SMITHFIELD — With Sky View breaking out several new starters in the first game of the season against an imposing 6A school, Herriman, some suspected the Bobcats’ 25-game winning streak was in jeopardy Friday night.
Sky View scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game and never surrendered the lead, winning the game 21-10 over the Mustangs to go 1-0 on the season and extend its winning streak to 26 games.
Typically, the first game of the high school season is mistake-filled. For Herriman, that was certainly the case. The visitors threw three interceptions, missed two field goals and had several dropped passes.
Sky View, on the other hand, despite breaking in a new starting quarterback in senior Garrett Zollinger, looked ready to play. The Bobcats were far from flawless — picking up a variety of penalties and making some mental miscues — but the offense managed to move downfield consistently, while the defense came up with big stops when it needed to.
Bobcat head coach Chris Howell was quick to dismiss the notion that extending his team's winning streak from last season means anything, yet acknowledged the significance of taking down a 6A school from Salt Lake County.
“I feel like, certainly there's lessons learned,” he said. “In the sense that we can battle, we can fight with anybody.”
It was certainly a battle Friday night against a Herriman team that boasted “as good of a defense as we have played,” according to Howell.
The inexperienced Bobcat offensive line was physically inferior to the stout Mustang front, but the Sky View offense still found ways to be effective.
“Their front seven was really, really good,” said Howell. “I mean, just nasty, tough. But their aggressiveness we were able to take advantage of with a little bit of our RPO game and a little bit of our screen game.”
Facilitating the run-pass option offense was Zollinger, who accounted for all three of the Bobcats’ scores — two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Despite not having ample time to throw from the pocket, he made quality reads by faking the hand-off to senior running back Reed Wilde to divert the defense’s attention and throwing it down the middle of the field to senior tight end Kimball Jackson, or senior wide receiver Davis Hall.
Arguably the play of the game was a pass from Zollinger to Hall.
In the second quarter, Jackson Sundstrom picked off Herriman quarterback Jack White, setting the Bobcat offense up 39 yards from the end zone. The first play of the drive, running a play called “C Hawk,” Zollinger rolled out and found Hall, who made a cut at the 10-yard line and coasted to the end zone to give Sky View a 14-0 lead with 3:21 left in the half.
“(Herriman) thought they were just going to come up and bully us, but we stepped up and made big plays,” Zollinger said.
Two additional big plays came at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter.
With Sky View leading 14-3, Herriman’s offense seemed to have gotten going, with White connecting with junior receiver Max Robinson for the first down. Needing to stop the drive, Wilde, who doubles as a linebacker, stepped in and made an interception to give the Bobcats the ball back with 1:00 left in the third quarter.
A few plays later, Zollinger connected with Jackson up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown catch to extend the Bobcat lead to 21-3.
“That was huge, our defense really stepped up,” Zollinger said. “That makes our offense get all the motivation to go down and score, puts us in a better field position, and we capitalize on it.”
Herriman, which went 9-3 a year ago, found the end zone on a 1-yard run from senior Cayden Syddall to make it 21-10 with 8:02 to play. But that would be the closest the visitors would get.
The Sky View defense forced a huge fourth-down stop at midfield with 5:39 play, when Jackson swooped in to tackle White one yard in front of the first down line. With 2:50 left, Hall intercepted a desperation heave from White on fourth down to seal the deal for the Bobcats.
“We're gonna give up some yards in between the 20s,” Howell said. “But we really are just trying to force officers to make mistakes, get them behind the chains where we feel like we have an opportunity to be more successful. And we did that tonight.”
For Zollinger, it’s a special feeling to win the first game of the season in his first career start.
“I've been waiting for three years now to be this guy,” he said. “And it's happened. I'm speechless. I can't even express how happy I am to come away with a win against a 6A school in our first game.”
BOBCATS 21, MUSTANGS 10
Friday at Smithfield
Herriman 0 0 3 7 — 10
Sky View 7 7 0 7 — 21
SV — Garrett Zollinger 5 run (Kasen Erickson kick), 9:45
SV — Davis Hall 39 pass from Zollinger (Erickson kick), 3:21
H — FG 42 Cayden Syddall, 6:27
SV — Kimball Jackson 31 pass from Zollinger (Erickson kick), 11:14
H — Syddall 1 run (Syddall kick), 8:02