The defense—they’ve carried us all year. (Today’s game) was awesome. I loved it. They executed the heck out of the game. —Corner Canyon head coach Eric Kjar
DRAPER — Corner Canyon has one of the best quarterbacks and placekickers in the state, but it was the defense that sent the Chargers into the 5A semifinals with a convincing 37-0 victory over the Highland Rams Friday afternoon.
Zach Wilson had his usual good game – with 290 passing yards and two touchdowns – and Conner Ebeling nailed three field goals as the Chargers stayed undefeated.
“The defense they’ve carried us all year,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar, whose team improved to 11-0 with its second shutout of the season. “(Today’s game) was awesome. I loved it. They executed the heck out of the game.”
Ebeling played a big part. Besides hitting field goals of 29, 40 and 47 yards, he was an anchor on the defense that limited Highland to just 148 total yards, and most came in the second half when the game was out of reach.
“We just didn’t come out ready (to play),” said Highland coach Brody Benson.
The Rams, who finished with a 7-4 record and routed Wasatch 61-24 in their playoff opener last week, had three false-start penalties on their first possession which, fittingly, ended with a lost fumble.
Highland had just one first down in the first half and threatened to score only once — in the game’s final minutes when kicker Fernando Treceno’s field goal sailed wide.
The Rams’ only real bright spots came on defense. Led by junior Caden Hilborn, Highland sacked Wilson seven times but couldn’t turn those plays into momentum or points. Their biggest chance came when Bronson Olevao appeared to have an interception and an open field in front of him, but couldn’t corral the pass.
Highland didn’t get many other chances. Corner Canyon had no turnovers. Wilson was his usual accurate self, completing 18 of 24 passes. He had both of his touchdown throws in the first half as the Chargers took a 21-0 lead.
On Corner Canyon’s first possession, he found John Mitchell open three straight times and then Mitchell outjumped a Highland defender for the game’s first score on a 49-yard play.
The defense had no problem stopping the Rams and Caden Johnson made it 14-0 with a 5-yard run late in the first quarter. Highland then started to show frustration on a failed fake punt attempt deep in its own territory, and Corner Canyon took advantage when Wilson found Colton Lawson on a 24-yard touchdown throw.
Highland tried to find the same magic as in 2015 when it rallied from a 35-14 deficit to beat the Chargers in a playoff quarterfinal. This year, however, Ebeling helped the Chargers add to their lead with his strong leg and sophomore Van Fillinger put the finishing touch on the game when he returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown.
“Last week, we had a tough game,” said Ebeling. “We wanted to make a statement this week.”
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.