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High school football: Salem Hills overcomes Ben Lomond, 38-31

SALEM HILLS — Salem Hills was picked to beat Ben Lomond by 24, but someone forgot to tell that to Ben Lomond.

Though that looked to be an accurate prediction in the first half with Salem ahead at the break 23-6, the second half saw the tables turn dramatically when Ben Lomond went on a tear and put up 18 unanswered points to take the lead in the fourth quarter.

However, an impressive last-minute drive by the Skyhawks ended in a score that sealed the deal for Salem Hills, 38-31.

With 1:35 left in the game, the Skyhawks found themselves down 31-30 in a game they had dominated the first half. The Scots had just retaken the lead, leaving the Skyhawks just over a minute to put together a winning drive after being held scoreless most of the second half — their only previous score coming on a 34-yard run by senior running back Garrett LLoyd, who found a hole and rumbled downfield to give the lead back to the Skyhawks, 30-24, with five minutes remaining.

Starting on its own 20-yard line and with time running out, Salem Hills quarterback James Nelson moved the ball downfield quickly with several short, surgical strikes that landed them on the Scots 25 with 44 seconds left.

As the Skyhawks lined up for the snap, senior tight end Jacob Rolfe saw on opening down the middle and called an audible for Nelson to find him in the seam. Nelson took the snap, found that seam and hit Rolfe with a 25-yard strike right down the middle to give the Skyhawks the lead, 36-31. Nelson then found senior wide receiver Cole Griffin deep in the corner for the two-point conversion, making it 38-31, the final score.

Though most of the second half belonged to Ben Lomond, who outscored the Skyhawks 25-15 by gaining huge chunks of yardage on long runs up the middle, the first two quarters were dominated by the Skyhawks offense. It started with an Alex Baker field goal early in the first, then 30 seconds into the second quarter, Nelson hit senior wide receiver Jacob Wood with a 7-yard bullet. Two minutes later he found Griffin on a 10-yard toss, pushing the lead to 16-0 in what looked to be a rout. The lead was extended again when senior running back Brook Vaitohi rumbled over the end zone line from 6 yards out with a minute to go in the half.

It became apparent quickly that despite first-year Salem Hills head coach Harry Shwenke telling his team at halftime that the game was not over yet, Ben Lomond came out with more intensity in the second half. The tenacious Scots surged back into the game by scoring three touchdowns in a row before the Skyhawks could answer back with Lloyd's TD run late in the fourth.

"I give Ben Lomond a lot of credit," Shwenke said. "What a roller-coaster ride that was. They came to play and never gave up. We did some things right but we also shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and other things that we are going to have to clean up to get where we want to be."

Nelson finished the night with over 200 yards passing on 19 of 27 attempts and three touchdowns. The Skyhawks face Desert Hills next week.