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Interception clinches Maple Mountain football win over Salem Hills

By Brian E. Preece - Herald Correspondent | Sep 24, 2021
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Maple Mountain players and coaches talk things over after the Region 9 game against Salem Hills in Spanish Fork on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Brian E. Preece, Special to the Daily Herald)
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Maple Mountain and Salem Hills football players like up to run a play during the Region 9 game in Spanish Fork on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Brian E. Preece, Special to the Daily Herald)
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Salem Hills players talk things over during the Region 9 game against Maple Mountain in Spanish Fork on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Brian E. Preece, Special to the Daily Herald)

With Maple Mountain clinging on to a 10-3 lead with just over a minute to play against Salem Hills in a Friday Night Region 9 gridiron clash, Golden Eagle Cole McCallister stepped up to make the biggest play of the game as he intercepted a pass from Salem Hills quarterback Zalun Fenn to clinch the victory for the home team.

McCallister actually used some gut instincts leaving his assigned zone to make the critical pick.

“I saw him (Fenn) roll out and I knew he wasn’t going to throw over his shoulder so I ran clear across the field from where my zone was supposed to be,” said McCallister.

The Golden Eagle senior actually had two interceptions in the game, his first came in the first quarter to set up a successful 31-yard field goal by Sam Gomez.

Much of the game wouldn’t exactly be described as pretty football, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Both teams played two quarterbacks and struggled to sustain drives.

Turnover, penalties and sloppy play plagued both sides. It looked like the 3-0 Maple Mountain lead would stand up, especially when Salem Hills coughed up the ball on the first play of the fourth quarter just inside the Maple Mountain 10-yard line.

But Salem Hills got a stop and forced a punt and after a short return found themselves inside of Golden Eagle territory. But Salem Hills couldn’t move the ball and went for it on fourth down but a heavy rush by Chad Pendelton forced an incomplete pass and Maple Mountain took possession at their own 41-yard line.

This is where Maple Mountain’s offense came alive just enough while Salem Hills aided the Golden Eagles with two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Then sophomore quarterback Banks Jackson scrambled in from nine yards out and after a successful point after by Gomez, Maple Mountain built a 10-0 lead.

Salem Hills responded as Fenn, who normally plays wide receiver and linebacker, led the Skyhawks on a scoring drive. And with 4:42 left to play in the final stanza, Bruce Butler’s 28-yard field goal cut the Maple Mountain lead to 10-3.

Maple Mountain couldn’t move the ball and had to punt it away. Salem Hills, thanks to two pass interference penalties, moved the ball to the 23-yard line of the Golden Eagles. But this is when McCallister performed his heroics and made the pick that preserved his team’s victory.

“It felt really good,” said McCallister of the victory and the effort by the Golden Eagle defense. “We’ve given up a lot of points this season, so this week we’ve been emphasizing being physical.”

His head coach, Brad Burtenshaw concurred with the emphasis on defense and football basics.

“We tried to focus on the fundamentals and when things aren’t going well what we can focus on,” Burtenshaw said. “That’s blocking and tackling and trying to right the ship with that.”

With the win, Maple Mountain improves to 2-5 overall and 1-2 in Region 9. While Salem Hills falls to 1-6 overall and 0-3 in league play. Maple Mountain will visit Springville (6-1, 2-1) next week while Salem Hills hosts Provo (6-1, 2-1).

Notes: It could be a wild ride for any team to win Region 9 this season. And Maple Mountain, though it has two losses, isn’t out of it. The Golden Eagles take on Springville and Spanish Fork in successive weeks, both teams one game ahead of them currently in the standings. Springville got a big 45-24 win at Wasatch while Provo dropped previously unbeaten in league Spanish Fork, 21-14.

Salem Hills has struggled offensively in recent games and went nearly 11 quarters without scoring. Before the three points in the fourth quarter against the Golden Eagles, the last time Salem Hills had scored was in the first quarter of a 41-12 loss to Wasatch two games previous.

Score by Quarter

SH 0 0 0 3 – 3

MM 3 0 0 7 – 10

MM-Sam Gomez 31 FG

MM-Banks Jackson 9 run (Gomez kick)

SH-Bruce Butler 28 FG

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