HYRUM — It had all the makings of a come-from-behind victory for the underdog, Salem Hills, but Mountain Crest withstood the late game push by the Skyhawks and held on to win 44-34.
Salem Hills knew they had their work cut out for them when they rolled into Cache County to take on a tenacious 10-1 Mountain Crest squad at home. Their hunch was confirmed when on the first possession of the game the Mustangs landed deep in Skyhawks territory after a fumbled snap on the punt gave them a very short field. They found the end zone soon after when running back Beau Robinson charged over the line from the 1-yard line to take the lead 7-0.
Salem Hills responded minutes later when running back Brooke Vaitohi rumbled in from 1 yard out, tying the score 7-7. After a pick by safety Cole Griffin deep in Mustangs territory, the Skyhawks struck again when quarterback James Nelson rolled right on a play-action pass and hit tight end Jacob Rolfe with a 15-yard toss deep in the end zone. Skyhawks led 14-7.
Needing to get the momentum back, the Mustangs launched an aerial attack that resulted in three quick scores on their next three drives giving them the 28-14 advantage. First it was Robinson who pulled the score back to even when quarterback Brady Hall hit him with a toss from 15 yards out and he took it to the house, untouched. The Mustangs continued with two more scores on long bombs from Hall to wide receiver, Nick Nethercott, who snagged a 72-yard pass followed by a 54-yard grab.
Reeling from the onslaught, Salem Hills managed to slow the Mustang momentum right before half with a field goal from Alex Baker which made the score read 28-17 at the break.
Right after the half it was another Baker field goal that brought the determined Skyhawks within eight points, 28-20. That’s when Mountain Crest took to the air and dropped the ball into Nethercoat’s hands for another passing touchdown, this time for 35 yards. They added a field goal soon after to widen the lead, 38-20.
Though down by 18 and the game slipping out of reach, Salem Hills wouldn’t go away quietly. They dug deep and launched a counter attack that produced 14 unanswered points. It started when Nelson hit running back, Villi Shwenke streaking up the middle with a 35 yard bomb at the top of the fourth quarter and then dove on the pylon for a 2 point conversion. Nelson grabbed another six when he dashed up the middle on a quarterback keeper to bring the score within 4 midway through the 4th, 38-34.
With the game suddenly on the line, Nethercott came up big for the Mustangs one last time when he hooked up with Hall for a 10-yard toss with 5 minutes to go. This gave Mountain Crest the 10 point lead (after a blocked PAT).
“It was a tough game to lose, both teams played hard,” Salem Hills' Nelson said. “I’m very proud of how we responded when we got down in the third quarter; we never quit, just ran out of time. Though it’s not the outcome we had hoped for, I am so grateful to have been part of this.”