Among the thousands of fans at Friday night's "Rumble in the Rockies" between inter-state prep pigskin powers Skyline and Kahuku, Hawaii, were hundreds of football players, sporting logos from various high schools around the state.
And they were sent a message — that rang as loud and clear as the thunder in the skies above — as they watched Skyline beat the physically punishing Red Raiders, 24-21, with an incredible comeback.
"I think it says: Look out!" said Skyline defensive coordinator Larry Eldracher after his squad's emotional win. "We're here and we're not going away."
Skyline, which ran its winning streak up to 22 (seventh-best in Utah history), certainly wasn't perfect. Eldracher said that the Eagles' plentiful mistakes prevented head coach Roger DuPaix from classifying this victory as one of the school's top 10 ever. (Can we have a "Bah humbug," please?)
But the important thing is, thanks to new quarterback Steve Tate's 1-yard TD plunge with 18 seconds left, Skyline survived the physical game. And that was no easy task against the huge Kahuku team that had a pair of punishing 250-pound-or-so running backs and beefy linemen who averaged about 280 pounds.
"If we don't have to send all our kids to the emergency ward, we'll be all right," Eldracher smirked. "They had some tremendous players."
As does Skyline.
But will the Eagles have a hard type coming off their Cloud Nine after winning this challenging game? Don't count on it. They'll be fighting to keep their claim on a certain colored piece of earth on Thursday night.
"Now we get Olympus and the Battle of the Rock," Tate said. "Every game is like a championship game for us."
SMASHING DEBUTS: A half-dozen coaches picked up victories in their first games with their new teams on the opening night of Utah's 108th high school football season.
Sonny Sudbury, the longtime coach at Bingham, had a happy homecoming to his alma mater, Cyprus, as the Pirates pelted Kearns, 56-12. Another former head coach, John Colosimo, won in the first game with his new school. The former Judge Memorial coach watched his Juan Diego Soaring Eagle eke out a 24-20 victory on a 92-yard kickoff return by Brad Schwam with 15 seconds to go.
Bruce Takeno won in his debut at Hillcrest after taking over for Lee Leslie, now a graduate assistant coach at the University of Utah. The Huskies edged Copper Hills and new coach Mike Smith, 17-13, thanks to a 90-yard kickoff return by Tom Schultz.
Aaron Tillett picked up an emotional win in his first game on the sidelines at Ben Lomond. The Scots nipped his former team, South Summit, 6-0 in a defensive struggle. Union's Merlin Rasmussen (28-8 over Duchesne) and Manti's Will Biesinger (13-0 vs. Richfield) also won for the first time as head coaches.
NEXT WEEK: Forty-one of the state's 90 football programs participated in endowment games, but everyone will be in action this upcoming weekend. Five games take place Thursday — highlighted by Olympus-Skyline and Alta-Northridge — and the bulk of the teams take to the field Friday night.
STREAKERS: Only five teams in the state have winning streaks of more than one game now. After Skyline (22) comes defending 2A champion Manti, which won its 14th straight Friday. Snow Canyon has 10 wins in a row, Weber five and Ben Lomond two.
Richfield continued to its frustrating losing streak, dropping its 14th game in a row to Manti. Tooele's fallen 11 consecutive times, and three teams have 10 straight losses — Spanish Fork, Viewmont and second-year Riverton.