For almost all his life, Drew Hymas fashioned himself a receiver and running back. He had some natural speed and vision, so youth coaches slotted him in the backfield and out wide, watching this skinny kid with dark hair make plays that way.
Then, when Hymas became a Highland freshman, former head coach Gino Mariani and his assistants approached Hymas with an idea: How about switching to quarterback?
“I thought it’d be fun, so we just tried it out,” Hymas said. “It’s been going pretty good so far.”
On Friday night, in Highland’s 34-28 win over Blackfoot, Hymas reminded his coaches of his roots. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 99 yards (with two interceptions), but where he really made a difference was on the ground, where he tallied 13 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Rams hold on for a win — and record what everyone involved considered their best offensive showing all season.
“Drew had a heck of a night running the ball,” Highland head coach Nick Sorrell said. “He saw those holes open up. And then the combinations that we had back at running back, between Kade (Jones) and Mason (Fullmer), even Gunner (Wilhelm) got in there a little bit. It was good to see all that work that we’ve been working towards. They finally put it together tonight.”
Boy did they. All told, Highland (3-3) totaled 280 rushing yards. Hymas ran for 141, Mason Fullmer carded 13 carries for 87 yards and two scores and senior Kade Jones registered 10 carries for 46 yards and one touchdown. During the week, the Rams figured they would be able to run the ball, but they may have surprised even themselves. They threw just six passes in the first half.
What made Highland’s rushing attack so intriguing was this: The Rams ran in so many different ways. Their first touchdown came courtesy of Jones, who sprinted in from 10 yards out. Their second credited to Hymas, who took a fake handoff 60 yards to the end zone, tying the game at 14-all. Then there was Fullmer, the team’s power back, lumbering in for a pair of three-yard scores, the perfect piece for short-yardage situations.
Even more remarkable was why the Rams’ ground game worked in the first place. Their only returning starter on offense is senior Peyton Harding, an offensive lineman. All 10 other guys, including the other four offensive linemen, are new to the varsity level. On the line, that includes juniors Dillon Shaw, Bruce Galo, Dallas Call and Bryant Kelly, plus senior Michael Bang. Around them, newcomers include Hymas, Colt Durham, Jones, even Rhidge Barela, one of the team’s best receivers who Blackfoot did well to limit on Friday night.
For Highland, that’s why this win feels so gratifying: For the first time all season, the Rams’ offense opened up the way they always envisioned it would, paving the way for a win over a Blackfoot club that projects to be back in the playoff hunt this fall.
“A lot of it is momentum,” Fullmer said. “I think our offense definitely broke through tonight, scored some points. O-line, receivers, Drew did great. I think we just worked as a team tonight.”
If it sounds like Highland ran away with this win, well, it shouldn’t. The Rams muffed the opening kickoff and the Broncos (3-3) used one play, a touchdown pass from Jaxon Grimmett to Ja’Vonte King, to take the lead. Jones followed it with a touchdown and Hymas later broke free for that 60-yarder, but both of those scores tied the game, meaning Highland was playing catch-up for most of the game. Heck, the game was tied at halftime, 21-21.
So when the third frame started, something began to become clear: The Rams had made some adjustments on defense. They forced a punt on Blackfoot’s opening drive, which Highland turned into a Fullmer touchdown, and if you blinked, you might have missed Fullmer’s second touchdown. Both were three-yard scores, but this one handed the hosts a 34-21 lead, which was enough to win.
Sandwiched around that play were Highland’s defenders swarming to the ball like they didn’t in the first half. Defensive back Jaxon Sibounma snared a pick in the fourth frame. Also in that quarter, fellow defensive back Campell Thomas forced an incompletion on a pass intended for King, the 6-foot-5 receiver with imposing size and even better hands. As Thomas signaled the incompletion, King pushed him away lightly, showing some frustration.
The story of Highland’s defense was, largely, in King’s numbers. In total, he recorded 10 catches for 162 yards and two scores, but check out the difference in halves: In the first, he hauled in seven catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yarder. In the second, he made just three catches for 36 yards. Eventually, the Rams’ double coverage slowed down King, which is far from an easy thing to do.
“We started to not panic as DBs,” Sorrell said. “In the first half, I thought we would panic. We could tell by our footwork that we just weren’t trusting things. So at halftime, we talked and said, hey, slow the game down. Make it come to you. And trust everything that we’re taught, because you guys can play with anybody. You guys can cover anybody.”
If the Rams can cover King, they sure can. Heck, maybe their quarterback could do it. After Friday night, one thing is for sure: He’s fast enough.
HIGHLAND 34, BLACKFOOT 28
B — King 18 pass from Grimmett (PAT good), 11:49
H — Jones 10 rush (PAT good), 10:20
B — Hale 9 pass from Grimmett (PAT good), 0:56
H — Hymas 5 rush (PAT good), 10:50
H — Hymas 60 rush (PAT good), 4:55
B — King 60 pass from Grimmett (PAT good), 3:19
H — Fullmer 3 rush (PAT good), 4:14
H — Fullmer 3 rush (PAT no good), 8:48
RUSHING — Blackfoot: Capson 13-82, Lawes 3-3, Grimmett 12-72, King 1 (-3). Highland: Fullmer 13-87, Hymas 13-141, Barela 1-6, Jones 10-46.
PASSING — Blackfoot: Grimmett 16-37-271 2. Highland: Hymas 9-16-99 0.
RECEIVING — Blackfoot: King 10-162, Hale 2-45. Highland: Barela 4-66, Reno 1-7, Jones 4-26.