By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis
Editor’s Note – The TOSH Top 30 is our countdown of the top 30 stories from the 2015-16 school sports year, beginning with No. 30 and counting down, one story a day, to No. 1. The 2015-2016 high school sports year was filled with big performances, both team and individual. The act of narrowing down our initial list of top stories for our TOSH Top 30 stories of the year to just 30 was a difficult task. We asked people all over the state for input into our final list and beginning June 22, we are counting them down in reverse, from story No. 30 to story No. 1. Hopefully your favorite story of the past school year made our list.
It’s received a few different nicknames since it happened, but we’ll just call it the most improbable and spectacular come-from-behind win in recent memory. The Highland High football “Miracle on 17th Street” or more correctly “Miracle at 1700 East” is No. 10 in our TOSH Top 30 stories of the year.
#10 – Highland football’s epic comeback
Facing a 21-point deficit with seven minutes left in a Class 4A football state quarterfinal against Corner Canyon, things looked bleak for Region 5 runner-up Highland. But there was still the matter of those seven minutes and the Rams used them all.
An 85-yard punt return by Corner Canyon’s Nate Cutler put the Chargers up 35-14 with 7:08 remaining on the clock. The actual scoring of the 21 points required to force overtime didn’t begin until the 3:08 mark, when Ram quarterback James Pembroke connected with Ryan Lambson for a 35-yard score that cut the deficit to 14 points.
Even the extra point after that touchdown contributed to the storyline – this wasn’t going to be easy. A penalty from the scoring play pushed the PAT back, but even from 35 yards out, the kick was good. The ensuing kick-off by Karsa Rahmati was an onside kick recovered by Highland’s Andrew Parkin to set the Rams up for a chance to pull closer.
Pembroke scored at the end of that drive with just 1:11 to play. The quarterback carried this one in himself from three yards out and it was a seven-point game at 35-28.
From there, all it took was the improbable, a second successful onside kick followed by another touchdown to set the stage for the fantastic finish. Lambson recovered this one and, with 3.7 seconds left, Pembroke took it to pay dirt from two yards out. Cameron Paul Keyvani followed with the extra point and the two teams were suddenly, unbelievably headed to overtime.
The Rams had the initial possession in overtime and Rahmati had just enough leg to sneak a 45-yard field goal over the crossbar to provide a 38-35 advantage. Charger kicker Connor Ebeling had an answer, converting a 26-yarder to send the game to a second extra session.
Talented players combined with good breaks lead to results like this one, and Highland had some of both. On the Corner Canyon possession in the second overtime, a pass bounced off a Charger receiver, who was falling to the ground, and bounced into the hands of Highland defender Nathan Roderick for an interception that proved too much for the Chargers to overcome.
Rahmati drilled a 35-yard field goal on the ensuing opportunity to send the stadium into celebration. What had seemed like defeat just minutes before had suddenly become unexpected victory and a trip to the state semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium against defending state champion Timpview.
In that one, the Rams continued their roll, at least until halftime. They were right there with the powerful Thunderbirds until Timpview prevailed with a huge second half. It was 21-19 at intermission before Highland wore down, losing 49-27 to end its season.
It wasn’t the ending about which the Rams were dreaming, but they will always have the memory of what happened a week earlier, when they delivered an epic comeback for the ages.
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