The Grantsville football team built a reputation as one of the premier small-school programs in Utah during the 1990s.
Over the past four seasons, the Cowboys have started to regain some of that mystique.
Make no mistake, those teams of the 1990s are a tough act to follow. For 10 consecutive seasons between 1991 and 200, Grantsville never finished with a losing record. The Cowboys went to three consecutive Class 2A state championship games, winning the title in 1996 and 1997 after losing in 1995. Grantsville also won the title in 1992. They advanced at least as far the semifinals five out of six years from 1995-2000.
But since that run, while Grantsville still had the reputation, the record didn’t reflect it. Between 2001 and 2016, the Cowboys had just four winning seasons, with three in a row between 2011 and 2013. They lost in the state championship game in 2003, and fell in the semifinals in 2005. After that, they only got out of the first round of the playoffs once, in 2011.
By Grantsville standards, that counts as a slump — and it truly became one between 2014 and 2016, when the Cowboys went 8-24.
However, Grantsville is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance. The Cowboys have clinched their fourth non-losing season in a row — their longest such stretch since that run in the 1990s. This year marks the first time since 1997-1998 that Grantsville has advanced to the semifinals in consecutive seasons. A win over Morgan would send the Cowboys to their first title game since before most of their players were born — certainly long before any of them can remember.
The Cowboys should be proud of what they’ve been able to build. Coach Kody Byrd and his staff took over a program that was struggling on the field, and had more than its fair share of turmoil off of it. In four short years, Grantsville has gone from an afterthought to one of the most feared programs in Utah’s second-smallest classification.
While this generation of Cowboys doesn’t have the matching hardware to show for it yet, there are hints of Grantsville’s past glory. It’s a tribute not only to the coaches, but the players as well for all the hard work they’ve put in — not just from a physical standpoint, but in terms of rebuilding a winning culture, as well. And the community deserves a lot of the credit, as well. Even when the Cowboys bottomed out a few years back, Grantsville never turned its back on them. The people of Grantsville were hungry for a winner, no doubt, but they remained supportive even when the results weren’t there.
Now, they’re reaping the benefits. This group of Cowboys has taken that community support, their own work ethic and their coaches’ hard work and parlayed all of it into an exciting and formidable product on the gridiron, week after week. And it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Just look at the Cowboys’ roster — their quarterback (and second-leading rusher) is a junior. Their leading rusher? Also a junior. Third-leading rusher? Junior. Second-leading receiver? A sophomore. The team leader in sacks is a junior. Their leader in interceptions, who has also returned multiple kicks for touchdowns this year, is a sophomore.
So, whatever happens Friday in Cedar City, it isn’t the end of this impressive run by the Cowboys over the past several years. Grantsville is showing that it’s not some one- or two-year wonder. The Grantsville football program is alive and well, and the Cowboys aren’t done writing this chapter in their storied history.
I can’t wait to see how it ends.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He remembers being in awe of the Grantsville football program at its peak. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.