It’s probably not often a coach would be excited about his defense outscoring his offense in a playoff game. However, if that defense is scoring three touchdowns on its own, that’s something any coach would be ecstatic about.
Layton forced seven turnovers, including three interceptions it returned for touchdowns in the second as the No. 16 seed Lancers pulled away from No. 17 seed Herriman for the 36-14 victory in the 6A first round on Friday night.
Jaxson Henderson, Elias Parkinson and Teague Farr all scored their defensive touchdowns after halftime as Layton busted out in the second half after leading only 8-7 at the half.
“Our offense needs to do a little bit better, but our defense stepped up for us. We put it on the defense right from the beginning saying they’re going to win the game for us tonight and they really did step up,” said Layton coach Fotu Katoa.
With the win, Layton now turns its attention to No. 1 Corner Canyon in the 6A second round next week, a game Katoa said the program is excited about.
“It is an honor to play them. That’s the No. 1 team, that’s the team that’s been nationally ranked, just to be on the same field with them, we’re honored to play them,” said Katoa.
Layton’s offense will need to finish off drives much better than it did against Herriman. It drove the ball into the red zone on four different occasions in the first half, but only came away with points once. Twice it missed field goals, with negative plays backing the field goals attempts to 47 and 39 yards, and then another drive stalled on fourth and short after a Herriman turnover.
It looked like all those miscues might prove costly as Herriman’s offense marched quickly to open the third quarter as it was poised to take its first lead of the game. Its offense found a rhythm late in the first half, and just three plays into the third quarter the Mustangs moved the ball to Layton’s 20-yard line.
The momentum ended quickly as Layton’s pass rush forced Herriman quarterback Freddy Ta’ai into a quick throw, with Jaxson Henderson stepping in front of the receiver and returning the interception 80 yards for the 15-7 lead.
Herriman turned the ball over again on its next possession and then punted the possessions after, but each time the Mustangs defense got a stop to keep it a one-score game and give the visitors hope.
Herriman’s fourth turnover of the game proved too much to overcome. Late in the third quarter Layton recovered an incomplete lateral pass by Herriman, and it took advantage of the short field, scoring a few minutes later as the second TD pass of the game from Tyler Wensel to Elias Parkinson pushed the lead to 22-7.
Down two scores, Herriman hand no choice but to step out of its offensive comfort zone and that led to three more interceptions, including Parkinson’s 92-yard pick-six and than a 25-yard pick-six by Farr.
“Elias Parkinson is definitely a next level player, that kid has so much talent. He can do anything for us, we can go to him for anything, defense and offense,” said Katoa.
Prior to Friday, the Lancers had scored two defensive touchdowns all year, but it had a field day in the playoff opener to march into the next round.