The Arizona Republic

Turnovers help Highland rout Queen Creek

- Nate Fain

Gilbert Highland coach Brock Farrel was all smiles on the sideline.

Friday night’s game at Queen Creek was the hardhittin­g, turnover circus he’d been hoping for.

He knew his defense, which has forced turnovers and negative plays all season, could cause problems for Queen Creek and pro-style quarterbac­k Devin Larsen. He figured Highland’s balanced offense and kicker Austin McNamara could handle things from there. They just needed to execute.

That’s exactly what happened. Highland (8-1) put all of 6A on notice with a 38-7 win.

It started on Queen Creek’s first pass attempt of the game. Larsen evaded Highland’s pass rush – a unit that entered Friday’s game with 22 sacks on the season – and found a receiver over the middle, but the ball was immediatel­y fumbled and picked up by linebacker Griffin Nielson in Highland territory. McNamara split the uprights to put his team up 3-0 early.

Queen Creek turned the ball over two more times in the first half – a Dylan Borja fumble and a Larsen intercepti­on.

Thanks to those turnovers and good field position throughout the game, Highland’s offense had the manageable task of just needing to make a few plays to secure the win.

On a fake sweep, quarterbac­k Kaleb Herbert found Noah Burdick, his favorite receiver, for a 35-yard touchdown. Then, after the Larsen intercepti­on, Highland’s Kohner Cullimore scored a 1-yard touchdown. Highland took a 17-7 lead into halftime.

Early in the second half, Herbert hit Burdick again, this time on a quick slant that turned into a 58-yard touchdown.

Up 17, Highland’s defense continued to bring the heat. Farrel and his coaching staff called delayed blitzes all game, making life difficult for Larsen.

“(Larsen) is really good at reading coverages and staying in the pocket, so we really tried to confuse their offensive line,” linebacker Danny Wood said. Wood forced a fumble and sacked Larsen. Queen Creek’s fourth and final turnover of the game came in the final minutes of the game. Down 24-7, Larsen threw an intercepti­on over the middle to Cullimore.

 ?? DARRYL WEBB/FOR THE REPUBLIC ?? Highland’s Dayton Huffman tackles Queen Creek’s Alec Prochazka (left) on Friday night in Queen Creek.
DARRYL WEBB/FOR THE REPUBLIC Highland’s Dayton Huffman tackles Queen Creek’s Alec Prochazka (left) on Friday night in Queen Creek.

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