Smithfield • Sky View was sailing for a half.
The Bobcats took a 17-point lead into halftime and were 24 minutes away from an easy first-round win in the Class 4A playoffs.
Then Highland showed up. The big cushion evaporated under the Rams' grinding running attack. Its lead cut to three, it was gut-check time for hometown Sky View.
"We just knew that we had to get that break," Bobcats coach Craig Anhder said. "We had to get our offense back on the field and in rhythm."
Defensive breaks helped the second-seeded Bobcats battle through Highland's punches for a 27-14 playoff win Friday, the program's first since 2008.
The Sky View defense managed to force the Rams to turn the ball over on downs twice in the second half, and one stop led to a touchdown drive by the Bobcats. Two fourth-quarter turnovers helped seal the result, particularly a fumble recovered by Levi Hammer with 7 minutes, 18 seconds left that led to a clock-eating field-goal drive.
Highland did manage 206 yards on the ground behind Division I-bound linemen Bryan Mone, Pita Tonga and Cody Hilborn, but the Rams couldn't score after their second touchdown.
"I think our kids just realized, 'We're going to have to stop their run if we're gonna win this game.' We had guys in the right position," Anhders said. "I just think the biggest adjustment was we just needed to buckle down, put our feet in the ground and be successful."
Quarterback Braxton Godderidge had highs and lows. The highs came with two touchdown passes in the first six minutes of the game.
The lows came when the senior gave up a pair of interceptions in the third quarter, one leading to a Highland touchdown.
Godderidge acknowledged that he was a bit put off by the turnovers, but he recovered to throw for another score in a 23-for-34 night with 230 yards and three touchdown passes.
"It's tough as a quarterback. You've gotta have a short memory," he said. "And as a leader on this team, people look up to me, so I gotta stay positive as best I can."
Sky View was playing its first home playoff game since 2007, but it returns to the road next week for a rematch at Timpview.
O Braxton Godderidge throws three touchdown passes.
• Sky View forces two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
• Highland finishes with 206 rushing yards.