Highland • Fortunate. Lucky. Whatever you want to call it, Lone Peak's football team will continue defense of its 5A state championship.
The Knights punched their ticket to the quarterfinals Saturday with a 24-17 victory over upstart Brighton. The visiting Bengals rallied from a 17-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter before Lone Peak reclaimed the lead on Talon Shumway's leaping 3-yard reception with six minutes left to play.
"It's the playoffs, you never know what's going to happen," said Shumway, who atoned for an earlier dropped pass to score the eventual game-winner. "It doesn't matter how you win the game. Just win, and you move on."
The Bengals came 14 yards away from potentially tying the game in the final minute. Brighton drove to the Lone Peak 9 before an ill-timed illegal procedure penalty pushed the ball back to the 14. On fourth down, quarterback Drew Jensen's pass sailed out of the end zone, turning the ball over on downs.
"It could have been a different game, but with our backs against the wall, we came through," Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary said. "Sometimes you just need a wake-up call. Brighton had a good game plan and slowed us down defensively. The second half, we just didn't make the stops we needed to."
The Knights (9-2) jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, getting a field goal from Michael Smith, a touchdown pass from Baron Gajkowski and a blocked punt return from Taylor Nelson to take control.
However, the Bengals (8-5), who played a full game Monday just to advance to the postseason, seized the momentum by getting back to basics. Controlling the ball and the clock, Brighton tied the game on a pair of Josh Thompson touchdown runs along with Hunter Dall's 36-yard field goal.
After gaining 157 yards in the first quarter alone, the Knights were limited to 110 the remainder of the game. Additionally, the Bengals held a 54-28 advantage in the number of offensive plays after the first quarter.
"They grind it out with those big horses up front, but we kept our heads," McGeary said. "When you've got them down, we have to do a better job of putting the dagger in the heart and going full throttle. We're glad to get the win."
After slow starts, Thompson and Uaea Masina both chewed up yardage on the ground for Brighton. Thompson finished with 102 yards on 24 carries while Masina, who made a surprise return from injury, had 76 yards on 15 carries.
Shumway said the Knights would learn from their mistakes.
"The most important thing is we didn't capitalize on a couple of things," Shumway said. "We kind of scrounged our way out of it. We've had quite a few games like this. It's been a challenging season. If you win, then really that's all that matters. We'll learn from this for next week."
Gajkowski, who played little league football with many of Brighton's players, threw for 144 yards and ran for 86. Shumway had five catches for 60 yards for the Knights, who will host Davis in the quarterfinals next week.
Lowell Groberg had a pair of sacks for the Bengals.