Kanyon Lee rose high in the late summer air and secured a Garrison Higgins heave just before halftime, crashing down to the 1-yard line and galvanizing a formerly anemic Westlake offense with one flash of effort.
Lee went on to score two touchdowns and was a dual-threat terror Friday as Westlake scored 27 unanswered points to top Alta, 27-13.
“We started off kind of slow but we had to march down the field and go score,” Lee said. “I thought, you know, put my body out there and catch the ball for the team.”
Westlake struggled early on to string together any offensive momentum with several sputtering drives and two long missed field goals.
Alta kicker Carter Bell boomed a 51-yard field goal of his own with 9 seconds left in the first quarter to open the scoring and give Alta a 3-0 lead.
After Westlake quarterback Derek Anderson threw an interception, Bell added a 35-yard field goal to give Alta a 6-0 advantage with 8:38 left in the second quarter.
The Hawks went to work again on an up-tempo drive from quarterback Ethan Jackson, who lofted a pretty ball to split two defenders and find Jace Turner in the middle of the end zone to score the game’s first touchdown and give Alta a comfortable 13-0 lead with 1:31 left in the second quarter.
Higgins replaced Anderson and answered the call with a gunslinger’s mentality, leading Westlake on a seven-play scoring drive in the first half’s final minute. He found tight end Zach Allen in a sea of Alta hands for a 19-yard gain to couple with Lee’s tough 34-yard catch before running back Drake Youngberg punched in the 1-yard score with 8 seconds until halftime to make it 13-7.
“I just throw it up there accurately and get them the ball,” said Higgins, who moved from Hawaii to Utah this year.
With newfound momentum, Westlake transformed into an explosive offense coming out of halftime. Allen made another huge play, gaining 55 yards on a spectacular catch and run to set up an 11-yard rushing score for Lee, and the Thunder took their first lead of the game, 14-13, with 10:18 left in the third quarter.
The Thunder’s defense consistently pressured Jackson but found another gear in the second half, slowing Alta’s offense down to a crawl.
After a blocked punt, Higgins courageously converted two fourth down attempts to open the door for Lee to slash his way into the end zone on a 6-yard rush for a 20-13 lead with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
“He’s definitely bringing some confidence to this team,” Lee said.
Lee and Higgins combined for another potent 11-play drive to set up a decoy Lee dive that opened up Anderson to scamper for a wide open 1-yard rushing touchdown to give the Thunder a commanding 27-13 lead with 7:15 left in the game.
“We worked hard at practice last week. Coaches prepared us mentally and physically,” Lee said. “That’s what made it happen tonight.”
It didn’t hurt to have Lee working with him in the backfield either, Higgins said.
“That guy is a stud. He’s a hard hitter, he’s a freakin’ power back. He’s really good,” Higgins said. “Love that guy.”