HIGHLAND — Lone Peak's Luke Durfey made his way down the field, avoiding would-be tacklers while running for 70 yards. No, this wasn’t one of his bruising rushing attempts — which included a touchdown run and collision-filled run inside the 10-yard line — it was an interception return.
And when discussing Lone Peak’s 37-20 win over Skyridge in the KSL.com Game of the Week, there’s no other place to start except for the Knights' stellar defense.
Skyridge (7-1) came into Friday’s game undefeated and having scored no less than 33 points in a game this season. Led by sophomore quarterback McCae Hillstead, the Falcons bludgeoned everyone in their path. But they hadn’t faced a defense like Lone Peak's or a defensive end like John Henry Daley.
"It's funny cuz he just, he just goes and goes and goes," Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank said. "He's a great weapon, he never stops when he's in. He's pissed when he doesn't get to the quarterback every time … but he gets there often."
He definitely got there Friday night. Daley was relentless as he got into the backfield time and time again to make life miserable for Skyridge. Hillstead had hardly any time to throw, and running backs were often hit as soon as they got the ball. It got to a point where it was a surprise when Daley wasn’t making a play in the backfield.
For Skyridge, that did not make for a great combo in an attempt at a good offensive night.
"We love great matchups, we want to play good teams, we want to show how good we are as a team," Daley said.
And Lone Peak (7-1) looked pretty good — at least it did after the first Skyridge drive. Remember all those points the Falcons have put up this season? It seemed like it was going to be more of that same approach early Friday night. On the game’s opening possession, Hillstead went 3-for-3, including throws of 28 and 46 yards, and Skyridge quickly took a 7-0 lead.
The long completions came on beautiful touch throws that got just over outstretched hands — and that’s what Lone Peak focused on. The Knights had gotten torched on the drive, but for the most part, they were in the right spots and were this close to making the plays.
"Hey, we need to settle down, we prepared for this, we know our assignments. If we go out there and execute our assignments, then we’ll be able to play at a high level,” Daley said when asked what was discussed following that opening drive.
Turns out, he was right. The Falcons didn’t score for the rest of the half. After his near-perfect start, Hillstead struggled to even complete a pass against Lone Peak's defense.
"The defense this year has been really — they've led out for us," Brockbank said. "They've done a really good job. Our offense has taken a little longer to catch up."
Lone Peak made a change at quarterback Friday — bringing in Jonah Heilmuli for Luke Romney. Heimuli’s ability to buy time and make plays with his legs (Skyridge's defense is no slouch either) kickstarted the Knights.
"If you can run as a quarterback, it opens up a lot of stuff," Brockbank said.
After Heimuli came in, the Knights rattled off 13 straight points to take a 16-7 lead at halftime. Durfey had a big 28-yard touchdown run during that stretch, and kicker Ben Miller, an unsung hero of Friday’s game, hit three field goals.
But Skyridge came out of the half and did the same thing they did to open the game: cruise on right down the field. Hilstead put it right in the breadbasket of Jack Hadfield for a 19-yard beauty of a touchdown to pull the Falcon to within 2 points (16-14).
But it was deja vu for the Falcons after the second half score. One successful drive led to another half of Daley and company causing havoc. And with a pair of Jaxson Willits' touchdowns, Lone Peak was able to get some separation.
The Falcons' comeback hopes quickly sank when their young star QB went out after being sent end over end as he ran for a first down. It was a scary sight as Hillstead flipped in the air and came down on his head. After being examined, Hillstead jogged off the field but didn’t return.
Senior Kiai Keone came in to lead the offense, but it was his turn to find out how difficult it was to play against Lone Peak.
"We knew he was gonna be a little bit nervous so we sent the house, get some pressure on him and you know it worked out to our advantage," Daley said.
That included a long interception return that helped seal the win for the Knights.