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High school football: Highland Rams 2020 preview

Here’s an in-depth look at the Highland Rams football team heading into the 2020 season.

Note: Highland finished with an 8-4 overall record in 2019 and was third in Region 6 with a 4-2 record. It was RPI seed No. 8 in the 5A playoffs, and was eliminated by Wasatch 30-13 in second round.


SALT LAKE CITY — Being in Salt Lake City School District, the Highland Rams have been particularly affected by the regulations in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the 2020 season approaches, things are still very much being ironed out as far as basics such as where the Rams could play on Friday nights, with it looking likely that they’ll play all of their games on the road.

The actual season will come after a summer in which players having to miss practice as a precautionary measure was a regular occurrence, some parents pulled their kids out of the program and weightlifting sessions were done in piecemeal fashion.

Despite all that has happened, longtime Rams head coach Brody Benson said he’s not going to let his team use it as an excuse as games get underway.

“We’re not going to complain,” he said. “We’re just going to sit there and say, ‘We’re able to practice now. We’re able to be together now.’ We’re just going to put our heads down and go to work.”

As far as locations of games is concerned, Benson said it would be possible to play at home, although fans would not be allowed in the stadium, so the contests against Bountiful, Hillcrest, Olympus and Brighton will almost surely be played on those schools’ fields.

“Just the thought of parents not being able to see their kids play, I think that’s going over the top,” Benson said. “Right now we’re just planning on being road warriors and being a great football team on the road.”


Highland Rams at a glance

Coach Benson’s thoughts on how his players dealt with the COVID-19 adversity in the spring and summer:

“It was hard. It was hard on the boys and it was hard on my coaching staff, but if it were easy, then everybody would do it.”

Highland Offensive Snapshot

Offensive coordinator: Brody Benson

2019 offense: 35.9 (2nd in 5A)

2019 offensive statistics
  • Five returning starters
  • Triple option offense
Returning offensive starters
  • Patrick Brennan (QB)
  • Ben Boren (RB)
  • Ashton Olevao (RB)
  • Marion Lotulelei (OL)
  • Christian Hilborn (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
  • Joe Lords (OL)
  • Zedrick Fifita (RB)
  • Sefa Brown (WR)
  • Justin Raihauti (FB)
  • Aisea Mahina (OL)
Coach Benson’s keys for offensive success in 2020:

“Patrick (Brennan) has got to make it his own stepping in as the quarterback. Patrick saw a lot of time last year, but I never really felt like he took over the offense and made it his own as a quarterback. He’s done a great job getting himself ready despite all the uncertainty, and now I just think making the identity of the offense his. Our offense really relies on a quarterback to be a general out there and to make great decisions and to make sure that all 10 other guys are looking to him and knowing he’s going to get the job done.”


Highland Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Kautai Olevao

2019 defense: 25.1 ppg (16th in 5A)

2019 defensive statistics
  • Eight returning starters
  • 4-3 defense
Returning defensive starters
  • Patrick Brennan (LB)
  • Ben Boren (DB)
  • Ashton Olevao (DB)
  • Ryker Lotulelei (LB)
  • Marion Lotulelei (DL)
  • Christian Hilborn (DL)
  • Aisea Mahina (DL)
  • Ezra Abalos (DL)
Defensive newcomers to watch
  • Joe Lords (DL)
  • Zedrick Fifita (DB)
  • Justin Raihauti (DB)
  • LaVell Manavahe (DB)
Coach Benson’s keys for defensive success in 2020:

“We’ve got to be able to defend the pass. I feel confident that we’re going to get a good pass rush. A majority of the teams that we’re going to see are going to chuck the ball around the yard. We’re going to pin our ears back and go after (the opposing quarterback), but we’ve got to be able to cover. That’s been a little bit of our Achilles’ heel in the past. We definitely have the athleticism for it.”

Deseret News outlook for 2020

The Rams have been in a weird spot the past few seasons. They’ve finished comfortably above .500, but they haven’t been able to crack the upper echelon. Highland has some solid returning production coming back, but is it still a rung below Olympus and now perhaps Brighton? Not being able to play home games this year will certainly be an extra challenge the Rams will have to face as they play in what is primed to be a strange season.


Felt’s Facts for Highland

  • All-time record: 432-241-3 (63 years)

  • Region championships: 15 (1958, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1986, 1987, 1988 co, 1996, 1997, 2003 co, 2004 co, 2005 co, 2006 co, 2007 co, 2009)

  • Playoff appearances: 46
  • All-time playoff record: 57-41

  • State championships: 5 (1959, 1961, 1963, 1986, 2010)

  • State championship record: 5-4

  • Most played rivalry: 59 meetings with East dating back to 1957. Highland leads 34-25.

Last 5 Seasons

  • 2019 — 8-4 (4-2 in Region 6 – 5A Second round)
  • 2018 — 8-3 (4-1 in Region 6 – 5A First round)
  • 2017 — 7-4 (4-1 in Region 6 - 5A Quarterfinals)
  • 2016 — 8-3 (4-1 in Region 5 – 4A Quarterfinals)
  • 2015 — 8-4 (4-1 in Region 5 – 4A Semifinals)

Highland coaching history

  • 2006-current — Brody Benson (113-53) *1 State Title
  • 2001-2005 — Ray Groth (40-21)

  • 1996-2000 — Larry Wilson (43-14)

  • 1986-1995 — Tom Kingsford (76-36) *1 State Title
  • 1977-1985 — Roger DuPaix (55-38)

  • 1974-1976 — Dennis McLaughlin (7-20)

  • 1971-1973 — Tony Polychronis (10-17)

  • 1966-1970 — Jerry Simons (24-24)

  • 1961-1965 — Bill Fickinger (40-10) *2 State Titles
  • 1957-1960 — Larry Palmer (24-9) *1 State Title

Highland All-State at-a-glance

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients
  • 1997 — Morgan Scalley, QB

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
  • 2010 — Nate Orchard, WR/DL

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
  • 2019 — Jaxsen Miner, C
  • 2019 — Aisea Mahina, DE
  • 2017 — Trayton Keyes, ATH
  • 2017 — Hunter Lotulelei, OG
  • 2017 — James Lombardo, OT
  • 2015 — Andrew Gramer, OL
  • 2015 — Jayden Palauni, DL
  • 2013 — Bryan Mone, DL

  • 2012 — Luti Nonu, OL

  • 2012 — Bryan Mone, DL

  • 2012 — Adam Webber, LB

  • 2011 — Quincy Clark, DL

  • 2010 — Sione Houma, RB

  • 2010 — Ono Tafisi, OL

  • 2010 — Desmond Collins, DL

  • 2010— Hayes Hicken, K