COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Whether crashing the edge with ferocity, nabbing a faded touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone or plucking an interception out of the warm summer air, Brighton junior linebacker Lander Barton demands attention and catches the eye.
Barton was key on both sides of the ball along with Brighton senior quarterback Gabe Curtis — the duo leading the Bengals to outduel 6A opponent Fremont in a 56-42 win Friday night.
Curtis opened the scoring with an electric rush up the middle with 10:34 left in the first quarter, gutting up the middle for a 33-yard score, which he credited to his offensive line.
“They put me in a spot to succeed,” Curtis said. “They were able to open up a gap for me, I took that gap, one thing led to another.”
On Fremont’s ensuing possession, Barton screamed past a whiffing offensive tackle for a 10-yard sack and keyed another touchdown with a 29-yard screen catch before running back Owen Powers finished the drive off with a 2-yard score.
Fremont answered with a methodical, 10-play drive from junior quarterback Cannon Koford capped with a play action fake to find junior receiver Hayden Hall for a 28-yard scoring toss.
But an ensuing 80-yard scramble and score from Curtis gave the Bengals enough cushion to keep Fremont at bay.
Brighton coach Justin Hemm said the team discussed energy, effort and attitude in an anything but typical offseason and that he was please to see that message finally come together on the field.
“For these guys to have all the ups and downs that they experienced from the spring to the summer and not knowing if we were going to have a season,” Hemm said, “to come out here and compete against a well-coached team, it was a great day.”
Curtis tossed a trio of touchdown passes through the air before halftime — including the aforementioned fade to Barton — to give Brighton a 42-14 lead heading into the break.
“I would hate to play against him,” Curtis said. “We get to use him in the red zone. He goes up there and bullies kids on defense. He’s a great guy.”
The Silverwolves kept up the energy in the second half, however, inserting junior Drake Parker under center and utilizing a mix of wildcat offense to get within two scores early in the fourth quarter.
A decisive 26-yard scoring toss — Curtis’ sixth and final touchdown of the day — slammed the door shut.
After a strong finish in 2019 and earning some stripes, expectations at Brighton have risen.
“All 11 guys do their job,” Curtis said. “We’ll make a run this year.”