No. 9 Red Mountain produced a few big plays, three time-consuming drives and didn't allow host Highland much in the way of offensive production on Friday night.
As a result Red Mountain is on its way to the Division I football quarterfinals with a 34-7 romp over Highland.
Red Mountain, which began the year with a tough schedule and a 1-4 record for its toil, has now won five of its last six and takes on its biggest challenge next Friday when it visits unbeaten and top-seed Mountain Pointe. Mountain Pointe blasted No. 16 Boulder Creek, 55-7.
No. 8 Highland, which engaged in three tough games with Basha, Hamilton and Chandler the previous three weeks, wasn't able to put up much of a fight in this one. The Hawks concluded their season 6-5.
Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski was like a proud papa after the win, knowing the strides and fight his team has shown after its tough start, including three losses by a touchdown or less.
“This is a credit to our kids,” Wisniewski said. “We faced a very physical team tonight. But now we have a winning record. It took us 11 games to get there after a 1-4 start. They could have packed it in, but they've gone out and played hard for four quarters every week.”
Red Mountain marched 77 yards in seven plays after forcing Highland to punt on its first possession without a first down. Red Mountain used two quarterbacks interchangeably throughout the game, not just a series at a time. Senior Brennen Dobson (eight rushes for 102 yards) and Caleb Murray-Thomas (8-of-12 passing, 96 yards) were both effective. Running backs Kiwan Lear 9-85 yards) and Desi Ethridge earned mostly tough yards ith an occasional long run.
And receiver-tight end Diego Hernandez personified the team's resolve with seven catches for 85 yards and one touchdown. A good portion of Hernandez's yards on receptions were after the catch as he punished and carried defenders for extra real estate.
Red Mountain marched 77 yards in seven plays for a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the opening quarter. This after forcing Highland to punt on its first possession without a first down. Dobson rushed twice on the drive for 42 yards finding space on the perimeter. He also completed a pair of passes to Hernandez on the possession — the second was for a 6-yard TD.
Highland's offense tried to even the score using up more than seven minutes on its second possession. Three major penalties against Red Mountain helped the drive along. It fizzled a the Red Mountain 25 and a 42-yard field goal attempt by Noah Miller fell short.
Red Mountain got a break prior to scoring its second TD. Highland's Trey Tyler blocked a punt inside the Mountain Lions 20. The ball continued forward and was touched by a Highland player, but recovered by Red Mountain at the 30. Since Highland had touched the ball after the block it was a live ball and Red Mountain retained possession. Two plays later Dobson skirted the right side and broke clear for a 54-yard TD and 14-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the half.
Red Mountainh continued to stymie Highland's offense, forcing another punt. Another scoring drive (10 plays, 55 yards) followed and made it 21-0 with Murray-Thomas tallying from a yard out.
Highland tried to close the gap just before halftime moving from its 25 to the Red Mountain 7 in the final 10 seconds. A fourth-down pass from Blake Young to Ryan McCord was caught, but McCord couldn't keep a foot in-bounds
Red Mountain finished off Highland quickly in the third quarter. The Mountain Lions took the second-half kickoff and marched 69 yards in eight plays. Lear did the honors this time with a 37-yard jaunt up the middle. Kicker Carter Tani added field goals of 42 and 32 yards to push the lead to 34-0 before Highland scored against Red Mountain's reserves with 5:40 to play — a 15-yard TD run by McCord. McCord finished with 63 yards on 12 carries.
“They were better than we were tonight,” Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said. “They beat us up. Give them the credit. …We didn't do anything in all phases. Didn't get any turnovers. For some reason we didn't show up. I wish we'd had a better result.”