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High school football: Alta survives against Highland and advances to 4A semifinals

SANDY — Friday afternoon's 4A quarterfinal between second-seeded Highland and top-seeded Alta featured a contrast in offensive styles. Alta produces an air-raid passing attack, while Highland aims for the Georgia Tech style triple-option.

In the end of this barnburner, the high-flying Hawks survived a late Rams rally to earn a 58-48 victory.

Alta will face Springville in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Highland scored a touchdown on an 18-yard pass from James Pembroke to Lilo Clark to bring the Rams within three points, 51-48, with just over two minutes left.

The Rams recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the referees negated the play because the recovery was ruled one yard short of the 10-yard limit.

A few plays later, Alta's Tu’u Afu scored from the 1-yard line to secure the victory.

In a game with not much defense, Alta head coach Alema Te’O said, “We were lucky to come away with a win tonight because you cannot duplicate that (Highland) offense in practice.”

Will Dana had one rushing and four passing touchdowns, two to Zach Engstrom, one to Landon Maxfield and one to Afu, and finished the game 21-of-29 with 317 passing yards. Dana also set a school record with his 40th passing touchdown of the season.

Josh Davis also helped Alta to the win with 144 rushing yards, including a 99-yard kick return for a score.

For Highland, Pembroke tossed one touchdown and rushed for three more in the loss. Trayton Keyes scored on a 67-yard touchdown for the Rams.

Highland threw only a handful of times since its rushing attack was fast and furious throughout the night while the Hawks' defense was constantly pressuring the Rams when they tried to pass.

“We were a little banged up and running with sophomores on the defensive front and trying to sort things out, but we had to throw them out in there in the fire,” said Te’o.

Alta led 51-34 midway through the fourth when most thought the game was over, but the Rams rushing attack again could not be stopped, and Pembroke scored one of his touchdowns to bring his team with 10 points, with six minutes left in the game.

But in the end, the overturned onside kick sealed the Rams' fate.