If there was any doubt after Grantsville won its first three games by double-digits, there can be no question now: the 2018 edition of the Cowboys’ football team is one of the best Class 3A has to offer.
Friday night’s 28-21 win over county rival Tooele marked Grantsville’s closest margin of victory through the first four games of the season. However, the Cowboys’ effort against the Class 4A Buffaloes might have been their best this year.
Tooele, known for its rushing attack from the Wing-T formation over the past several years, was held to 5 yards on 24 attempts on Friday night. Quarterback Kulani Iongi threw for 212 yards, but was sacked a whopping nine times — three times by senior Isaac Riding and twice each by junior Gauge Pyne and senior Colten Gill.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, the beat goes on for Grantsville. Parker Thomas ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. The season is only four games old and he’s already at 910 yards and a dozen TDs. That puts him on pace for 2,730 yards through nine regular-season games, which would smash the school record of 2,305 set by current Grantsville assistant coach Alan Mouritsen during the second of the Cowboys’ back-to-back state championship-winning seasons in 1997.
Throw in the fact that first-year starting quarterback Jackson Sandberg had his finest game of the season, throwing for almost 100 yards and firing a confident touchdown strike to senior Parker Bird in the second half, and Grantsville looks truly dangerous.
This Friday against Morgan will be crucial to the Cowboys when it comes to seeding for next month’s Class 3A state playoffs. After the game against the Trojans, Grantsville should be heavily favored in its remaining games against Carbon, Union, Judge Memorial and Emery. If they can stay healthy, the Cowboys seem destined for a deep playoff run — and, possibly, a shot at the state championship that has eluded them since Mouritsen was terrorizing opponents in the late 1990s.
On the other side of last Friday’s rivalry game is a Tooele team trying to keep its spirits up after three difficult losses in a row — and another huge rivalry game on tap this week against Stansbury. The Buffaloes’ only win came in a game against Uintah that was shortened to a little over a quarter by inclement weather.
Sure, they knew their early-season schedule was a gauntlet of sorts, and their record might not be pretty as a result. But even when you know you’re facing tough competition, losing is never easy. It’s hard to keep your spirits up. But the truth of the matter is Tooele still has everything to play for.
A win over Stansbury puts the Buffs in the driver’s seat for the region championship. A loss isn’t the end of the world, as they’ll have a good shot at running the table through the rest of the Region 11 season. But that’s if — and only if — they can avoid letting their early-season struggles damage their confidence.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’s looking forward to the beginning of the region football season, when the intensity level ramps up even more. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.