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High school football: Brighton heading into playoffs with plenty of momentum after win over Highland

Brighton quarterback Gabe Curtis (1) runs past Highland’s Patrick Brennan (4) at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Box score

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The Brighton Bengals closed out the regular season with their fifth consecutive victory, using their athleticism to blow past the visiting Highland Rams 31-14 on Wednesday night. Brighton (8-2) scored three long touchdowns, including a pair that came from deep on their side of the field.

“We’ve got a lot of athletic guys on both offense and defense,” Brighton coach Justin Hemm said. “We try to get the ball to our playmakers and let them do what they’re capable of doing.”

One of those playmakers for Brighton was senior Matthew Cirillo, and the Bengals got him the ball immediately. After taking the opening kick, Cirillo caught a 30-yard pass off Brighton’s first offensive play.

On their second, he hauled in a 46-yard touchdown pass from Gabe Curtis, giving the Bengals a 7-0 lead just 23 seconds into the game.

Curtis threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for 128 and another touchdown.

“We put a lot of his shoulders,” Hemm said. “He throws the ball well and he runs the ball well. He’s led us all year. From Game 1 to here, he keeps getting better and more acclimated to our system.”

Highland (7-3), which entered the game on a three-game winning streak, tied the score at 7-7 midway through the first quarter when Maealiuaki Giles had an interception and Ashton Olevao followed with a 47-yard touchdown run.

The teams traded a series of mostly short possessions until Brighton went back up ahead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Sione Haungatau late in the second quarter, allowing the Bengals to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.

They began the first half with a 38-yard field goal by Owen Smith. Highland drove all the way to the Brighton 11 before being stopped on downs, and Brighton quickly pushed the lead to 24-7 when Collin Edwards caught a short pass and sprinted 79 yards for a touchdown.

“That was huge for our whole team,” Hemm said. “For our offense to respond in the fashion it did was a big momentum swing.”

Brighton made it 31-7 early in the fourth quarter on a 75-yard run by Curtis. The Rams got a late score when Ben Boren had an interception and followed it a few plays later with a 5-yard touchdown run.