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High school football: Stout defense propels Olympus past Alta in 5A first round

HOLLADAY — A relatively meaningless kickoff return by Alta midway through the fourth quarter was the only blip on what was a near-perfect day for Olympus’s defense in the opening round of the 5A state tournament on Friday.

The Titans defense kept Alta out of the end zone the entire afternoon and intercepted four passes en route to the 27-6 first round victory to improve to 11-0 on the season.

It was the first playoff win since 2013 for Olympus, which has rarely been mentioned as a 5A contender this season. That’s always suited coach Aaron Whitehead just fine, even though he knows Friday’s performance will turn a few heads.

“We love flying under the radar, we know where we are, we feel good about it. We’ve just played week-by-week and not focusing on the peripheral. The kids know in their heart who we are,” said Whitehead.

Right now, they’re a quarterfinal football team that will host Springville next week with a trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium on the line.

The offense will need to play better than it did against Alta to advance, particularly in the first half.

The Titans punted three times in the half and also missed a field goal as they only led 7-0 at the break.

That lone touchdown came with 4:08 remaining in the first half on a 15-yard pass from Jackson Frank to Noah Bennee in the corner of the end zone.

Olympus’s offense was given short fields on Alta’s next possessions thanks to interceptions from Ryan Thomas and Scotty Edwards, but the offense didn’t go anywhere after six incompletions.

Those six incompletions changed the entire complexion of the game moving forward. Prior to those stalled drives, the offense had been moving the ball well through the air, which isn’t really its strength.

With the slim halftime lead, Oly’s coaches committed to getting back to the basics of its Wing-T offense in the second half.

“We abandoned the run a bit in the first half 'cause we had success passing, but in the second half the coaches came together and said we’ve got to get back to the run,” said Whitehead. “I felt like we wore them down a bit in the second half.”

It started with the defense again in the second half.

Alta’s promising opening drive of the third quarter ended with a Bennee interception at the 15-yard line, and, after a nice Bennee return, Olympus scored three plays later on an Edwards nine-yard run for the 14-0 lead at the 7:13 mark.

Early in the fourth quarter with Alta’s offense on the move again, Bennee intercepted a pass in the end zone. The offense responded to that defensive stop by marching down the field and extending the lead to 17-0 on a 45-yard field goal from Alec Foulger with 6:36 left in the game.

“It’s so nice when you’re calling an offense and you mess up like we did tonight, you can rely on your defense like we’ve done all year long,” said Whitehead.

Alta answered right back with a 98-yard kick return by Keller Elison, but Olympus had its own rebuttal with a quick scoring drive that Bennee capped on an 11-yard TD pass from Frank to put the game out of reach up 24-6.