Highland vs Red Mountain

Highland quarterback Gage Dayley led his team to a 6A semifinal win over Red Mountain Friday night, which allowed the Hawks to advance to their second straight title game.

All season long the Highland defense has stepped up when it mattered most, and in Friday night’s 28-14 6A semifinal win over Red Mountain was no exception.

With just over two minutes left and Red Mountain in the red zone, the Hawks defense came up big. On fourth-and-fifteen multiple Highland defenders stopped wide receiver Preston Heap just one-yard short of the first down and forced the turnover on downs.

“I thought we put enough pressure on him so he had to get it out early,” Highland head coach Brock Farrel said. “It was a good throw, kid made a great catch, thought it was kinda generous on the spot but we made the play anyway.”

After the turnover on downs Highland was able to run out the clock and advance to their second straight 6A championship game, but the Lions made sure the Hawks had to work hard to pick up the victory.

In the first half, both the Highland defense and offense shined as the defense posted a first half shutout and the offense scored four first half touchdowns. The Hawks got the ball first and had no trouble driving down the field where running back Carson Mullenaux scored the first touchdown of the game on an eight-yard rush.

according to Farrel, Mullenaux started the game over usual starting running back Steven Trujillo and took the majority of the carries due to a leg injury that had Trujillo banged up.

“He (Trujillo) can play, but he’s not 100% percent and we didn’t want to make it worse so we were gonna pick our spots with Steven,” Farrel said. “Carson has slowly been progressing and we felt like he was ready. He’s a change of pace from Steven who’s like a water bug and Carson’s like a battering ram.”

After Red Mountain punted on their first possession, Highland did not waste any time getting back on the board. Quarterback Gage Dayley stepped up in the pocket and found wide receiver Hunter Stewart over the middle of the field for a 73-yard touchdown.

“I dropped back, felt the pocket start to collapse and was gonna run, but I saw Hunter,” Dayley said. “I put it on a rope and he just made a great play.”

In the second quarter the Lions punted two more times and the Hawks scored two more times. One on another Dayley to Stewart touchdown, this one a 28-yarder, and one on another run from Mullenaux. Dayley finished the game completing just seven passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns and he rushed six times for an extra 63 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Mullenaux carried the ball 24 times for 149 yards and two scores.

After the game Farrel was impressed by Mullenaux’s ability to absorb contact and fight for extra yards.

“Carson when he gets contacted, it’s an additional three to four yards,” Farrel said. “He doesn’t go down right when you make contact. He is hard to bring down and I think that was a big benefit for us.”

Although Highland was in complete control of the game heading into halftime, Red Mountain came out rolling in the second half.

In the first half the Highland defense limited Division-1 recruit and Red Mountain wide receiver Jakobi Lane to just two catches for six yards. On the Lions first drive of the second half, Lane was heavily involved as he recorded three receptions for 17 yards and a touchdown.

On Highland’s first drive of the second half they ran a wide receiver pass trick play that was picked off around the 50-yard line and returned to the 28-yard line. Red Mountain capitalized as running back Lenox Lawson punched in a two-yard touchdown as time expired in the third quarter making it a two-score game.

Neither team scored in the fourth quarter and Highland advanced to their second straight title for a rematch against Chaparral. Last year the two teams met in the 6A final but the Firebirds came away victorious 24-14.

Heading into the 6A championship Farrel said that he is sticking with the same mentality that he and the team have stuck with all season long.

“It’s always been us versus us,” Farrel said. “How do we play us at our best? Cause I believe us at our best is better than anybody.”

After the game Dayley said that since the start of the playoffs the team has been on a mission to prove that they are one of the top eight teams in Arizona.

“We were snubbed from the Open (Division) so we wanted to make a statement saying that we’re one of the top eight teams in the state too,” Dayley said “We just gotta go out and prove it to them one last time.”

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