It was bittersweet. I have a lot of fond memories here and we’re lucky to get out with a win. —Pleasant Grove coach Les Hamilton
SANDY — It was homecoming for Pleasant Grove coach Les Hamilton Friday night.
Hamilton, who logged six successful seasons at Alta through 2010, returned to his old stomping grounds Friday night. Hayden Pettis, Christian Miller and a few others made sure it was a memorable return.
Pettis ran for 125 yards and three touchdowns, and Miller threw for 139 yards and was turnover-free in his first start as the Vikings defeated Alta 28-14 in both teams' opener.
“He (Hamilton) wanted this more than any of us,” said Pettis. “We couldn’t be happier for him.”
“It was bittersweet,” said Hamilton, who shed some tears after shaking hands with the Hawks' players afterward. “I have a lot of fond memories here and we’re lucky to get out with a win.”
Hamilton admitted it felt strange to be on the east side of Alta’s stadium. He felt even more strange for his offensive-minded team to be shut out in the first half. With the help of a steady rain, the Hawks’ defense frustrated Pleasant Grove, and Alta took a 7-0 lead on a 25-yard pass from Braxton Kerr to Austin Henriod.
The second half was much different.
“We came out and rallied,” said Pettis. “We’re a second-half team.”
It’s too early in the season to confirm that, but Pettis had a lot to do with the Vikings’ opening-night heroics.
Pleasant Grove took the opening drive of the second half and scored when Pettis bounced off several attempted tackles on a 5-yard run that tied the score. The Vikings went ahead a few minutes later on another 5-yard play — this time a pass — from Miller to Coleman Edwards.
“He (Miller) has been in a three-way fight for quarterback and we’ve kept it difficult for him,” said Hamilton, who had several college-bound QBs while at Alta. “He stepped up and made big plays.”
Miller completed 13 of 16 passes. More importantly, he was never intercepted. In fact, after Alta came back to take a 14-13 lead, Miller found Jacon Doman open several times, and Pettis put the Vikings ahead for good on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
Pettis seemed to be stopped short of the goal line on the play.
“I just kept my legs driving and my line helped. There were a lot of guys pushing me in (to the end zone) on the play.”
Pleasant Grove later put the finishing touches on the evening, taking advantage of a botched snap on a punt. Pettis, of course, scored the clinching touchdown on a 13-yard run.
The punt was the only turnover of the game, which was mostly played under a light rain. Hamilton noted, however, that, in the second half, the precipitation seemed to stop when Pleasant Grove had the ball. That helped the Vikings’ passing game.
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.