PAYSON — Salem Hills grabbed the momentum early Friday night and held on to it all four quarters walking away with a 44-0 victory over crosstown rival Payson.

“It was our night tonight. We played well and everything seemed to go our way,” said Salem Hills quarterback James Nelson.

Of the six Skyhawk touchdowns, Nelson threw for two, including a 75-yard bomb to running back Brooke Vaitohi to put Salem up 13-0 midway through the first quarter. Late in the third, he connected with Villi Shwenke from 10 yards out to bring the score to 41-0.

But the majority of the Skyhawk points came on the stellar performance of Vaitohi who ran over, around and through everything Payson threw at him. Along with the bomb from Nelson, he rumbled over the goal line three more times, including a 45-yard grind up the middle after executing a perfect fake punt on fourth-and-long.

Defensively, the Skyhawks were tenacious and stingy, keeping Payson on its heels and unable to find its offensive groove. Intense pressure from Salem’s defensive line forced three fumbles, one of which Jacob Rolfe scooped up and bolted into the end zone with just before halftime.

“I thought we played lights out on defense. It’s the first game of the year that we played well at every phase. I was very proud of the defensive intensity,” said Salem head coach Harry Shwenke.

He continued, “We needed this win to create momentum going into the playoffs. Offensively, we had too many penalties so we’ll need to clean that up on a short week. Overall, good win with great energy in a rivalry game.”

Salem moves to 4-3 on the season and will face Mountain View on Thursday, while Payson (4-4) hosts Orem on Thursday.