With a break in the region schedule, Highland's football team saw an opportunity to improve against longtime rival Skyline on Friday.
After scoring a pair of early touchdowns, the Rams persevered to defeat the Eagles 21-14, but they didn't exactly accomplish their goal. Numerous penalties and other miscues proved to be drive killers and led to an inconsistent effort.
"The biggest thing is we've got to start being real confident as a team," Highland coach Brody Benson said. "I don't know if we've played that way for four quarters yet. We've got to understand that we have the ability to be a great football team. Each week is a new challenge."
The Rams (2-2 region, 5-3 overall) led 14-0 after scoring two touchdowns within a 20-second span of the first quarter. Viliami Sekona rumbled 48 yards for the first score, and a botched snap by Skyline led to Ben Bergeson's 34-yard touchdown reception from Jamahl Greer.
From there, however, the opportunities were few and far between for Highland, which punted six times, fumbled once and threw an interception.
"We had long drives and chewed up a lot of the field, but we've got to be able to punch it in," Benson said. "It does us no good to keep the ball for five minutes and not be able to score. The whole goal this week was to work and get better on our stuff. We wanted to come out and run our offense like we do."
Skyline (2-2, 4-4) cut the lead to 14-7 on Braxton Chipman's 12-yard touchdown pass to Colton Limpert in the second quarter. Following Calvin Keyes' blocked punt and recovery, Sekona's second rushing score of the game put Highland ahead 21-7 late in the third quarter.
The resilient Eagles came within a touchdown on Chipman's 19-yard strike to Parker Bowles in the fourth, but Highland held on.
"We kept our heads up this game," Bergeson said. "We face adversity pretty well when bad things happen. Our coach stressed that this game didn't matter if we won, but it mattered if we improved. This gives us momentum going into our next region games. We capitalized on our opportunities."
Highland's defense was particularly impressive, limiting Skyline to 40 yards rushing and just 170 total yards. Chipman threw for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns but completed just 10 of his 27 attempts.
Meanwhile, Sekona rushed for 93 yards and two scores for Highland. Greer ran for 57 yards but was just 1-for-9 passing for 34 yards and an interception.
"My hat's off to Skyline, they gave us a lot of problems," Benson said. "It's always great to beat Skyline. We don't want to have to change for what defenses do to us. We want people to change for us. I don't think we're quite there yet."
The teams resume league play next week, as Highland hosts Cyprus in Region 6 action while Skyline hosts Orem in a Region 7 battle.