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Senior night at Highland High School came down to the final seconds of the game as the Rams (6-4) defeated non-region opponent Box Elder (6-4) 9-7 with a successful field goal by junior Mike Kerr.
The game, which might be one of the fastest played in Highland’s season, showcased two playoff-bound run-style teams who were able to move the ball up and down the field but struggled to cross the goal line. It wasn’t until almost the end of the second quarter when, on a short 2-yard keeper by Box Elder quarterback Shad Watson, the game’s tie-break finally came to an end.
Box Elder head coach Robbie Gunter was proud of his team’s efforts, even though they didn’t pay off in the end.
"We’ve had a good season and it’s not over," Gunter said. "Highland is a quality team who was just able to pull it out at the last part. … I’m very proud of my kids and we still have football to play, so we have to keep looking forward."
Highland was finally able to put points on the board at the end of the third quarter with a 2-yard carry by Pisinga Vaenuku, but a blocked point-after attempt left them unable to take the game into overtime if necessary. The fourth quarter progressed without much excitement until those last few seconds when Kerr’s field goal sealed the night.
Both coaches agreed that the game, even though it was non-regional and didn’t affect their playoff eligibility, was well worth the effort, as both teams are experienced post-season veterans. In 2011 Box Elder advanced through to the first round and then lost to Olympus, while Highland made it through to the quarterfinals, losing to eventual 4A state champion Logan.
Highland head coach Brody Benson said he was glad the seniors could go out on a sweet victory but that they can’t be happy yet. They face a play-in game on Tuesday against an undetermined opponent just for the chance to face the post-season again.
“Box Elder is a good program, a playoff school, and there’s a good chance we could see them again down the road should we make it; we’ve got to remain hungry and clean up any mistakes in order for us to achieve our goals,” Benson said.
Playoff rounds for 3A, 4A and 5A football all begin at region sites on Oct. 26 and 27 and will be covered by the Deseret News and on DeseretNews.com.
Chriss Anderson is a current writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle and can be followed on Twitter: @Chriss_Am_I