Season previews celebrated the assumed top four teams in the state’s toughest region, with defending 6A champion Corner Canyon receiving a lot of hype, along with American Fork, Lone Peak and Pleasant Grove.
But through three games played this season, Skyridge isn’t taking a backseat to anyone.
Take Friday night’s 35-14 win over 5A defending champion Orem as just the latest example. All facets of the game were on point for the Falcons throughout, leading to a commanding 21-0 lead after just one quarter of play.
“It’s just a balanced approach,” said Skyridge coach Jon Lehman of his team’s stellar performance. “You just play good offense and good defense, and then just let the chips fall where they may.”
Leading the offensive charge was Skyridge sophomore quarterback McCae Hillstead, who looked like a savvy veteran throughout.
Hillstead helped set the tone early, dissecting Orem’s defense and accounting for two first quarter scores, on a 1-yard run and a 57-yard pass to Mitch Adamson.
“He’s a sophomore, so a lot of people don’t see that coming,” Lehman said of Hillstead’s standout play on Friday, and throughout the early season. “He has a lot of good tools and a really good mindset.”
Skyridge running back Jeter Fenton accounted for the other first quarter score on a 2-yard run.
“He can do a lot of things for us,” Lehman said of Fenton. “He’s a threat out of the backfield and he’s really a tough-minded kid who does the job all the time.”
Topping off the first half scoring was again Hillstead, hitting a streaking Jack Hadfield for a 72-yard bomb, putting the Tigers up against it considerably at the break, down 28-0.
Orem fared better in the second half, ultimately outscoring the Falcons 14-7 for the game’s final 24 minutes, but it proved far too little too late.
Lehman also gave his defense its just due, holding Orem’s potent attack in check, with particular praise on a secondary that patted down balls all night. Highlighting the coverage effort was perhaps cornerback Smith Snowden, who picked off a pass late in the third quarter to help prevent any hope of an Orem comeback.
With the win, Skyridge improves to 3-0 on the year and serves notice that it can play with the state’s best and will likely battle as hard as anyone once Region 4 play begins.
“We were confident in the group we had from the start,” Lehman said. “I know our region is a good region, but we knew we had a good group of guys who love to compete. We’re happy with our 3-0 start and just looking forward.”
Orem drops to 2-1 with the loss and will look to rebound when taking on Alta next week while Skyridge will work to keep it going when squaring off against Jordan.