HERRIMAN — The Herriman Mustangs have turned up their line play a notch and Friday night American Fork could not answer.
The Mustangs rallied behind the running of Cole Williams, Kepu Fifita and Ngana Leakehe and the timely passing of quarterback Jackson James to win 34-21 in a nonregion game that left both teams wondering what is ahead in their future.
For Herriman, it was a remarkable achievement. The Mustangs, now 4-1, were handily beaten 31-0 three weeks ago in their last home game (to Corner Canyon). But coach Dustin Pearce’s team has won three straight and now has its sights set on a home game against Bingham, a team it has never defeated.
“I’m not even going to talk about that (game),” Pearce said. “Tonight, we kept the ball out of their (the Cavemen’s) hands and executed. We made plays and it (the win) was a big achievement.”
Williams provided most of the offense in the first half and found holes in the line to gain 81 yards on 16 carries. Fifita had 63 yards on 14 attempts and Leakehe was primarily the second-half workhorse and had 58 yards on eight tries.
For American Fork, the Cavemen played the last of five straight road games while their new stadium finishes its remodel. Coach Aaron Behm’s squad has been battling injuries, primarily at linebacker and quarterback, but he couldn’t blame those problems on this game, which dropped the team’s record to 3-2.
“We may be hurt, but (other) guys are stepping up,” he said. “We just turned the ball over too much and gave them too many opportunities.”
Most of their problems reared in the second half after they took a 14-7 lead into the locker room, thanks to touchdown passes from quarterback Hayden Betts to Devin Downing and Easton Greening.
Herriman, however, took the second-half kickoff and gave the Cavemen a heavy dose of Williams, Leakehe and James. The Mustangs quickly tied the game on James’s first score, a quarterback sneak. They then held American Fork on downs and went on a 12-play drive that finished on Leakehe’s 5-yard run.
Mahkhi Hagen intercepted Betts to stop the Cavemen’s next drive, and his 33-yard return led to Herriman’s third-straight touchdown, which the Mustangs earned on a fourth-down play.
Trailing 28-14, American Fork tried to regain some momentum by inserting sophomore phenom Maddux Madsen, who had been injured.
Madsen completed 5 of 9 passes for 82 yards and gave his team some life with a touchdown throw to Taylor Crump. However, he was also intercepted twice and Herriman put the game away when, instead of running out the clock, James surprised the Cavemen defense with a deep, 36-yard throw to his favorite receiver, Alex Anderson.