“Grey Cloud” Removed After Highland’s First Victory


Spencer Baese

Khalil Jones runs past Murray defender to score the final touchdown.

Laynee Hall, Staff Writer

The scene on Friday night at the Highland football stadium immediately following the game could be summed up in one single word: “FINALLY!”

The Highland Rams celebrated the first win of their season, beating the Murray Spartans to claim a victory on both senior night and homecoming. With a final score of 25-3, the sense of relief that came after the final whistle was blown could be felt on both the field and in the stands.

Fans huddled on the track, anticipating the scoreboard clock to finally expire. Players were bouncing up and down on the sideline, waving towels and hugging one another. Coaches simply looked relieved.

After six straight losses to begin the season, this first victory was as sweet as it was needed.

“I think [the tough start to the season] was something that was just like a grey cloud over, and to get it away or to get it over with, that just kind of propels us to have more confidence going into the last two games,” Highland coach Kautai Olevao said.

Feeling the pressure to score after a slow start to the first quarter, the first points of the night came in favor of the Rams after a catch made by Highland junior Zedrick Fifita. His fourth-down catch put the team into the endzone on its first drive of the game — but then the offense stalled. That’s when the defense took over.

After a missed 30-yard field goal attempt by Murray on its first drive of the game, Highland’s defense kept the Spartans scoreless for the rest of the half by not letting them cross the 30-yard line once. This was the first display of the tough Highland defense that controlled the game for the rest of the night.

Following a second quarter of no scores coming from either team, the start of the second half of the game brought life back onto the field and into the Rams.

After a throw to the endzone led to an interception in favor of Murray, Highland defense stepped up to the challenge of holding the Spartans off from scoring after the loss of possession. Following a sack of the quarterback by Peizge Mailei at the 8-yard line and an almost forced fumble, the Ram’s defense was able to fight Murray’s momentum and keep them from scoring on a fourth down within the 5-yard line of the endzone.

“I’m proud of our defense,” Highland quarterback Ashton Zwick said. “Our defense, they stopped them the whole night long, and then you know eventually our offense came together and we got some points on the board.”

Following a facemask penalty call that took away his rushing 50-yard touchdown, senior Maea Giles didn’t give up and ended the night as the high scorer for the Rams, scoring two touchdowns off a catch thrown by sophomore Peizge Mailei in the third quarter and rushing 39-yard touchdown in the fourth. On Miles 39-yard run, he broke multiple tackles en route to the end zone, proving how hungry he was to secure the victory. Both extra points were blocked, but Highland took control with a 19-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

Mailei also brought a spark onto the field after rushing a 48-yard run that led to a touchdown on the next play for Highland brought in by Giles. As the Rams continued to fight for each other on the field, this effort allowed them to hold the Spartans off from scoring until the final moments of the game.

“The boys wanted it a lot,” Olevao said. “They actually executed the gameplan that we had, there were some hiccups early on but you know most everyone played well and executed what we practiced all week.”

After a 40-yard field goal attempt by Murray put the score at 19-3 with three seconds left to go in fourth quarter, Highland came together once again, scoring a touchdown in the last second of the game after a failed onside kick allowed senior Khalil Jones to run the ball 55 yards into the end zone.

“Everybody believing, everyone giving 100 percent every play. That’s what worked,” sophomore Meilei said. “Finally coming together as a team and doing what we do to win.”

As soon as the final whistle sounded fans rushed the field, celebrating the win right along with the players, just as excited to see the team get their first victory of the season.

The Rams are hoping to take this positive energy and momentum with them when they take on East and Olympus in the next couple of weeks.