We were riding so high to start the year, so getting knocked down hurt. Looking back, it was a real good thing and necessary for us to get better. —Lehi receiver Kade Moore
LEHI — Few football seasons runs perfect, but for Lehi, its most stark exercise in imperfection was better served early on, rather than later.
Rather than take a brutal loss late in the season, the Pioneers took their lumps during the third week of the regular season, when they were punched square in the mouth by Lone Peak. Granted the Knights are typically one of the top teams in the state's highest classification, but getting run off the field 40-7 by anyone can serve as a shock to the system.
"It was absolutely the worst game I've played this year, and probably my worst game ever," recalled Lehi quarterback Cammon Cooper, who threw for just 181 yards and two interceptions in the loss. "But what I did with the loss, and what we all did — it proved to be something we needed and something we used to get better."
Lehi's resurgence after its brutal week three loss didn't happen suddenly. The offense stagnated yet again in a tough 18-15 loss to Springville the week after, but eventually started to click.
"We just had to work harder and prepare better," Cooper said. "For me, it really was a wake-up call and taught me that I needed to go at my preparation 100 percent every week, no matter what."
Following the loss to the Red Devils the Pioneers didn't allow an opponent to come within more than 19 points on their way to the 5A state championship. As perhaps proof of the resurgence, Lehi disposed of Springville in tidy fashion in the semifinal round, walking away with a convincing 41-21 win.
"We were riding so high to start the year, so getting knocked down hurt," said Lehi receiver Kade Moore. "Looking back, it was a real good thing and necessary for us to get better. We did that. We worked and we're definitely better because of the improvements we've made."
Part of Lehi's progression was figuring out how to beat defenses focused almost entirely on shutting down Moore and Dallin Holker, who finished the season first and third in all of 5A in receiving yards, respectively.
"You saw it last week against Springville," said Lehi coach Ed Larson. "They focused on shutting Dallin down with a high-low coverage to completely take him away, but he responded with nine catches and three touchdowns, so that shows you the kind of special player he is, but also the strides he's made and the strides Cammon has made to get the ball to him better in that sort of coverage."
Another big thing Larson believes his team needed to overcome was the overall "little brother" sort of mentality.
"Not to take anything away from Lone Peak, which is obviously a great team, but I think we learned maybe that we still had the thought process that they're Lone Peak and we're just Lehi," Larson said. "Lone Peak always kicks Lehi's butt. We can't have that mentality against anyone and I believe that mentality isn't there anymore, with the proof being that we're now playing in the final game."
Larson hopes the right mentality persists after this season, regardless of what happens in the championship game against Skyridge on Friday.
"What I hope happens is that it helps establish Lehi as a program people want to play for," Larson said. "We didn't have that at all when I first took this job, but it's been building. It makes me so grateful for the kids who did stick around and now it's their opportunity to show everyone the rewards for sticking it out and believing great things can happen here at Lehi High School."