Sandy – If one were to peer into the mind of an Alta player early in Friday's night game against Lone Peak, they might have found doom and gloom. The Hawks were in a 10-0 hole, Knights quarterback Baron Gajkowski was toying with their defense, and sure-handed receiver Mack Richards had dropped two passes, one with a clear path to the end zone. After being down early in an eventual 42-24 loss to East last week, it would be understandable if Alta were to feel a little deja vu.
Not this time.
The Hawks rallied for 35 unanswered points on their way to an eventual 35-17 win. Gajkowski would miss most of the second half with an apparent injury, while Richards recovered to snag 14 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was just some early game jitters,” Richards said. “Our goal was to score 35 points, and I just hoped those wouldn't cost us the game.”
Even with Richards' gaudy numbers, the Hawks offense still sustained a balanced attack. Running back Tanner Sansom contributed 139 yards and a touchdown to go with one on the receiving end and quarterback Chipper Lucero threw four touchdown passes along with 312 yards.
On the opposite side of the ball, Alta's defense recovered from their slow start to hold Gajkowski and the Knights to three offensive plays or less on five of their nine possessions after the first quarter. The senior quarterback appeared to suffer an injury on a keeper early in the third and missed the entire fourth quarter. He finished with 150 yards passing.
“Our defense came out in the second half, and they were flying around, hitting, and just playing relentless,” Alta coach Bob Stephens said. “That's what we like our defense to do, and they were able to come out and do that in the second half.”
Gajkowski looked dominant early in the game, beginning with an eight minute drive to open the game, moving Lone Peak down the field methodically, only to see the drive result in a 24-yard field goal by Braxtron Berry. The Knights defense then fought off Alta's first and only first quarter drive, highlighted by Richards' wide open drop.
The second Lone Peak drive proved more successful. The first play of the second quarter saw the Knights go up 10-0 when Gajkowski connected with Dylan Murdock on a 44-yard touchdown bomb.
From that point on, the Alta defense clamped down on the Lone Peak offense, led by linebacker Jaden Johnson.
The Hawks' offense woke up around that point as well. Halfway through the second, Richards caught a 54-yard touchdown on the exact same route that saw him drop one earlier. Lone Peak still led 10-7 at halftime, and even picked off a Lucero pass to begin the second half, but momentum clearly had swung to Alta's side.
Lucero found Nate Teahan on a quick pass to score from one yard out to give Alta the lead early in the third. Then, a busted option play turned into an impromptu shovel pass from Lucero to Sansom for a touchdown from 27 yards out. After Johnson forced a fumble to interrupt a sustained Lone Peak drive early in the fourth, Lucero again found Richards for a 63-yard score.
Within minutes, a 10-7 deficit had turned into a 28-10 lead. Sansom would add a 20-yard rushing touchdown, and Lone Peak third-string quarterback Cole Johnson threw a late touchdown pass to Tanner Sheide for the eventual 35-17 margin.