The Grantsville football team didn’t view Friday’s 34-21 loss to defending state champion Juan Diego as a moral victory, leaving the field disappointed.
However, the Cowboys nearly pulled off a victory on the scoreboard, whittling a 20-point deficit down to six with more than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter with a thrilling sequence of events.
“We talked to them at halftime about still grinding it out, one score at a time,” said Grantsville coach Loren Anderson, whose team trailed 20-0 just over 15 minutes into the game.
The Cowboys (3-4, 2-1 Class 3A North) had seemingly squandered their best chance at a comeback on their previous possession, fumbling the ball in the red zone and allowing a 76-yard touchdown run that gave Juan Diego (3-3, 2-1) a 27-7 lead. Grantsville took over from its own 20-yard line with 8:28 left in the game after the ensuing kickoff, and embarked on a 13-play, 80-yard drive – helped by three penalties against the Soaring Eagle –– that finished with a 7-yard touchdown run by Riley Smith.
“It just shows that we never give up and we’re always in the fight,” Smith said. “I think we proved a lot –– as long as we just stayed in the fight and kept battling back.”
Needing two scores with just 4:30 left on the clock, the Cowboys opted to attempt an onside kick. Juan Diego couldn’t field it cleanly, allowing Grantsville to recover on the Soaring Eagle’s 42-yard line and giving the Cowboys life.
Quarterback Coy Johnson wasted no time getting Grantsville back in the end zone, finding AJ Rainer for a 10-yard reception and connecting with Jake Paxton for 29 more before scoring on a 3-yard run, closing the gap to 27-21 with 3:23 left.
“The onside kick helped, getting possession back and getting us back in the game,” Anderson said. “I thought we outplayed them. I’m proud of them for the way that they fought, but it’s still a loss and it still stings.”
Grantsville’s second onside kick attempt failed, giving the Soaring Eagle the ball on the Cowboys’ 37-yard line. Still, the Cowboys had a chance to get the ball back, but Juan Diego turned a third-and-25 into a 44-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach.
Grantsville’s effort wasn’t helped by several costly turnovers and penalties that either stopped their own scoring drives or prolonged possessions by Juan Diego.
“We’ve got to fix a few things on offense and be in better position on defense,” said Smith, who ran for 108 yards. “We’ve got to stop turning the ball over –– we keep moving the ball down the field, but we’ve got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Johnson threw for 140 yards and ran for 33 more, including two touchdown runs. Paxton had a team-high 63 receiving yards, while Braxton Hansen had 36 receiving yards and added a 53-yard interception return.
Grantsville, currently in a three-way tie for second place in Class 3A North, will travel to Castle Dale next Friday to face Emery. The Spartans defeated Union on Friday to improve to 2-1 in league play.