Highland football positioning itself for playoff seeding
Sep 22, 2020 15h17
By Josh McFadden
Highland’s Ben Boren falls into the end zone during a game last year. (File photo City Journals)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
While taking COVID-19 precautions and playing in front of scaled-down crowds at home and away, the Highland football team has seen just about everything this fall.
The Rams lost some key members of last season’s team that went 8-4 and lost in the second round of the Class 5A state tournament. The team has had its share of successes and challenges in what has been a unique season of high school football.
Highland went 2-3 in its first five games. As of Sept. 16, the Rams were 11th out of 23 5A squads in the Ratings Percentage Index. This ranking is based on the team’s record, opponents’ records and the records of those opponents’ opponents. Higher-ranked teams receive first-round byes and home games before the semifinals.
The Rams have seen both sides of lopsided games and had a close heartbreaker as well.
Highland fell to Salem Hills on Sept. 11, 43-10, but the team also blew past Hillcrest in the Region 6 opener on Sept. 4, 49-14. There was also a season-opening 7-6 loss to Bountiful on Aug. 14 in a defensive struggle, a 21-13 setback to Pine View on Aug. 21 and a 31-14 rout over Granger on Aug. 28.
In all of the games, Highland has tried to do what it does best: run the ball. The Rams’ offense is built around a multifaceted ground approach where several players take turns handling the ball. In the win over Hillcrest, the Rams employed 11 different ball carriers to the tune of 305 yards and seven touchdowns. Patrick Brennan led the way with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Highland threw just one pass during the 35-point victory.
Against Granger, Brennan was more active as a thrower at the quarterback position. He threw seven passes on the evening, completing a pair for 32 yards. He also carried the ball 145 times for 38 yards. The Rams tallied 170 yards rushing in the game, but the defensive and special teams played huge roles too. Highland got a score off a 37-yard punt return from Maea Giles and off an 83-yard interception return from Ashton Olevao late in the game.
Through the team’s first five games, it had two 200-yard rushers. Brennan led the way at this point with 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Justin Raihauti had 214 and two scores as well. Peizge Mailei was the team’s leader in touchdown during this span with three.
The Rams will conclude the regular season with a visit from Brighton on Oct. 15. Every 5A team will qualify for the playoffs, but more victories will get Highland closer to a possible first-round bye or a home game in the early rounds.