We struggled all night but we finally came together and got one play. Not once during that game did we fall apart and start yelling at each other, we just kept fighting for it. —Highland quarterback John Hunter
Midway through the fourth quarter of a 3-3 game between East and Highland that was dominated by penalties, punts and turnovers, Highland quarterback John Hunter knew someone had to make a play.
Hunter called his own number on the Rams' triple-option, broke through the middle of the East defensive line, bounced off a would-be tackler, then sprinted to the goal line, where his diving leap was just enough to get the ball across the goal line.
Hunter's heroics proved to be the difference as Highland held on for the 10-7 win.
"We struggled all night but we finally came together and got one play," Hunter said.
On a night where Hunter completed 6 of 10 passes for 126 yards, it was his legs that carried the Rams to victory with the 17-yard run.
He said the team could have gotten rattled but everyone stayed composed.
"Not once during that game did we fall apart and start yelling at each other, we just kept fighting for it," Hunter said.
Both teams struggled with turnovers on the night, particularly in the third quarter.
Hunter was picked off by East's Avery Hopkins on the Rams' second drive of the half, but the Leopards coughed it up one play later.
Hopkins picked off Hunter on the Rams next possession, but the Leopards started their next drive at their own 3 and could never quite regain momentum in a classic battle for field position.
"That's a good football team (East), and they did a great job of shutting our offense down," Brody Benson, Highland coach, said. "I'm so proud of our kids to just keep fighting. That's what we talk about, that's what we teach and that's what we preach here at Highland."
Hunter's score came at the 5:50 mark of the final period, and East had two opportunities to get back into the game.
After a three-and-out from the Highland offense, East got the ball back with 93 seconds remaining.
The Leopards used several pass-interference calls to reach their own 45, but Manu's Hail Mary pass fell harmlessly to the ground and the Rams improved to 4-1 on the season.
"The defense was stellar and that's a good offensive football team," Benson said. "Our kids just kept putting their hands in the dirt and kept fighting."
Highland, 4-1, will be at Clearfield next week, with East, 1-4, at home against Cyprus.