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High school football: How the Herriman Mustangs turned a fourth-quarter deficit into a victory over California’s Helix Highlanders

Things couldn’t have started any worse for the Mustangs on Friday, but through solid play and staying together, they managed to forge a comeback and leave California with a much-needed win.

SALT LAKE CITY — The ending proved much better than the beginning for Herriman during its thrilling 26-19 overtime win over Helix (La Mesa, California) on Friday.

Armed with a tradition of churning out top athletes such as Reggie Bush, former Utah quarterback Alex Smith along with former BYU receiver Todd Watkins, the Highlanders took it to the Mustangs early.

In fact, the start of the game couldn’t have gone any worse for Herriman coach Dustin Pearce and his team.

“They took the opening kickoff to the house. So that was a shock for all of us, for sure,” Pearce said.

Piled on top of a 31-0 drubbing at the hands of Corner Canyon the Friday prior, the Mustangs were in sore need of some momentum in order to turn things around.

Fortunately that momentum started to build as Pearce’s team kept its head up while building some good steam leading up to a fourth quarter and overtime period that saw the Mustangs take control.

Down 19-8 entering the fourth quarter, a Jaxon James 12-yard touchdown pass to Alex Anderson cut the lead to 19-16 following a successful 2-point conversion. That score held for almost nine full minutes until Herriman lined up for a 37-yard field goal in hopes of sending the game into overtime.

“We’ve gone through some kickers and our guy, Caden Sydall, is someone who has had a sore leg, so we were thinking of just shutting him down,” Pearce said. “But he was determined in this one. He came up to one of our coaches and just told him that if we got into field goal range that he was ready to get it done for our team.”

Sydall is just a sophomore, but proved able to rise up and kick through his attempt as regulation time expired, sending the game into overtime.

The momentum Herriman captured in the fourth quarter spilled into overtime as Kepu Fifita scored from 12 yards out for a 26-19 lead, forcing the Highlanders to match it on their ensuing possession. The Mustang defense wouldn’t have any of extending the game, holding Helix short of the end zone for the win.

“The defense put the clamps on and found an extra gear, just like they did for the last part of the game and it really all came together for us at the end,” Pearce said. “I’m proud of them for bouncing back and hopefully we can continue this momentum when we return home.”

Herriman will spend one more day in San Diego where players will have an opportunity to visit the beach and then cap off the night attending Weber State’s game at San Diego State.

“We have three former players on Weber’s team, so it will be great to go to that one and support them,” Pearce said.

As for the trip outside of Friday’s thrilling comeback win, Pearce believes it’s been a very positive experience for his players and should aid the team’s performance for the rest of the season.

“It’s a great bonding experience for the players and it allows them to see us coaches as humans for a bit, and not just coaches,” Pearce said. “So the main thing is building trust and relationships — stuff we talk about all the time. We want to be a family here and this is a marathon, not a sprint, so yeah, I feel we made a big step in the right direction with how this trip went.

Herriman will return home to take on Westlake before taking on a tough stretch of its schedule with games against Bingham, American Fork and East.