SALEM, Utah County — Forget the bevy of catches from Salem Hills tight end Deven Johnson, or even the two touchdowns scored by receiver Reed Johnson, Thursday’s 21-0 win for the Skyhawks over Wasatch was all about the defense.
The unit proved stingy and downright mean in limiting the Wasps’ potent offensive attack considerably, notching six sacks and seven quarterback hurries along the way.
“They played their tails off tonight. We said all week long that (defense) is what was going to win the game for us.” — Salem Hills coach Jeff Higginson
When asked which defensive players stood out in the win, Salem Hills coach Jeff Higginson named a lot of individuals, among them were defensive back Austin Hallows, defensive end Easton Cook, linebacker Zaylun Fenn, Isaiah Jones and Clay Lyman, just to name a few.
“They played their tails off tonight,” Higginson said. “We said all week long that (defense) is what was going to win the game for us. We have a great defense and we have a heck of a defensive staff. Coach (Derek) Campbell does an amazing job as defensive coordinator in preparing the players. I’m proud of them.”
Fittingly the game ended with Lyman notching yet another sack on the Wasps’ final play from scrimmage, forcing a turnover on downs with just under a minute remaining.
“To end it like that against the No. 1 team in region, that was a big deal,” Higginson said.
As good as Salem Hills was defensive throughout, Wasatch managed to match the effort throughout much of the first half, limiting Salem Hills to just 7 points on a 2-yard touchdown toss from Jarret Elmer to Hallows.
But some long drives strung together, along with the play of both Reed Johnson and Deven Johnson, began to pay dividends.
Reed Johnson’s first touchdown grab came toward the end of the third quarter when Elmer found him from 2 yards out for the score, pushing the lead to 14-0. The final touchdown came with Reed Johnson taking a short screen 19 yards to pay dirt for a commanding 21-0 lead with just 4:06 remaining.
“Reed Johnson is a playmaker and I just can’t say enough about him as a player,” Higginson said. “He’s a real special kid.”
With the win, Salem Hills is now in position to take the Region 8 championship with a win over Maple Mountain in the final game of the regular season, which would be a first for the program.
“We got a good chance at (a region championship) on Wednesday with Maple Mountain coming in. They have a good team and we’ve never won a championship here,” Higginson said. “So we talk about it and we now have a shot. I couldn’t ask for anything more and I’m just proud of our guys.”