Prep football: Highland smothers Orem with running game

Prep football • Highland heads to semifinals.
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Orem • The Highland Rams football team should have a difficult time giving out only one game ball after its 34-25 quarterfinal road win against Orem.

On one hand, it rightfully could go to Thomas Pembroke, who rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on only 11 touches Friday.

Malcolm Card-Turner could claim top honors after grabbing three interceptions, including a pair in the fourth quarter.

The offensive line as a whole could be honored after rolling over the Tigers for a whopping 436 yards — 371 on the ground in a crushing display of pounding power.

Only a week away from a return to the Class 4A semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium, it's a good problem for Highland to have.

"Our moniker is TAK — Tough-Ass Kids — and that's really what they were," Highland coach Brody Benson said. "They flip over on the defensive side after putting a 15-play drive together, and they don't skip a beat."

Highland smothered the Tigers with a running game that gobbled up yards as much as it did clock. Orem's offense had only 21 second-half snaps to the Rams' 47, and the Tigers' high-powered passing game couldn't engineer a comeback with Card-Turner grabbing stray passes in the secondary.

"He left the ball a little bit long," Card-Turner said. "It was just up to me to go up and get it."

The turnovers, four total for Orem in the game, helped sway what was only a two-point game in Highland's favor at the half. The Rams opened the second half with a 13-play drive for a score, then secured the win with another touchdown with 7:16 left in the fourth.

Highland had some questionable management at the end, throwing an interception with 5:27 left that led to an Orem touchdown run by quarterback Taylor Camp. A run out of bounds and a bad punt snap gave the Tigers a chance to score in the final minutes, but Card-Turner came up with a clutch pick.

Orem did manage 368 yards of offense, but only 90 in the second half.

"Our linemen just draw down the line and go against each other," Highland junior lineman Bryan Mone said. "This was our biggest game, and we just like to go out 100 percent."

Although Orem scored first on a 54-yard bomb to Nolan Gray, Highland made sure the Tigers got off to a rocky start. After taking a one-point lead on their first drive, the Rams forced a fumble and intercepted a ball in the first quarter.

Maintaining possession with grinding run plays helped lead to a pair of Pembroke touchdown sprints of 22 and 63 yards that appeared to give Highland control with only three minutes left in the half.

But Orem led a 72-yard drive capped by a Camp run that narrowed the lead. Then Jeremiah Smith recovered a fumble for the Tigers that set up a short field, and Danny Balser closed the gap with a short touchdown run just before halftime. —

Highland runs over Tigers

• As a team, the Rams rush for 371 yards and have 436 yards of offense.

• Thomas Pembroke stars on offense with touchdown runs of 63, 22, and 9 yards.

• Malcolm Card-Turner picks off Orem quarterback Taylor Camp three times.