It was almost as if Orem's offense was playing a cruel game with its defense in Friday afternoon's 21-14 win over Highland in the 5A semifinals at Rice Stadium.
Despite three first-half fumbles that set the table for Highland, the Tigers defense held the Rams to 97 yards in total offense in the first half and kept the Rams scoreless.So with a 14-0 lead, Orem's offense decided to torture their teammates on the other side of the ball by starting off the third quarter by fumbling on its first two possessions.
Highland finally cracked Orem's defense when Joe Katoa tumbled in for a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
"In the end I really thought our defense would be the difference," said Orem coach Paul Clark. "I told them at the half that we had a chance to win this game if we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot."
The Tigers weren't listening.
Orem then marched down the field and just when the Tigers were poised to score again, they fumbled the snap from center at the Highland 22.
Orem's defense then held and after a Highland punt, the Tigers extended their lead to 21-7 on a 17-yard touchdown run from Adam Leifson with 10:15 left in the game.
But Highland wasn't done. The Rams struck back with another Katoa 1-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the game that was set up by a flee-flicker from quarterback Kyle Langston to Christian Frech for 58-yards.
The Rams defense then took over and forced Orem to punt, giving Highland the ball on the Orem 43 with 2:09 left in the game, but the Tigers defense sealed the win when linebacker Mike Tanner picked off a Langston pass.
"I saw the tight end out of the corner of my eye and knew he liked to throw to him. I just stepped in front him and picked it off," Tanner said.
Orem's Jared Harper gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead on touchdown runs of 68 and 20 yards. He finished with 183 yards.
"We played against a great football team. You've got to give credit to Orem," said Highland coach Larry Wilson.