The crucial sequence in Friday night’s Region 4 rivalry showdown in Highland between Lone Peak and American Fork came down to pressure.
The Knights led by 12 points midway through the fourth quarter but the high-flying Caveman offense had the ball and looked to ramp up the pressure on Lone Peak by making it a one-score game.
But the Knight defense, which had surrendered five touchdowns, came up with the pressure it needed when it had to have it.
Lone Peak got to American Fork senior quarterback Bronson Barron just as he went to throw the ball, resulting in the ball popping out and straight to Knight sophomore linebacker Jared Fotu.
He gathered in the interception, broke a tackle and took the ball 46 yards to the end zone to end any Caveman hopes of a comeback. That pick-6 secured the 53-34 victory for Lone Peak.
“The pick-6 was enormous because it breaks a team’s back,” Knight head coach Bart Brockbank said. “It is one of those where even if they had had time to come back, it takes them awhile to get back excited again because the momentum shift is enormous. Our crowd was going crazy, our players were ecstatic. It’s a back-breaker for any team.”
Fotu said his job on that play was pretty easy after he got the ball.
“I had my blocker right next to me and I was just running, going for the end zone,” he said.
He added with a grin that carrying the ball into the end zone is “a lot funnier than doing a lot of other things.”
While that interception put the game away, the Lone Peak defense came up with two other crucial plays in a game that was mostly dominated by offense.
The first came late in the first half when Knight junior linebacker Chase Tucker stayed with his man perfectly when American Fork ran a wheel route. He went up and snagged the first pick of the game, setting up Lone Peak to take a 27-20 lead into halftime.
“I felt that turned the tide,” Brockbank said. “We got hit in the face but then came back and hit them right back.”
The Knights then built off that success by coming out and keeping the Cavemen from scoring on the opening drive of the second half. American Fork had to punt, something the Cavemen only did twice in the entire contest (Lone Peak never punted).
“We knew coming in that their offense was high-powered, so we knew it was going to be a turnover here or a turnover there that was going to flip the game to one side or the other,” Brockbank said.
The home team then put together a 95-yard drive in just seven plays, capped by a 2-yard TD run by junior running back Kobe Freeman. The American Fork offense never got another chance to tie things up.
Both Barron and Knight senior quarterback Brock Jones had phenomenal outings.
Barron finished with three touchdown passes and a rushing TD, while Jones tallied four TD passes of his own.
The bruising Lone Peak running back duo of Freeman and junior Masen Wake also wore down the American Fork defense.
“We try to be fairly balanced and I assume tonight we probably were,” Brockbank said. “But Jones manages the game as well as any quarterback I’ve coached. He knows his strength is being accurate, so he works on that a ton. He also watches a lot of film and makes sure he understands the game.”
Caveman head coach Aaron Behm said he felt like his team did some good things in the first half — which included stopping the Knights on two fourth-down attempts — but that they couldn’t maintain that success.
“Their offense played really well tonight,” Behm said. “We were hoping to replicate some of those stops in the second half but it didn’t happen. We want to get better in all aspects. Our offense did play pretty well but playing from behind changes what you have to do on offense. Playing from ahead makes everything a little easier.”
Lone Peak starts out Region 4 play with a 1-0 record but faces a big test next week at Bingham.
“Our first goal has always been to win a region championship,” Brockbank said. “In this region you’ve got to win every game to win a region championship. With Bingham in there, it’s a tough region. Now we’ve got to go up against the champs next.”