Highland • Baron Gajkowski watched his defense allow Highland to march 72 yards and score to cut Lone Peak's lead to three.
The quarterback, who runs the plays Chase Hansen ran as Lone Peak's quarterback last year and wears the Utah freshman's old No. 15 jersey, assumed his place in the backfield, eager to answer. He rushed 18 yards on first down. The ball popped loose on his way down, and it was recovered by the Class 4A Rams.
The junior, who transferred from Jordan this year, stewed on the sideline but held on to one core belief: "Even if this doesn't work out as an offensive group, the defense has our back all the way."
Did it ever.
A 14-11 lead mushroomed into a 35-11 romp for the defending Class 5A champions after the special teams and defense gave the ball back to Gajkowski and the offense on Highland's 28-, 29- and 32-yard lines on the next three series.
Junior defensive lineman Taylor Nelson recovered two fumbles and sacked Highland quarterback Austin Peterson late in the third quarter to force a punt and give Lone Peak (2-2) the short field.
Lone Peak scored three touchdowns in 12 plays over 7 minutes, 14 seconds of game time.
"We just felt like we could move the ball," Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary said. "They looked like they were getting a little tired, and we wanted to run high-percentage plays, and [Gajkowski] chunked them all the way down the field and got them in the end zone."
Gajkowski threw two touchdown passes to BYU-bound receiver Talon Shumway, who had four catches for 58 yards. Gajkowski completed 11 of 15 attempts for 120 yards, and he did not throw an incomplete pass in the second half.
But he was most impressive on the ground. He rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns.
While no one would dare say Gajkowski has reached Hansen's stature at Lone Peak, the junior, who played quarterback against Lone Peak in last year's Class 5A state semifinal after stepping in for an injured Austin Kafentzis, was reminiscent of the reigning state MVP on Thursday night.
"You couldn't think of bigger shoes to step in," Gajkowski said.
The laces were knotted Thursday night.
"When his number's called," McGeary said, "he responds well."
Lone Peak 35, Highland 11
R Junior quarterback Baron Gajkowski leads Lone Peak with three rushing touchdowns and does not throw a second-half incompletion.
• Defensive lineman Taylor Nelson recovers two fumbles and records a sack for Lone Peak.
Friday's prep football games
Syracuse vs Box Elder, 5 p.m.
Altamont at Diamond Ranch, 7 p.m.
ALA at N Summit, 7 p.m.
Bear River at Stansbury, 7 p.m.
Beaver at Kanab, 7 p.m.
Ben Lomond at Ogden, 7 p.m.
Bonneville at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Bountiful at Viewmont, 7 p.m.
Brighton at Am. Fork, 7 p.m.
Delta at Park City, 7 p.m.
Desert Hills at Cyn. View, 7 p.m.
Fremont at East, 7 p.m.
Grantsville at Morgan, 7 p.m.
Herriman at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Jordan at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Juab at Wasatch, 7 p.m.
Judge at Granger, 7 p.m.
Layton at Bingham, 7 p.m.
Layton Chr. at West Side, Idaho, 7 p.m.
Lehi at Payson, 7 p.m.
Manti at Gunnison, 7 p.m.
Milford at Duchesne, 7 p.m.
Millard at S Summit, 7 p.m.
Monticello at Mon. Valley, 7 p.m.
Mtn. Crest at Weber, 7 p.m.
Mtn. View at Timpview, 7 p.m.
N Sanpete at Snow Cyn., 7 p.m.
N Sevier at Emery, 7 p.m.
Orem at Provo, 7 p.m.
Parowan at Richfield, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Dixie, 7 p.m.
Riverton at Alta, 7 p.m.
Roy at Murray, 7 p.m.
San Juan at Grand, 7 p.m.
Sky View at Woods Cross, 7 p.m.
Skyline at Juan Diego, 7 p.m.
S Sevier at Enterprise, 7 p.m.
Springville at Maple Mtn., 7 p.m.
Summit Aca. at Rich, 7 p.m.
Taylorsville at Olympus, 7 p.m.
Timpanogos at Salem Hills, 7 p.m.
Tooele at Hillcrest, 7 p.m.
Union at Carbon, 7 p.m.
West at Cyprus, 7 p.m.
W Jordan at Pleasant Gr., 7 p.m.
Westlake at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Whitehorse at Newcomb, N.M., 7 p.m.
Skyline, WA at Cottonwood, 7:30 pm