Visiting Highland held off previously-undefeated Desert Mountain, 34-32, even after a high-scoring and wild fourth quarter.
The turning point of the game came with two minutes left in the final quarter as Highland, leading 28-25, forced a fumble on quarterback Kyle Allen and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.
Desert Mountain’s coaching staff were calling for the play to be ruled an incompletion since they felt Allen’s arm was moving forward, but coach Tony Tabor agreed with the referees call.
“I think it was a good call,” Tabor said. “I’d like to say it wasn’t, but it was. It’s our protection breaking down. We let a guy get around the edge on us.”
The Wolves (6-1) were the last undefeated team in Division I, but still weren’t quite done. They marched down the field in under a minute on the ensuing drive to trim the lead to just two points. Desert Mountain’s onside kick attempt didn’t go the required 10 yards, however, and Highland (Div. I, 5-2) ran out the clock to end the game.
The Hawks struck quickly on its two first-quarter scores with junior running back Ryan McCord was the team’s most prolific weapon. McCord, who had been sidelined a couple weeks with an injured shoulder, rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns, though McCord left the game late in the fourth after aggravating his shoulder injury.
“He’s a talented kid and we’ve missed him,” Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said. “He hits the hole hard, but that offensive line tonight did a good job.”
Highland’s defense also stiffened in the third quarter, and slowed down the combination of Allen and wide receiver Mark Andrews, who still hooked up 14 times for 199 yards and a touchdown.
In total, Allen was 28 for 35 for 375 yards. Running back Adam Cooper ran for three touchdowns and 47 yards.
Highland's M.O. is running the ball and defense, and it was a struggle to slow down Desert Mountain’s offense.
“([Allen and Andrews) are both special kids,” he said. “They’re very very good. Our team had to play as a group (to stop them).”
Despite the explosive performances by his two stars, Wolves coach Tony Tabor cited a failed fourth down attempt at Highland’s 1-yard line before the half as the point when the game began to slip away from Desert Mountain.
“When we didn’t score before the half to make it a double-digit lead, that scared me,” said the Wolves’ coach. “You have a chance put a little dirt on somebody when they’re down and we let them pop up.”
Tabor also said his team’s two turnovers were costly, especially considering Highland’s clean play overall. The Hawks had no turnovers in the game and were only flagged for one 10-yard penalty.
Highland 34, Desert Mountain 32
H 14 0 7 13 -- 34
DM 14 3 0 15 -- 32
First Downs – 14
Rushing-Yards – 39-197
Comp.-Att-Yards – 6-10-57
Fumbles-Lost – 0-0
Penalties/Yards – 1-10
First Downs – 20
Rushing-Yards – 28-66
Comp.-Att.-Yards-INT – 28-35-375
Fumbles-Lost – 2-2
Penalties-Yards – 4-30
H - Ryan McCord 3 run (Noah Miller kick)
DM - Adam Cooper 12 run (Austin Taylor kick)
DM - Mark Andrews 40 pass from Allen (Austin Taylor kick)
H - McCord 35 run (Noah Miller kick)
DM - Austin Taylor 33 FG
H - Ryan McCord 15 run (Noah Miller kick)
H - Colin Gardner 5 pass from Young (Noah Miller kick)
DM - Adam Cooper 1 run (Allen run)
H - 36 fumble return (kick failed)
DM - Adam Cooper 1 run (Austin Taylor kick)