LEHI — Through the first three games of the high school football season, Skyridge and Orem have shown complete dominance defensively. The Falcons posted three consecutive shutouts to start the season, while the Tigers have only allowed 10 points per game.
In the KSL.com Game of the Week, it was another mesmerizing defensive performance, especially by Skyridge (4-0), who held Orem (3-1) scoreless and handed the Tigers its first loss of the season in a 36-0 win for Skyridge.
The Falcons have outscored opponents 139-0 in four games. Skyridge head coach John Lehman credited his team's defensive effort and how they've focused this season for much of that success.
"The way you get zeros is just by being focused and playing hard every play, and just one play at a time," Lehman said. "I wouldn't have been able to put that score (139-0) together; but I'm glad, that's a good one."
On Orem's opening drive of the game, the Tigers were forced to punt on a Skyridge defensive stand. Skyridge received the ball on Orem's 40-yard line, but in three quick plays of gaining only 3 rushing yards, the Falcons were forced to settle for a 54-yard field goal made by Joseph Brandt — the longest made field goal in Skyridge school history.
Brandt's long field goal, though, was the only offensive points scored in the first half for both teams.
At the end of the first quarter, Skyridge quarterback McCae Hillstead threw a pass that was intercepted by Shaun Niu, but the Tigers couldn't punish the Falcons with the turnover. Just three plays later, Orem quarterback Chase Tuatagaloa was picked off for the first time this season by Jace Doman, who returned the ball 56 yards for a pick-six touchdown with only 46 seconds left in the quarter.
"It was huge — just a great play that he made and obviously a great finish to score," Lehman said. "It definitely gave us a little bit of cushion while we tried to kind of figure things out."
After a second quarter where no points were scored, Skyridge came out of the halftime break with a new mindset and a locked-in mentality to take care of business — even if they got a little help from Orem at times.
On the Falcons' first drive of the half, Skyridge was forced to punt; but because of an illegal substitution penalty on Orem, Skyridge earned a new set of downs. That was the door Skyridge needed to take control of the game.
On the next play, Hillstead kept the ball and run for a 66-yard touchdown — and the race was on with a renewed sense of energy from the Falcons. Hillstead shook off two picks in the first half and led the offensive charge for his team and finished with 105 rushing yards in the third quarter alone.
"We had an opportunity and we had a chance," Hillstead said. "With me, myself, when adversity strikes, what are you gonna do with it? You take it and run."
Hillstead's touchdown was the beginning of a perfect offensive quarter for the Falcons, who scored on their next three drives. Jeter Fenton ran for an 8-yard touchdown and a total of 71 yards in the second half; Smith Snowden added a 39-yard rushing touchdown; and Hillstead found Josh Davis to start the fourth quarter for a 5-yard pass in the end zone.
The rest was history: another shutout win.
This time it was against the four-time defending 5A state champions. That opportunity, alone, brought a different level of focus during the week leading up to the game.
"There was a sense of urgency. We have a lot of respect for Orem: what they do offensively, defensively, special teams, they're coached well, they're very talented, always really big up front — O-line and D-line," Lehman said. "There was a good focus in the process for us."
The Falcons are versatile on both sides of the ball and the previous three games showed how good they could be, but the Week 4 win against the 5A favorites might have done more to showcase their talent than anything else; and Lehman believes his team is just "scratching the surface" of its potential.