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Herriman Defeats Rival East In Tight Utah Clash

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Herriman Defeats Rival East In Tight Utah Clash

Tonia McPeak photo

NIT invitees East and Herriman met Saturday at Herriman HS in a game with huge implications in league standings in Utah’s Single School Tier 1 division.  With both teams entering the game ranked in the top 10 nationally, the game had the makings of an instant classic, and it did not disappoint.  

There is always a bit of familiarity when these teams play, as the several members of both coaching staffs are alums of the old Highland Rugby program, and added familiarity to boot as East boasts two starters in fullback Quincy Sandoval and No. 8 Talin Finau that began their careers with Herriman before moving to the East area at different points.

Tonia McPeak photos

Each team was breaking out new jerseys for the first time as well, so they were eager to have a good showing with their new look, and one could not help but notice the size difference in the two teams, as East was—to a man—larger than their opposite number at 14 of the 15 positions on the field.

An early Herriman knock-on gave East the ball at midfield, and Thomas Parkin tested the defense with a box kick down to the 5 meter line.  The kick was well-covered, but Fisher Jackson was able to run the ball out and create some breathing room before another Herriman turnover.  Both teams tested each other often, mostly in Herriman’s end or near midfield, with neither team able to piece much together early on and each side trying to figure the other out and look for things to exploit. 

The hosts were finally able to advance down the field near the 10 minute mark, and kicked to touch on 2 successive penalties.  They gave away a good opportunity with an infraction on a lineout from 5 meters, but made up for it when captain Jake Barker timed the pass from the ensuing scrum perfectly and blocked East’s clearing attempt, then chased the errant ball down and fell on it for a well-earned try.  Isaac McQueen was true on the conversion to put the Mustangs up 7-0.

With momentum, Herriman stayed on the front foot with runs from Fisher Jackson and Connor Hyde.  An East yellow card for a knee to the head gave Herriman a penalty which was boomed by Kingi Fisi’ipeau to the 5 meter line for another close lineout.  Barker would strike again to extend the lead,  noticing a gap in the East opposition and sprinting ahead. He met defenders 2 meters from the goal line but would not be denied, twisting and driving ahead to power over for the try.  McQueen was true once again to put Herriman up 14-0.

Runs by Mafi Mahuinga and Alec Perschon gave Herriman another excellent scoring chance right away, but a knock on instead gave East a scrum, and Finau picked from the back and broke several would-be tackles for a huge 30 meter run.  East did well to recycle the ball quickly and a nice run by Andre Toilolo put the Leopards in position.  A penalty and a quick tap found the ball back in the hands of Finau, who crashed over the line for a score.  The conversion narrowly missed, but East was on the board at 14-5.  East found another good opportunity with a nice break by Tutu Spann, but ended up out of bounds to end the half.

Herriman did not start well coming out for the second half, putting the restart directly in to touch to give East a midfield scrum.  The Leopards took advantage of the favorable field position, working the ball down the field.  Herriman penalties gave East opportunities to tap and go, and they used their size advantage to relentlessly pound the Herriman defense, keeping good possession and resulting in a touch across for a try.  The conversion did not find its way through, and the score was 14-10.  

Herriman was somewhat frustrating to watch for the next 25 minutes, almost all of which were played in East’s half, as they continually teased their coaches and fans alike with nice ball movement and phase play down inside the East 22 meter line, only to turn the ball over with handling errors or poor decision making. That is not to take anything away from an East defense that stiffened up continually to force many of those errors once the ball got close.  In the 25 minutes after East’s score, the Mustangs had 8 trips past the opposition 22 and came away with zero points to show for it. 

East was able to finally make a break out of their end, with some nice bursts in support of a couple of offloads that hit the ground before bouncing up from the turf in to waiting arms.  Finau made another big break to stay on the front foot, and ball was spun wide until it found Spann streaking down the sideline for a try to give East its first lead of the game with 9 minutes left, 15-14.

Mariano Delgado’s restart drove East back deep, and even though they countered well, a smothering Herriman defense forced a knock on.  Jackson Hammer had a nice break down the sideline to move the ball in to scoring position at the 10, and Tanner Foulger nearly followed that up with a score, getting stopped 1 meter short.  Hammer spun the ball wide to a waiting Delgado, who then passed out to Fisher Jackson for the emphatic touch down to regain the lead.  Reserve wing Nathan DePew, who gave a lift with some nice running and tackling off of the bench, boomed the conversion through to extend the lead to 6 at 21-15. 

Herriman maintained possession through a few minutes, but gave away a penalty to give East a last breath.  The Leopards got as close a 30 meters out before Herriman captain Ammon Sagala charged up hard on defense and took the ball right from his opposite number’s hands.  Herriman was able to boot the ball in to touch to seal the important victory and keep the Mustangs unbeaten on the season.

The game was an exciting one for the spectators in attendance, but both teams are likely to lament it as a day of lost chances – East for not being able to hang on to a late lead, and Herriman for missing a multitude of opportunities to put the game away early for most of the second half. 

Herriman stays home to host a very good Olympus side this Saturday, while East gets a bye week before traveling to play Snow Canyon on April 6th.


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