By Kurt Johnson
HIGHLAND – With each passing week, it’s looking more and more like it’s Lone Peak’s year in Region 4 football. The Knights are dispatching the opposition in impressive fashion game after game, and Friday night, American Fork was the next team up on the Lone Peak schedule.
After a competitive first half, the Knights opened things up after intermission and rolled to a fairly comfortable 48-21 win. Here are some of the top story lines from the game that kept Lone Peak (4-0 in Region 4, 7-0 overall) unbeaten in league play, and left the Cavemen (2-1, 4-3 in the middle of the chase for playoff positioning.
1) Talmage Gunther
Lone Peak quarterback Talmage Gunther has progressed from fighting for the starting spot heading into the season to a dangerous offensive talent at this point in the campaign. The senior signal caller is elusive and smart, with great vision and brilliant presence on the field and all of those skills were on display Friday night.
Gunther eluded pressure on multiple occasions during the Knights’ first two drives, using his legs and his arm to set up Lone Peak’s first score and then turning a broken play into a scintillating 42-yard touchdown run the second time he had the ball in his hands. In the decisive third period, the quarterback added touchdown runs of one and 25 yards and on the first play of the fourth, he extended the lead to 45-14 on a 39-yard scoring toss.
For the night, Gunther passed for 186 yards and ran it 13 times for 150 yards for an offensive total of 336 yards before stepping aside midway through the fourth quarter.
2) Lone Peak defense
The biggest upgrade for the 2015 Knights continues to be their dominance on defense. Against American Fork, that defense bent a little against the pass, but shut down the Cavemen in the running game. That, and big plays in timely situations by Lone Peak defensive backs, made this a comfortable result.
The first time American Fork touched the ball, the Cavemen ran off 10 plays, got some help from the first of many pass interference calls (that seemed to be the call of the night for this crew), but came up empty. That’s because the Knights got a big negative yardage stop from Britton Bettridge and Michael Cannon on a third-and-1 followed by an incomplete pass to get the ball back on downs.
Terrence Levy and Parker Magee combined for a sack on the next American Fork series to set up a safety when the ensuing punt attempt resulted in a snap over the head of the punter and into the end zone.
Leading just 15-7 heading into the second half, it was the Knights’ defense that provided much of the impetus for the sequence of events that took the score out to 31-7. With Magee, Terrence Levy, Terrell Levy and Preston Lewis along the defensive front, backed by Bettridge, Cannon and middle linebacker Tyler Everett, Lone Peak has one of the state’s best front sevens.
With Nate Bennett defending passes all over the field, then getting an interception, combined with a Tyson Doman pick, the secondary is also first rate. Lennon Fotu, Seth Corry and Ammon Hannemann add a measure of toughness in the backfield. This defense has allowed just 78 points in seven games, a total that is second only to two-time defending state champion Bingham is Class 5A for scoring defense.
3) Pulling away
The third quarter decided this game as the Knights came out of the locker room determined to turn up the intensity and take the legs away from their rival. Lone Peak turned the ball over with fumbles on two of its second-half drives, but the other three were things of beauty.
American Fork turned one of those fumbles into a quick score out of a short field, but the Knight defense dominated the rest of the stanza as it turned its 15-7 advantage into a 45-14 lead by the first play of the fourth quarter. The Cavemen went three-and-out to start the third, turned the ball over on the third play of their second sequence when Bennett picked a Tanner Smith pass, and then gave up a second safety on an intentional grounding call in the end zone, on their second snap the third time they had the ball.
Before American Fork turned a Gunther fumble into a touchdown pass late in the third, it was 31-7 and after the Cavemen did score and failed on an onside kick attempt, it took just three plays for the Knights to push the margin back to 24 points on a 58-yard TD dash by Tyler Kap. The Doman interception followed that score and led to the touchdown that pushed the advantage to 45-14 on the opening play of the fourth.
4) Tanner Smith
It wasn’t the game that American Fork quarterback Tanner Smith was hoping for when he showed up on the field for this big game, but the senior battled through on a difficult night and posted solid numbers for a team that is struggling to establish the run. That difficulty is increased due to the ongoing absence of the best Caveman running back, Nate Honey, due to a fractured tibia.
Smith hooked up with Ashton Coleman for an 8-yard score in the second quarter, hit Garrett Purvis from 26 yards out in the third and finished his night with a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard-line TD toss to Coleman in the fourth quarter. For the night, Smith was 26-of-48 for 282 yards.
5) Tyler Kap
For good reason, when Lone Peak is on the field, a lot of attention goes to Gunther and junior running back/receiver Jackson McChesney. McChesney has the kind of explosiveness that makes him a weapon in the backfield and in the slot and teams always have to account for his presence.
The issue with that comes because the Knights have too many weapons, and it is impossible to effectively deal with all of them. Tyler Kap is one of those weapons. The 6-foot, 190-pound senior running back attacks defenses mostly between the tackles and turns short gains into bigger ones by refusing to go down.
The 58-yard scoring run in the third quarter was just one example, and for the night, Kap pounded away at the American Fork defense for 98 yards on just 13 carries, just another night at the office for the senior.