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Herriman Over Olympus Caps Big Day in Utah

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Herriman Over Olympus Caps Big Day in Utah

Cam Conners on the attack for Herriman. Photo Tonio McPeak.

Herriman and Olympus have been on a collision course since the start of the 2021 season, earning the #1 and #2 seeds in all three age groups (7/8, 9/10, and Varsity) coming in to the Utah Youth Rugby state tournament. 

The teams met for league play April 28 with three closely-contested games, with Olympus edging out Herriman for the #1 seed in the 7/8 division and Herriman coming out on top in close games in the 9/10 and Varsity game. The two teams were on course for all three finals until last week, when Mountain Ridge played an excellent game against an injury-depleted Herriman side to punch their ticket to the 7/8 finals – won handily by a very strong Olympus team.

Nevertheless, the stage was set for the older teams to clash, and what looked have the makings of two close contests ended up as the two most lopsided games of the day, with Herriman reasserting its place at the top of the Utah Single School division. 

The 9/10 game saw Herriman start quickly with three scores before Olympus came roaring back with two of their own to make it a close first half game. Herriman responded with a punishing forwards game led by Heston Egelund, who scored four tries, Manaia Brown, who added a try and made several big breaks, and some deft backline work and placekicking from flyhalf Josiah Dunn. All in all, Herriman would take a well earned 38-17 victory. 

The Varsity Final

In the clash between Herriman and Olympus three weeks earlier, Herriman won narrowly 29-21. This varsity final was the last game of the day, and there was a palpable excitement from both crowds under the lights. Herriman entered the field debiting new white jerseys, a color they have not worn for several years. Olympus also ran out a newer set – both kits expertly made locally by Tytan Rugby (owned by former Highland and BYU player Kody Thompson), who also provided the game balls. 

Herriman came out determined to start faster than they did three weeks ago, where they gave away numerous opportunities to score down close and were down 7-0 until right before halftime. Olympus looked to get the ball wide and rely on speedsters Dom Nugent, Preston  Numbers, Nate Condon, and future University of Utah football punter Jackson Bennee. 

Herriman went on attack right away, using a balanced mix of forwards and backs and putting pressure on the Titan defense to force a penalty from 30 meters out. Junior center Sake Tukuafu stepped up and drilled the kick home for a 3-0 lead less than five minutes in. Olympus knocked the ball forward attempting to secure the subsequent kick, and Herriman went right back on attack, working the ball down close with more patience than they had shown in the prior contest. When the Olympus forwards overcommitted in covering the Herriman big men, flyhalf Daxton McPeak called for the ball and found hard charging All-American center Mason Barker, who was through a gap for an unconverted try to make it 8-0.

Olympus was finally able to get on the front foot with an excellent restart forcing a Herriman knock-on, and the game plan of taking quick taps from penalties to get the ball wide to their speed was evident on multiple possessions. Herriman’s defense held strong, with junior Dane Ellermeier coming up strong several times and freshman wing Taimane Brown rising to the challenge when tasked with keeping the electric Bennee in check. McPeak was able to clear the zone on a turnover, but Numbers and Condon countered well to threaten in Herriman territory once again. A break by Nugent was for naught with an Olympus penalty for not releasing at the breakdown. Herriman worked the ball down the field with a nice kick to touch, a take by flanker Sam Adamson (who was dominant in the lineout all day), and running with sophomore lock Kahlil Laufau in tight and junior fullback Cam Connors out wide. Patience paid off near the tryline again, with scrumhalf Strider Fountaine squeezing through a gap for a converted try to push to 15-0. An Olympus penalty from the restart have Herriman another kick for touch, and the lineout ball was taken and made its way out to Barker, who broke five tackles before being taken down. Connors nearly scored, and sophomore flanker Afa Kula smartly picked up from the ensuing ruck before the Olympus defense could get set to dot down for a 20-0 lead. 

Herriman’s ability to take clean ball off of nearly every restart continued to keep the ball away from Olympus, who had very little possession all game. Connors once again got them close, and Fountaine found hard-charging sophomore hooker Losi Brown for another try – the scores now coming at a dizzying pace. Caden Syddall was true on the conversion to make it 27-0 with three minutes left before the half.

Herriman nearly scored again out wide to Taimane Brown, but were whistled for a penalty and gave Olympus the ball back for the first time in nearly 10 minutes of play. They wasted no time with a quick tap and several nice phases but rucked a little too far through the breakdown and left the ball sitting in the open, which Tukuafu smartly stepped over and snagged for the turnover. Senior prop Zach Worthington barreled through the middle of the Olympus defense, then Fountaine found the other senior prop, Dom Mitchell, who blasted through for a try right before the half to push the advantage to 34-0 at the break.

Olympus came out of the half with some life, and looked to be on their way to closing the gap when Numbers perfectly timed a pass and intercepted it and appeared to be gone for a try. Connors, however, chased him down and Adamson was able to turn the ball over two phases later and tack on a nice run to boot. Herriman went back on the attack, using the same balance as they had all day to keep Olympus from focusing on taking away just one aspect of play. A kick to touch from an Olympus penalty put the Mustangs close to scoring, and although the smaller Titan pack did well to stop a maul, the ball went out to McPeak, who smartly dummied when he saw the defense loading up on Barker, and found a charging Tukuafu for an apparent try, which Olympus held up. Junior No. 8 Syddall then picked from the ensuing scrum and powered over for a try, which he converted, 41-0.

Olympus regained the ball after another Herriman foray in to their 22, and Nugent got free to put a nice grubber through which almost hit Bennee in pace, but the Mustang defense was ready and fielded it cleanly to get back on offense near midfield. Olympus nearly won the ball back with a massive hit near the ruck, but Herriman was able to offload the ball, which eventually found its way to Worthington, and the big tighthead carried several Titan defenders with him down to the 22, where Olympus was whistled for a penalty. Syddall calmly slotted it through to take the margin to 44-0. 

A Herriman penalty on the next possession gave the ball to Olympus in good attacking space, and they would penetrate all the way to the 22 before running out of space and being forced out of bounds. Junior lock Tyler Anderson took the lineout clean, and the Mustangs were back across midfield in no time. Herriman would turn the ball over, however, and Olympus worked the ball nicely down to the 22 again, where a knock on ended their hopes of finally getting on the board. Herriman countered with a big break from senior wing Ammon Curtis, a regular starter who had been ill earlier in the week and was coming in off the bench. The Mustangs would get to within one meter of scoring again, but got a little too aggressive in the ruck and were yellow carded as a result. Olympus went on the front foot again, and finally got on the scoreboard when they went wide to find Numbers and he sped away for a 50-meter converted try. 

Herriman took a tighthead from a scrum a few minutes later and looked to have another scoring opportunity, but Olympus was able to get a temporary reprieve. Reserve fullback Kennon Aiono would get the ball back, however, and get his team back on the attack. A five-meter scrum saw Olympus continue to fight, but after several phases Syddall was able to punch across for his second try to make it 51-7. Olympus would garner a few more trips downfield, but the Herriman reserves kept the level high and were able to defend and hit some nice clearing kicks to keep the pressure off, and were rewarded for their efforts when Curtis zipped ahead outside to dot down a final score.

Olympus played hard throughout their first state final; there was no letup regardless of what the number on the scoreboard showed and regardless of the result they finished recorded their highest ever finish in the state. The Titans’ future looks bright with a strong coaching staff and successful seasons by their younger teams.

Herriman, meanwhile, played its best game of the year and seems to be hitting its stride and showing what it is capable of after a slower-than-normal start. With more than a month to go until the #1-ranked single-school team heads to the national championships, they have scheduled some joint head-to-head sessions with fellow nationals entrant Genesis as well as games against Snow Canyon and the Utah Warriors HS Academy team.