SALEM — If Salem Hills’ offense ran through wide receiver Reed Johnson on Thursday night, the Skyhawks’ victory against Wasatch was ignited by the home team’s defense.
Jarret Elmer threw for 144 yards and three touchdowns — two of them to Johnson — as Salem Hills shut out Wasatch 21-0 in the KSL.com Game of the Week, a crucial Region 8 football game Thursday night.
Johnson caught six passes for 60 yards and two scores for the Skyhawks (7-1, 3-1 Region 8 ), who have bounced back from their lone loss of the season with back-to-back wins that set up a chance at the region title next Wednesday against Maple Mountain.
“Reed Johnson is a playmaker, and you saw two fakes that he took; he just makes plays,” Salem Hills coach Jeff Higginson said. “I can’t say enough about him as a player, and how he plays this game. He’s a real special kid.”
That playmaker knew he just had to be ready when Elmer and the offensive coaching staff called his name.
“Wasatch is a really good team; they really are,” Johnson said.
“They have a lot of weapons, and we do, too. But I knew if I ran my route as hard as I could every time, then when I do get the ball, I’ll make the most out of it.”
Austin Hallows’ 15-yard grab at the goal line set up his own 1-yard touchdown from Elmer that gave the Skyhawks a 7-0 lead after their first drive.
That was the only scoring of a defensive first half, which saw Salem Hills hold the Wasps to 47 total yards and an interception.
“Our defense is insane. Without our line, getting after their quarterback, they rushed him and he didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Johnson, who multitasks at free safety. “Our secondary just wanted to man-up them the whole game, one-on-one, and just see what we could do — our playmakers on their playmakers.”
Kobe Carter added an interception for Salem Hills.
The Skyhawks held Wasatch to 106 total yards, and Elmer added touchdown passes for 1- and 18-yards, respectively, to Johnson to seal the win.
“We said all week long that is what would win this game for us,” Higginson said. “And we knew we had a great defense; we’ve got a heck of a defensive staff.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of that defensive staff and our players. They made great plays.”
The final score, a post route run against cover-one, man-press, saw Johnson seal the victory with an open grab in the front of the end zone with 4:06 remaining on the game clock.
“My quarterback threw a really good ball, and I was open,” Johnson said. “I go some really good blocks, too.”
And Salem Hills sealed it with back-to-back sacks by Clay Lyman to pace a dominant defensive effort that included four sacks.
“We’ve got a shot at a region championship Wednesday night, here, getting a good team at home,” Higginson said. “We’ve never won a championship here, and we talk about it all the time. We want that shot, and I am so proud of the guys.”
La’a Kalama pulled down an interception for Wasatch, which finishes the season next Thursday at Springville.
4:49 — SH: Austin Hallows, 1-yard pass from Jarret Elmer (Butler kick)
3:06 — SH: Reed Johnson, 1-yard pass from Elmer (Butler kick)
4:06 — SH: Johnson, 19-yard pass from Elmer (Butler kick)
Final: Salem Hills 21, Wasatch 0