period made the difference as the Rams held off Skyline 21-14 in a late nonregion game.
“It had been a long time since we’ve seen them,” said Highland coach Brody Benson. “But it’s always a classic. We’ve had a lot of history with them and neither team ever believes they can walk away (without) a victory.”
Highland came in heavily favored. The Rams, led by 300-pounders Bryan Mone and Pita Tonga on their offensive and defensive lines, dominated the line of scrimmage. Skyline, however, stayed in the game by taking advantage of Ram penalties and creating a few big plays themselves.
Highland never trailed. The Rams used the running of fullback Viliami Sekona and quarterback Jamahl Greer to carve out a 14-0 lead. When Keyes blocked Michael Binford’s punt early in the third period, the Rams had all the momentum. Sekona bulled across the goal line from 5 yards away, and the Rams’ 21-7 lead seemed like it would be enough.
“I really liked the way we came out in the first half and took care of business,” Benson said. “Keyes made a big play on that punt, too. I really liked our chances at that point.”
Skyline, however, rallied in an odd way. Binford, an athletic junior who has been sidelined much of the season with injuries, opened the fourth quarter by intercepting Greer’s pass in the end zone. Then, a few minutes later, he had a 52-yard punt return.
Spurred by Binford’s efforts, Braxton Chipman led a Skyline drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Parker Bowen. Suddenly, it was 21-14 and the Eagles felt like they had a chance.
Nic Compagni’s big hit on Matt Miner stopped Highland’s next drive and Skyline took over from its own 33 with three minutes left. After getting one first down, though, the Rams’ defense stiffened. On fourth down, Chipman's near-perfect pass to Colton Limpert was deflected at the last minute by Keyes, securing Highland’s win.
Highland’s defense had its way with Skyline most of the night. The Eagles, who ran the wishbone offense for years, came out in a spread formation and only recorded 34 rushing yards. Chipman completed 10 of 22 passes for 132 yards.
Sekona topped Highland’s running attack with 75 yards on nine carries, including a 47-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Greer had 59 yards on 16 carries. The Rams, though, had 112 penalty yards.
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.