WOODS CROSS — Highland High's fierce defensive effort was downright dominating, swarming to the ball like a ferocious pack of pit bulls protecting their turf from any and all intruders.
Yes, they definitely were — dare we say it? — Ram tough.
And that determined Highland defense, combined with just enough of an offense sparked by quarterback Austin Peterson and running back Vili Sekona, paved the way for a 14-0 shutout victory over Woods Cross, spoiling the Wildcats' Homecoming party Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
Peterson, a slender senior, rushed for 78 yards on 19 carries and scored the Rams' first touchdown on a short first-quarter plunge. Peterson then hooked up with senior wide receiver Malcolm Card-Turner on a 23-yard touchdown pass with just 1:18 remaining in the second period to give Highland a 14-0 halftime lead.
"We've got to give credit to our offensive line," Peterson said. "They're doing a great job and I love 'em to death. We just follow them and our wings, fullbacks and receivers, everybody's doing their job, but it starts with the line and they're great.
"We just came out with one goal — hit 'em in the mouth, non-stop," Peterson said. "Man, it just feels good to get that win. We've been working hard in practice, but we're not perfect yet. Nobody's perfect, and we've still got a lot of work to do. We'll come out Saturday morning, watch film and get ready for Cyprus."
The hard-running Sekona had a game-high 90 yards rushing on 13 carries, and safety David Kocher came up with a couple of critical interceptions, including one in the end zone, that killed two Woods Cross drives.
And with the way Kocher and the rest of the Rams' tenacious "D" was playing — led by Adam Webber and big, powerful Bryan Mone — that's all they needed to deal Woods Cross (5-2, 1-2 Region 6) just its second defeat of the season.
Highland (4-3, 2-1) held the Wildcats to just 178 yards of total offense, bouncing back strong after suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss to Bountiful last week, when the Rams allowed 30 points.
"We just stepped it up this week after having kind of a rough outing of tackling and everything last week," Kocher said. "We just worked hard in practice and stepped it up.
"Give credit to the D-line and backers. They were just flying to the ball and getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing him to make tough throws when he's in pressure, and then good things happen for us.
"I was just playing hard and flying to the ball," Kocher said. "We've still got a lot of room to improve, we just want to keep progressing every week and keep getting better."
Highland head coach Brody Benson was mighty pleased with the way his team responded following last week's difficult defeat.
"After last week, we kind of issued a challenge to our defense," he said.
"We didn't tackle all that well; we were in the right position but we just didn't finish last week. We challenged our guys to finish and be a great tackling team, and I thought we did that tonight. I thought we got after 'em. I was real happy with our guys up front, our front seven and front six, and we shut down their run and we did a great job in coverage, too.
"They took it to heart and they showed up on Monday and they worked their butts off all week. That's what we want out of our guys; we want to be blue-collar guys.
"Adam (Webber) is our leader out there on that defensive side, he's been a three-year starter for us and does a great job. He wasn't thinking about things, he was just reacting. He was just flying around and playing football," Benson said. "Mone just inflicted his will on them a little bit.
And Kocher had great concentration on that second pick, so he did a nice job for us, too."
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