Montour had the star power in quarterback E.J. Banks, but lesser-known Highlands signal-caller Jeff Sinclair had the moves Friday night.
Sinclair rushed for all three of No. 6 Highlands' touchdowns to lead the Golden Rams to a 20-12 upset of No. 2 Montour.
To compliment his stellar offensive performance, Sinclair intercepted a pass at the 1:47 mark of the fourth quarter and picked off another pass with 21 seconds remaining to seal the win.
"He's as good as anybody I've ever coached," Highlands coach Sam Albert said.
"He can run, throw, and if you don't want him as quarterback, he's the best free safety in the WPIAL."
With the dual-threat quarterbacks as the main playmakers, Sinclair used his feet to spark Highlands' offense. He had 16 carries for 84 yards, including touchdown runs of 4, 25 and 7 yards.
Hanging on to a 13-12 advantage at the half, Sinclair padded Highlands' lead with a 7-yard touchdown run at the 6:51 mark of the third quarter.
Visiting Highlands (2-0) held Montour (1-2) scoreless in the second half to hand the Spartans just their second loss in two years. Montour went 12-1 last season after losing to eventual PIAA champion Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL title game.
"They had a nice game plan," Montour coach Lou Cerro said. "They're a good team; that's why they're ranked what they are. You have to make plays, and that's what they did."
Sinclair doesn't have a Division I offer, but he outshined Banks, a Notre Dame recruit. Sinclair completed 8-of-15 passes for 101 yards. Banks completed 14-of-25 passes for 164 yards, with two picks.
Highlands did a fine job of containing the elusive Banks on the ground. He was held to 18 yards on 26 carries. He didn't have one positive gain in the second half.
"Stop him, we win the game," Sinclair said. "That was our game plan all week. I'm sure that's everyone's game plan to stop No. 5. I thought we did a real good job."
Highlands took a 13-12 advantage with 46 seconds remaining in the first half and held the lead through a scoreless third quarter. Highlands used a 5:09 drive in the fourth quarter to take a 20-12 lead when Sinclair rushed 7 yards for a touchdown.
Although Highlands fumbled twice in its own territory in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Montour was unable to capitalize on the mistakes.
Until the fourth quarter, which was filled by Highlands highlights, the game was a back-and-forth battle.
Montour scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Robert Diecks and then on a 15-yard reception from Banks to Anthony Matarazzo.
But Highlands scored when it mattered most in the fourth quarter.
"It's early yet, and we don't want to go too overboard. But it was a great win for us," Albert said.
Tricia Lafferty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5666.