SALT LAKE CITY — All week long, Wasatch talked about the importance of winning the turnover game on Friday against Highland.
The Wasps didn’t just win the turnover game; they dominated it.
Wasatch (8-4) took the ball away from the Rams five times in their 5A second-round playoff matchup and cruised into the quarterfinals with a 30-13 victory.
“That was everything,” Wasatch coach Steve Coburn said. “At our meetings this week, we told the kids the No. 1 thing we needed to do was secure the ball on offense and take the ball away on defense. That was the difference in the game.
“That was the most takeaways we’ve had this season, but we’ve had multiple games with multiple turnovers.”
- Watch replay: Wasatch 30, Highland 13
The ability to take the ball away allowed the Wasps to take a 17-0 halftime lead. Robbie Shallenberger had an interception on the first play of the second quarter, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Ammon Tuttle.
Highland (8-4) then fumbled on its next possession, giving Wasatch the ball on the opposing 36 yard-line. The Wasps quickly converted the turnover into a 3-yard touchdown run by Parker Quinton, making it 10-0.
Zakary Thacker ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first half. Thacker added another touchdown with 4:11 remaining in the game, snuffing out a late Highland threat.
“That’s eight or nine games in a row where he’s run for more than 100 yards,” Coburn said. “He’s our go-to guy. We scheme for him. Everything we do on offense runs through him.”
The Rams fumbled less than a minute into the second half, which Hayden Stocking picked up and ran back 50 yards for a touchdown and a 24-0 Wasatch lead.
“Our defense did a great job tonight,” Coburn said. “Highland is a tough team, and the kids prepared hard for them all week. We had a relentless effort.”
The Rams finally got on the scoreboard with 1:02 left in the third quarter on a 12-yard touchdown run by Colton White. They recovered the subsequent onside kick and cut it to 24-13 on an 8-yard run by Ben Boren.