After three consecutive blowout losses to end the preseason, the Grantsville football team looked forward to kicking off the Class 3A North season to see how it matched up against a school closer to its own size.
The Cowboys made it clear that they have reason to be confident, rolling to a 28-10 triumph over Union on Friday night at Cowboy Stadium.
“We had a really tough preseason, but we knew we could compete with the 3A teams,” said Grantsville senior Seth Anderson, who helped lead a dominant defensive effort that limited Union to just 139 yards of total offense. “We knew we could compete with Union. I feel like it helps everyone get their confidence back after going up against a team our own size and seeing what we can do in region.”
Grantsville (2-3, 1-0 Class 3A North), which won on its home field for the first time in nearly two years, used a pair of big plays to break Friday night’s game open.
The first came just before halftime with the Cowboys facing fourth-and-7 from the Cougars’ 42-yard line and the score tied 7-7. Grantsville lined up in punt formation, but instead of snapping the ball to punter Brady Arbon, the snap went to the up-back, senior running back Riley Smith, who found an opening and ran 42 yards up the middle to give GHS a 14-7 advantage.
“I saw the hole and just went,” Smith said. “It was just fun. It got the adrenaline going and I thought that was the difference in the game – it just got everybody going.”
Grantsville coach Loren Anderson said Smith’s field vision helped make the fake punt successful.
“We’d practiced it, but not necessarily inside – we usually go outside with it,” Coach Anderson said. “We made a read on their defense and how they were playing the punt and our kids adjusted really well. Riley made a great run, broke a couple tackles and got it in the end zone.”
The crushing blow to the Cougars’ hopes came midway through the third quarter, a few minutes after Union (1-4, 0-1) cut the deficit to 14-10 on a 34-yard field goal by Jayce White.
Grantsville took possession on its own 20-yard line after a Union punt, and prepared to embark on what the Cowboys hoped would be a game-changing drive. It turned out to be one game-changing play, as quarterback Coy Johnson faked a handoff and sprinted 80 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown, giving Grantsville a 21-10 advantage.
“I saw green grass, and then out of nowhere, I saw our tackle, Seth Anderson, coming down and making a block,” Johnson said. “He was hauling – that doesn’t happen without him right there.”
Union had just one first down the rest of the game as the Grantsville defense stiffened, led by Seth Anderson and Connor Ware. The two linebackers wreaked havoc in the Cougars’ backfield, putting constant pressure on Union quarterbacks Cole Bertoch and Carson Kelly and stifling any hope of a comeback.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on speed and getting into the backfield,” Seth Anderson said. “I think we did a good job carrying through with that.”
Grantsville put an exclamation point on its victory with Johnson’s 8-yard touchdown pass to AJ Rainer with 6:42 left in the contest.
“The first one’s always the hardest one,” Loren Anderson said. “To come out and play well and get the first one and something good going for these kids is big. They’ve worked hard.”
Smith finished with 81 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for Grantsville, while Johnson had 74 rushing yards and 82 passing yards. Rainer rushed for 22 yards and had four receptions for 33 yards.
The Cowboys can take a major step toward clinching a postseason berth next Friday in their homecoming game against Carbon. The Dinos remain winless this season after dropping their Class 3A North opener 34-12 to rival Emery.
“We all feel really happy after this one and we haven’t felt that in a long time,” Smith said. “It just feels good. I think we’ve got a lot of confidence now and we just want to get back to it next week.”