After a bye week, the No. 3 Skyridge football team took on No. 14 Herriman in the second round of the 6A state tournament on Oct. 30. After a slow start, the Falcons got things going in the second period and went on to win the game 36-5.
Perhaps suffering from a bit of rust, the Falcons hurt themselves with turnovers and penalties as they struggled to gain momentum and remained scoreless in the first quarter. The Mustangs scored first on a safety by sacking Skyridge sophomore quarterback McCae Hillstead in the end zone.
During the second period, the Falcons came alive on the field and scored 14 points as Hillstead rushed for two touchdowns.
Hillstead ran for one more in the third quarter, later passed to receiver James Palmer and followed up with a two-point conversion again to Palmer in the fourth as Skyridge eliminated Herriman from the tournament.
During the second period, junior running back Jeter Fenton picked up tough yards on the ground to open up the play-action game for Hillstead and the receiver corps.
The offensive line opened holes and protected Hillstead against a stout Mustang defense. Palmer’s speed and offensive mastery allowed him to be open downfield for Hillstead in the second half.
Palmer said, “Herriman is a great team. They gave us a really good look, they changed things up, but we did a great job bouncing back. We have talked about this, through the playoffs we are going to get punched in the face and we have to be able to bounce back and that’s what we did.”
“This was a good win,” said Skyridge Head Coach Jon Lehman. “Obviously playoff victories are great victories. Herriman has really improved throughout the season. They are playing their best football right now.
“I’m happy with how our guys handled some of that first half adversity, safety and interception on their side of the field,” the coach continued. “Our guys stayed together and kept playing.”
He added, “Our front defensive guys just played an amazing game. This was a team that runs the ball effectively, they are big up front, they are well coached and they run a lot of creative schemes to try and win a gap.
“Our guys were really dialed in and executed well, played physical up front and I’m really proud of them for that,” Lehman said.
The Falcon defenders did their part by holding the Herriman offense to a single field goal. Sophomore cornerback Smith Snowden made several good plays on the ball and snagged one interception.
Senior Maka Fainga scored on a pick-six from his linebacker position, returning the ball 34 yards for the last score of the game. The defensive front seven were solid against the big Mustang offensive line and powerful running backs.
Fainga said, “I read the quarterback’s eyes for that interception, and I saw him throw the ball and it was coming towards me, I caught it and took off.”
He added, “Herriman is a physical team, but we knew we had to be more physical to win. That’s what we did, came out and played hard for the win.”
“It was good to be back on the field after 16 days off,” Snowden said. “It was a good team win, we came in a little flat but our intensity and energy came in the second quarter.
“Defense played really well tonight. Jeter Fenton played well on offense, picking up scrap yards and breaking those long runs,” he added.
Hillstead said, “I feel good about the win. Obviously not my best performance but our defense really stepped up tonight and did a great job. Overall, this was a great team win.”
Skyridge (9-2) will welcome No. 11 Davis (8-3) on Nov. 6 for the state quarterfinal. Game time is set for 6 p.m.