I had confidence that we would come back and win and we did because our defense really stepped it up in the second half and our offensive line was big for us tonight. I give them a lot of credit." —James Nelson
SPANISH FORK — Facing a 17-point deficit at halftime, Salem Hills engineered a stunning comeback against Maple Mountain thanks to an offensive onslaught in the second half that produced 32 unanswered points for the Skyhawks, giving them the 39-24 victory Friday night.
Heading into the locker room at halftime, nothing seemed to be going right for the Skyhawks. Down 24-7 after two sloppy, disjointed quarters, the game they were favored to win seemed to have slipped through their hands.
The Skyhawks got off to a bad start on their first possession when quarterback James Nelson threw an interception — his first of the season — just over a minute into the game. Maple Mountain turned that into a score moments later when running back Qwory Huff bolted in from 5 yards out to put the Golden Eagles on the board and in command. Just minutes later, they struck again with a Marcus Krommenhoek field goal to widen the lead to 10.
The second quarter was no better for the Skyhawks who, still on their heels, couldn't stop the Eagles' momentum. With 7:06 left, Maple Mountain's Carson Kay capped off another long drive when he rumbled over the goal line from 3 to up the score 17 -0.
The Skyhawks found some life when Nelson hit Jacob Rolfe with a 10-yard strike over the middle to put Salem on the board at 17-7. But their momentum was quickly blunted by Eagle quarterback Cameron Dorny who sliced through a gap in the middle and sprinted 80 yards down field to make the scoreboard read 24-7 for Maple Mountain.
With the start of the third quarter it became clear that the Skyhawks, who limped off the field at the half, were not the same ones who stormed the field after. Their defense, re-energized and focused, ground out several big stops that held the Eagles scoreless in both the third and fourth quarters, while their offense pounded their running game with a tenacity that had been absent earlier.
Skyhawk running back Brook Vaitohi sparked the offense with a scoring run midway through the third that brought the score to 24 -13. Five seconds into the fourth quarter, Skyhawk running back Garrett Lloyd fanned the flames with another scoring run from 5 yards out, shrinking the Eagles lead down to five at 25-19 after a missed PAT.
Building on Salem's soaring momentum, Lloyd found another hole and turned it into a 25-yard touchdown run giving Salem the lead 25-24 with six minutes left. It was all Salem from there.
After a gutsy fourth-down stop by the gritty Skyhawk defense, Nelson led a quick drive down field that put them at the Eagles' 1-yard line on fourth-and-one. Nelson took the snap, ducked his head and drove forward, hoping to gain the yard. With inches to spare they managed the first down but were moved back 5 yards on a penalty the next play. With 1:55 on the clock, Nelson took the snap, rolled right and spotting a hole, cut up the middle into the end zone, putting the Skyhawks up by eight at 32-24.
"Coach called a rollout and then just told me to do my thing. I figured that the defense would be flowing to the right and leave the middle wide open so when I cut up field and saw an opening, I went for it," Nelson said of the play. "I never felt like we would lose at any point in the game, even when we got down that far. I had confidence that we would come back and win and we did because our defense really stepped it up in the second half and our offensive line was big for us tonight. I give them a lot of credit."
Lloyd found the end zone again, his third score on the night, when he bolted over the line from 3 yards out with one minute remaining to make the final score read 39-24.
"I urged them (during halftime) to play with heart and to stop looking at others to help them and to stop relying on the referees," Salem Hills coach Harry Schwenke said. "Instead they needed to fight through the adversity. They did that in the second half and I am so proud of my boys."
He attributed their comeback to their energy level being, "sky high in the second half. Our guys not only wanted the game, but they down right beat it out of their opponent. Also, we did a great job of establishing the run. This opened up the rest of the offense. It was a special night for the boys and I'm just glad that I could be a part of this great experience."
The Skyhawks move to 3-1 on the season and will face Spanish Fork Sept. 22.