By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Kevin McInnis and Kurt Johnson
Even in the era of the spread offense and video-game-like statistics, a show like the one Lehi and Alta put on Friday night in Sandy is unexpected. To lovers of great defense, there was nothing to see here, but if you love to see the scoreboard operator put to the test, this was your game and its results are our TOSH Top Story of the Week.
When new University of Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor was coaching at Folsom High School in Northern California, one of his quarterbacks set the all-time high school record for career touchdown passes. The passer was current University of Washington signal caller Jake Browning, who threw 229 TDs in three years as a high school starter.
Browning tied the all-time mark for single-season touchdown tosses his senior year (2014) when he threw 91, but the most he threw in any one game that season was eight. Just one time in his prep career, his first start as a sophomore, did Browning equal what Cammon Cooper did against Alta, when the Lehi senior threw 10 touchdown passes in the Pioneers’ season opener.
That’s the kind of special night Cooper had Friday night when it took all he and his teammates could muster to fend off the Hawks 72-66 in double overtime. The expectations for the matchup was extremely high and these young men did not disappoint in a game that delivered a little bit of everything.
Alta’s Zach Engstrom opened the scoring on a 13-yard scoring run in the first quarter (the senior running back found the end zone five times on the night, three times on the ground and twice more on the receiving end of Will Dana passes). That was just the start of the scoring….a whole lot of scoring.
Midway through the second stanza, Cooper hooked up with running back Carsen Manookin for a touchdown that provided Lehi a 13-point margin at 27-14. That was as comfortable a lead as anyone would have in this one, and it didn’t last long because Dana and London Rockwood connected on a 66-yard TD toss to tighten the game once again.
Cooper found Manookin once again, with 10 seconds to go in the opening half, to put the Pioneers on top 35-21 at intermission. From there. the Hawks seized control and a pair of Dana to Donovan Spillers touchdown passes evened the contest at 42-42 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
Alta continued with a touchdown toss to Engstrom and a field goal and soon after the game entered the final 12 minutes, the Hawks had opened a 10-point lead at 52-42. After a Copper touchdown aerial cut the margin to three points, Tu’u Afu broke loose on a 70-yard scoring run that set the advantage back to 10 points at 59-49.
Cooper connected with Kade Moore for a TD that got Lehi within three and then the Pioneer defense got the ball back with seconds remaining and a full field to cover. Just when it looked like Lehi would run out of time, it dug deep into the playbook. Cooper hit Moore over the middle, and the wideout pitched the ball backwards to tight end Dallin Holker on a perfectly executed hook-and-lateral play that moved the Pioneers deep into Alta territory.
On the final play of regulation, Lehi sent the contest to overtime on a field goal that was anything but picturesque, but the ball found its way between the uprights, just over the crossbar.
The Pioneers went first in the extra session, when each team runs an offensive set from the opponent’s 25-yard-line. Facing a fourth-and-9 play, Pioneer coach Ed Larsen passed on the field goal and put the game in Cooper’s hands. The senior quarterback delivered with a TD toss to Holker, who caught five touchdown passes in the game.
Alta had an answer, turning to its running game, as Afu got it close and Engstrom finished if off to force a second overtime period. This time the Hawks had the first chance, and it was Holker who came up with the difference-making defensive play, a sack that forced Alta into a long field goal attempt, and that kick came up short.
With his team in position to win the game outright in its second overtime possession, Cooper delivered, once again with a pass to Holker. This one covered nine yards and it finished things off for the Pioneers, with a 72-66 final score.
Engstrom finished with a huge night for Alta, with 24 carries for 213 yards and three touchdowns, and nine catches for 100 yards and two additional scores. Afu ran it 11 times for 127 yards and a TD. Dana was outstanding for the Hawks as well, connecting on 23-of-32 passes for 392 yards and five scores.
For Cooper, it was a record-setting night. The senior quarterback connected on 46-of-74 for 609 yards and those 10 touchdowns. Holker caught 17 of those passes for 274 yards and five TDs, while Moore hauled in 13 balls for 193 yards and a touchdown.
The game featured 1,454 yards of offense and 20 touchdowns, a treat for anyone who loves offense and takes a bit of a “defense optional” approach. It is our TOSH Top Story for the first week of the 2017-2018 high school football season.