Blackhawk sinks Highlands on late field goal
With the clock winding down and the Highlands defense on its heels, the Blackhawk offense took over at its own 48-yard line and drove 38 yards in six plays to set up the game-winning 24-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Myles Vujaklya with 6 seconds remaining. Vujaklya's kick was good, sending Blackhawk past Highlands, 25-22, in a Class 4A Northwest Nine Conference matchup between two playoff hopefuls.
“The kids played hard, and I'm proud of them,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said.
With senior quarterback Brayden Thimons in street clothes because of a shoulder injury and standout running back Jermiane Jett nursing a broken hand, the Highlands offense was without two of its biggest playmakers.
“Our kids came up and met the challenge and once again they played a great game,” Albert said
Despite three first quarter turnovers, the Cougars managed to get on the board first. Blackhawk (5-2, 4-2) opened the scoring late in the first quarter when Mike Savilisky connected with wide receiver Tyler Hill for a 38-yard touchdown pass. Savilisky connected with Hill two more times for touchdowns passes of 8 and 68 yards.
“The win wasn't pretty by any stretch of your imagination, but I'll take it,” said Blackhawk coach Joe Lamenza. “(Highlands was) playing a lot of man-to-man coverage, and when teams put eight in the box you got to be able to throw the ball.”
Savilisky finished 7 of 18 for 129 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Highlands (3-4, 2-4) senior running back Dom Martinka scored on a 6-yard run early in the second quarter to cut Blackhawk's lead to 7-6 after the blocked extra-point attempt.
Martinka scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass from Seth Cohen to start the fourth quarter to tie the game at 22-22. Martinka led Highlands with 84 yards on 19 carries.
“We put Martinka in the wildcat, and we told him that you have to be our man and he stepped up big time,” Albert said.
Junior Romello Freeman scooped up a loose ball and returned it 68 yards for a defensive touchdown to give Highlands a 12-7 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.
“Romello is a beast, and he's all over the field,” said Albert.
Savilisky and Hill paired up again for an 8-yard touchdown to regain the lead at 14-12. Senior kicker Taylor Gunn tacked on a 31-yard field goal to give the Golden Rams a 15-14 lead just before the halftime.
With Martinka running the ball from the wildcat, Highlands also rotated three quarterbacks: freshman Luke Cochran, sophomore Seth Cohen and junior Ryan Signorella. Cochran went 3 of 7 for 84 yards.
Despite forcing six turnovers, the Highlands defense had no answer for Blackhawk running back Kyle Peterson, who finished with a game-high 155 yards on 22 carries.
“Blackhawk lost to Mars on the last play (of the game), and they lost to South Fayette on the last play. I guess it's their turn. They beat us on the last play,” Albert said.
William Whalen is a freelance writer.