LEHI — Lone Peak linebacker Keegan Nitta endured quite a bit of teasing from his coaches and teammates leading up to Friday’s second-round matchup versus Skyridge, although the senior linebacker made certain to respond to all of it early and often. In so doing, Nitta paved the way for big 30-6 win in which the Lone Peak defense dominated throughout.
During last week’s opening round win over Riverton, Nitta found himself in prime position to block a punt but ran right past the punter, according to Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank. Against Skyridge, however, a week later, he didn’t miss, blocking the game’s first punt out of the back of the end zone to give his team an early 2-0 lead, but perhaps more importantly, set the tone for his entire team.
“We’re best when our defense leads out,” Brockbank said. “They led out tonight and they stayed strong the entire time. That’s just who we are this year.”
- Watch replay: Lone Peak 30, Skyridge 6
As alluded to by Brockbank, Lone Peak’s defense did prove dominant throughout, particularly Nitta, who also forced a fumble and a key interception in the second half to help secure the win. Teaming with fellow middle linebacker Jared Fotu, Nitta wreaked all sorts of havoc, leading to multiple sacks and more than a fair share of forced turnovers and punts.
“The thing about Keegan and Fotu is they’re just the guys who glue that defense together,” Brockbank said. “They get us in the right spots and they just make plays together.”
As for the course of the game, it was Lone Peak leading throughout, with Nate Ritchie helping considerably with the Knight’s first touchdown after providing yet another long punt return. Several plays later saw Lone Peak quarterback Luke Romney hit receiver Shawn Wood with an 11-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 9-0 with 7:16 left in the first quarter.
The second touchdown of the half came late and was set up by Nitta picking off a pass and returning it 75 yards, clear to Skyridge’s 10-yard line. The Knight offense immediately capitalized on the prime scoring opportunity with Chase Comer running it in from 10 yards out to put Lone Peak up 16-0 right before the half.
Helping provide the interception was Lone Peak defensive lineman Conner Finlayson, who deflected the attempted pass, making Nitta’s job a bit easy.
As for the second half, Skyridge rarely challenged, scoring its lone touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter when the game was relatively out of reach.
Friday’s dominating performance over the Falcons proved a far cry from the 22-21 loss the Knights took to the Falcons back on Oct. 3. According to Brockbank, the turnaround is all about attitude and the subsequent approach his players take heading into games.
“I think last time we came into our game it was not wanting to lose, as opposed to coming in to win,” he said. “Tonight we came in and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to play to win and play loose.’”
With the win, Lone Peak advances to the quarterfinal round where it will take on Kearns next Friday.