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High school football: Springville punishes Skyline’s unconventional approach to easily improve to 2-0

Springville’s Seth Rigtrup rushed for three first half touchdowns to spearhead the win

Springville High School beat Skyline in a high school football game in Salt Lake City.
Springville and Skyline compete in a high school football game at Skyline High in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Box Score

The skies opened up over Skyline High School on Thursday night in an uncharacteristically wet and chilly night of August high school football.

It didn’t faze visiting Springville one bit.

Even though the game-time temperature was 40 degrees colder than last week’s season opener — not to mention that there was a steady downpour throughout the second and third quarters — Springville and its run-first brand of football thrived, rolling to a 36-8 victory to spoil Skyline’s first game in its new stadium.

Springville did most of its damage in the second quarter, scoring 29 points with star running back Seth Rigtrup accounting for three of those touchdowns during a three-minute stretch.

“Tonight was fun. I’ve never really played in rain kind of like that, but it was fun. The team came together, and it was nice,” said Rigtrup, who finished with 63 yards rushing to go along with his three touchdowns. “We do the same thing we always do, played Red Devil football. Rain, whatever it is, we always play the same.”

Rigtrup didn’t play for most of the second half after Springville pushed the lead to 36-0 early in the third quarter to start the mercy-rule running clock.

“He’s a special player. He works hard, he’s humble, he’s a great teammate. He probably wishes the last two games we’d played him all four quarters, but he’s happy for his teammates,” said Springville coach Willy Child about his returning all-state running back.

Rigtrup scored his first touchdown at the 11:54 mark of the second quarter, and then after Springville recovered an onside kick, he added another at 9:45 for the 14-0 lead.

That’s when Skyline’s unconventional philosophy allowed Springville to add to the lead.

New Skyline coach John Rowbotham follows the philosophy made famous by a former high school coach in Arkansas, John Kelley. During his years coaching Pulaski Academy, Kelley’s philosophy was to never punt, always go for two and almost always try onside kicks.

So sure enough, with Skyline facing a fourth and 25 from its own 5 yard line in a downpour, it didn’t punt, and not surprisingly, threw an incompletion. Rigtrup scored one play later for the 21-0 lead.

The scenario repeated itself two more times over the next five minutes, with Skyline electing not to punt despite facing a fourth and long from inside its own 10 yard line.

Springville failed to capitalize on the dream starting field position either of those possessions, but keeping Skyline pinned in ultimately paid off defensively. With 1:29 remaining in the half, Cole Clements returned an interception 10 yards for a touchdown on a 3rd and 18, pushing the lead to 29-0 by halftime.

Tisi Valeti extended the lead to 36-0 on a 3-yard TD run to open the third quarter, a cushion that allowed Springville to rotate in some backups to close out the win.

Skyline avoided the shutout by tacking on a late touchdown and converting the two-point conversion a week after going 0 for 5 on them.

Rowbotham’s approach hasn’t produced a win yet, but by going for it on fourth down three different times with his team pinned deep in its own territory, he proved he’s sticking with the philosophy, and it will be interesting to see if it pays off as the season wears on.

Thursday’s game wasn’t the first time a team has tried the unconventional no-punt approach in Utah. Back in 2016, East High School hosted Pulaski Academy and prevailed 37-23.

East coach Brandon Matich said he was exhausted in preparing for all the different wrinkles that the Pulaski brought to the table. It’s something Skyline hopes to eventually establish.

As for Springville, it will stick to its blue-collar approach of running the football and playing great defense as it heads into a Week 3 undefeated.