SUGAR HOUSE — Running teams typically take their time moving down the field, preferring to snag yards in small, plodding chunks as opposed to flashy long bombs. With 10 runs of 25 yards or longer Friday night in a 47-27 win over Cyprus, the Highland Rams brought a little style to the ground game.
Running back Tevita Kinikini rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns to help push the Rams to 507 rushing yards at home. The junior felt like his offense had its mojo working in a Region 6 matchup with playoff implications.
"Everything was just working," he said after the game. "Our offensive line did a good job — a great job — getting to their blocks. We love running the ball, and everybody contributed tonight."
Highland moves to 6-2 and 4-1 in Region 6, which puts them in a logjam with Cottonwood and East at the top. Cyprus falls to 2-3 in the region and 5-3 overall.
Kinikini's fellow running back, Bryan Izeman, chipped in 119 yards and a touchdown of his own to help the Rams overcome 19 penalties and a pesky Pirates squad.
Cyprus wasn't able to make the most of its opportunities early, losing two touchdowns to penalties and twice settling for field goals in the first half. But even with Highland's running game chugging along, the Pirates were still able to make it a competitive game.
Down 27-13 at halftime, Cyprus came out swinging with a 29-yard scoring connection from Jake Jenkins to Austin Pollock to pull them within a touchdown. After forcing a Ram punt, the same duo hooked up again on a 20-yarder to knot the game at 27-27.
The Rams turned to Kinikini again, and he rewarded them with 63 yards on three carries, 50 of which came on his third touchdown of the game. The Cyprus passing game, which had carried them most of the night, failed to produce a first down the rest of the night. Highland kept marching on in the fourth, as Kinikini added his fourth score of the night and Rasheam Sykes threw in a late touchdown to seal the win.
"I thought we did a great job offensively, and we meshed pretty well up front," said Rams coach Brody Benson. "Kinikini was unbelievable. He never comes out of the ball game; he doesn't stop. He just keeps going and going and going."
Cold weather and a driving rain didn't seem to matter to the players, but the yellow flags of the referees kept both teams watching every step they made. Highland was penalized 19 times for over 120 yards, while Cyprus saw tight end Taylor Jones ejected late thanks to two personal fouls. Despite the mistakes, Benson still likes his team's chances as the season winds down.
"We still have a lot of guys out with injuries, but I have kids stepping up," he said. "We've just got good kids who are starting to believe in the system, each other and what they're capable of."
Izeman's touchdown may have been the most electric of the night, as quarterback Critter Neilson waited until the last possible moment to pitch the ball on an option sweep. The score, coming on the last play of the first half, seemed to prove that the Rams could score at will from anywhere on the field.
The running total came with just 31 contributed by fullback Liam McNally, all on the first snap of the game. McNally aggravated a lingering ankle sprain and missed the rest of the game.