Highland outlasts Mountain Crest to win 4A championship in double OT

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Highland Rams haven't won a state title since 1986, but on Friday night, the Rams put history behind them, beating the Mountain Crest Mustangs in double overtime, 37-36.

Both teams risked everything to be crowned the 4A champions, but it was the Mustangs that risked too much when they tried to go for two points after a Nate Rigby three-yard touchdown, putting the Mustangs down by one in double overtime.

The Mustangs could have kicked a field goal to tie the game, sending it in to a third overtime, but the chance to win was more attractive. Mountain Crest quarterback Alex Kuresa handed the ball off to Rigby on a run up the middle, but was halted by Ben Johnson, securing the victory for the Rams.

But it was senior Nate Fakahafua of Highland that made it possible for the Rams to even force overtime. With 0:47 left in regulation, Anthony Smithson found Fakahafua in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown to tie the game at 24-24.

In overtime, the Rams won the coin toss, choosing to let the Mustangs take possession first. Four plays into overtime, Rigby ran for a five-yard touchdown to put the Mustangs up 30-24 with a missed field goal to the right by Justin Call.

It was then Highland's turn to answer. Facing fourth-and-ten on the 25 yard line, Smithson threw up a prayer to Fakahufua who pulled the ball down in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown, tying the game at 30-30. All the Rams needed was a field goal to win the game, but the extra point was blocked, sending the game into double overtime where the Rams hung on to win.

"If you don't make the big plays you'll go home with a loss," Fakahufua said. "I kept my team cranked up the whole time and we pulled out with a win."

Fakahufua ended the game with ten catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

"We played as a family; we played as brothers," Smithson said. "It was a big stage and we got the win. Nate Fakahufua was a big playmaker and we knew that he could get it."

Smithson hit his targets perfectly; completing 14 of 21 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns.

Facing almost impossible odds, Rams coach Brodie Benson had to put his complete trust in his team.

"I'm just so proud of our kids," Benson said. "This whole season, they never quit, they never backed down, they never said die. Today they could have laid over again, but they kept fighting. You've got to have trust in your kids and that's what pays off."

Earlier this season, the Mustangs met up with the Rams to kickoff their season, with the Mustangs coming out on top 28-14. On Friday night, the Rams had the final word.

Highland 37, Mountain Crest 36

Nate Rigby answers with 3 yard run for the Mustangs. Mountain Crest goes for two, and the run up the middle is stuffed. Highland wins in a thriller, 37-36 and is your 4A State Champion.

Overtime 2
Highland 37, Mountain Crest 30

Anthony Smithson keeps the ball and scores from 4 yards out to give Highland the lead, 37-30.

End Overtime 1
Highland 30, Mountain Crest 30

Unbeleiveable!! On 4th and 10, Smithson finds Nate Fakahafua for a 25 yard touchdown. PAT is blocked, and we go to overtime 2.

1st Overtime
Mountain Crest 30, Highland 24

Mountain Crest received the ball first in overtime, and Nate Rigby scored on a 5 yard run, but the PAT is wide right.

End of Regulation
Highland 24, Mountain Crest 24

Mountain Crest QB Alex Kuresa drove the Mustangs into Highland territory, but a desperation heave into the end zone is intercepted and we are headed into overtime.

0:47 Fourth Quarter
Highland 24, Mountain Crest 24

Highland answers with 43 yard strike from Anthony Smithson to Nate Fakahafua to tie this game up.

3:22 Fourth Quarter
Mountain Crest 24, Highland 17

Nate Rigby blasts through a hole and scores on an 8-yard touchdown run. Mustangs take a 7 point lead with time running out in the quarter. Can the Rams answer with a touchdown drive of their own and send this game to overtime?

3:31 Fourth Quarter
Highland 17, Mountain Crest 17

Kuresa keeps the ball and runs to the 8. First down Mustangs at the 8 yard line.

3:43 Fourth Quarter
Highland 17, Mountain Crest 17

After the Mustangs shut down the Rams on tehir last drive they are deep into Highland territory with the clock ticking. An offsides on the Rams puts the Mustangs in the red zone.

7:18 Fourth Quarter
Highland 17, Mountain Crest 17

Nate Fakahafua just made a big-time play on defense. He looked to drop back in coverage but then charged at Kuresa and sacked him for a 10-yard loss. That came after a holding penalty backed up the Mustangs 10 yards. Then facing a 3rd and 31, Fakahafua came hard again and crushed Kuresa for his 2nd sack on the drive. Mustangs driven back all the way to their own 47. After the punt, Highland takes over on their own 29-yard line.

10:22 Fourth Quarter
Highland 17, Mountain Crest 17

Hayes Hicken nails a 28- yard field goal to tie the game. On 3rd down Smithson threw a fade to Nate Fakahafua who made the catch but the official ruled him out of bounds. After watching the replay on television it was very, very close. If this was college or the NFL they would have reviewed it for several minutes and likely would have ruled that video evidence was inconclusive and the call on the field couldn't be changed. That's how close that call was. A touchdown on that drive for Highland would have been big. Now Mountain Crest takes possession with a little less pressure than they would have otherwise.

12:00 Fourth Quarter
Mountain Crest 17, Highland 14

Clutch throw by Anthony Smithson. On 4th and 4 at the Mustangs 27-yard line the Rams decide to go for it instead of trying to tie the game with a 43-yard field goal. Smithson throws a quick slant on the money to Fakahafua for a 6-yard gain and a first down. Rams start the quarter with 2nd and 9 at the Mustangs 20-yard line.

4:21 Third Quarter
Mountain Crest 17, Highland 14

Mountain Crest responds with a touchdown pass of their own. Kuresa throws a beautiful ball to Nate Rigby for a 46-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion is good. Mustangs take just 1:00 to regain the lead.

5:23 Third Quarter
Highland 14, Mountain Crest 9

Anthony Smithson just connected with Nate Fakahafua who won a jump ball, broke free from the defender, and ran into the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown. It took the Rams just 3 plays in :58 seconds to drive 94 yards. How will Kuresa and the Mustangs respond?

5:34 Third Quarter
Mountain Crest 9, Highland 7

I knew this game would be close but with quarterbacks like Kuresa and Smithson I expected more offense. Both defenses are doing a great job in this game.

6:21 Third Quarter
Mountain Crest 9, Highland 7

The Mustangs were able to move the ball to their own 38-yard line but their drive stalls. A terrific punt by Kuresa pins the Rams at their own 6-yard line.

7:36 Third Quarter
Mountain Crest 9, Highland 7

After driving into Mountain Crest territory the Rams are sacked and fumble a snap. That set up 3rd and 18 where the Mustangs defense knocked the ball free from Smithson for a loss of 7 more yards after the Rams recovered. Highland punts and the Mustangs muff the punt but the ball flies out of bounds before the Rams coverage can recover the fumble. Mustangs start on their own 3-yard line.

12:00 Third Quarter
Mountain Crest 9, Highland 7

A nice kickoff return by Sione Houma has Highland starting with good field position on their own 40- yard line.

:00 Second Quarter
Mountain Crest 9, Highland 7

Highland's drive stalls at the Mustangs 44-yard line when Smithson is sacked. After a punt, Kuresa takes a knee and both teams head to the locker room. A great first half should set the stage for an even better 2nd half. The Rams will get the ball to start the 3rd quarter.

2:44 Second Quarter
Mountain Crest 9, Highland 7

On 3rd and 8 from the 12-yard line, Kuresa fires a pass into the end zone but Hayes Hicken is there to break it up. Mustangs have to settle for a Justin Call 29-yard field goal. Mustangs take back the lead with 2:44 left in the half.

3:00 Second Quarter
Highland 7, Mountain Crest 6

Kuresa got hit very hard but somehow managed to complete a pass down the sideline to Braden Fuller for a 19-yard gain. Mustangs are in the red zone.

7:32 Second Quarter
Highland 7, Mountain Crest 6

Smithson runs the option to perfection. He makes the right read, cuts it back and runs 21 yards into the end zone. The extra point gives the Rams the lead.

8:45 Second Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

Kuresa makes a big mistake as a punter. He held onto the ball too long on a rugby style punt and Highland blocks it. After a nice run the Rams have first and ten at the Mustangs 32-yard line.

10:00 Second Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

Highland goes for it on 4th and 3 from the Mountain Crest 30-yard line. Confusion in the backfield after the snap led to an easy stop for the Mustangs. They take over on their own 37-yard line. Two plays earlier, Smithson was just inches away from connecting with Fakahafua for a long touchdown reception but Nate couldn't get his hands on the pass. That's two passes where Smithson has just missed on touchdowns.

:00 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

Highland is now driving behind the play of their stars Houma, Smithson and Fakahafua. They will have the ball on the Mountain Crest 46 when the 2nd quarter begins.

3:43 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

Highland gets a stop. With the Mustangs driving and at their own 47-yard line Kuresa has three imcompletions and the Rams get the ball at their own 13 after the punt.

4:03 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

Kuresa has a lot of time to throw. Highland can't get any pressure on him. That will have to change if they want to slow down the Mustangs offense.

4:39 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

Mountain Crest linebacker Joseph Carley sacks Highland QB Anthony Smithson forcing a 3rd and 14. On 3rd down Smithson launched a bomb to a wide open receiver who would have scored but he couldn't run underneath the catch. The imcompletion forces the Rams to punt. Mountain Crest begins their next drive on their own 34-yard line.

5:48 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland

Sione Houma has rushed for 500 yards and 5 touchdowns in the last two weeks! Just junior he is definitely a player to watch next season. He is tough to tackle and once in the open field has breakaway speed and is all but impossible to catch from behind.

8:00 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

An electrifying 80-yard touchdown run by Sione Houma of Highland is wiped out because of a holding penalty. Rams still moving the ball on this drive now at their own 33-yard line.

8:46 First Quarter
Mountain Crest 6, Highland 0

A great catch by Eddie Hall in the end zone has given Mountain Crest an early lead. Kuresa rolled left and threw a pass against his body to Hall who did a great job to haul in the pass in tight coverage. Mustangs missed the extra point but take the early lead.

9:27 First Quarter
Highland 0, Mountain Crest 0

An incredible catch to get Mountain Crest across midfield. Alex Kuresa threw the ball high but Troy Pickett went up and grabbed it and somehow held onto it after getting hit and doing a summersault onto the turf. Mountain Crest is now at the Highland 21-yard line.

12:00 First Quarter
Highland 0, Mountain Crest 0

Mountain Crest received the opening kickoff and returned it to their own 28-yard line.

12:00 First Quarter
Highland 0, Mountain Crest 0

We are about to get underway here at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the final championship game of the night. Thanks for following the blog. If you have any questions or comments about the game you can email me jjensen@ksl.com or contact me on twitter @JJSportsBeat or @kslsports.

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Jeremiah Jensen and Josh Furlong


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