Of all the 3A first-round playoff football games, Grantsville at Juab should be the most competitive.
On paper, the two foes seem almost identical. The big difference is that Grantsville likes to move the ball on the ground, while Juab has a penchant for throwing the football. Friday’s kickoff in Nephi is slated for 6 p.m.
The Cowboys defeated the Wasps 14-0 back on Sept. 13 in Nephi for their fourth win of the season with a spectacular defensive performance. Grantsville limited Juab to its lowest yardage production in a game for the season. The Cowboy defense also scored one of the two touchdowns in the contest. Wyatt Barrus returned a fumble 18 yards for a score.
“A lot has changed since that game so we are approaching it like a game against a whole new opponent. Juab is athletic and dangerous, and they have some kids back from injuries for this game,” said Grantsville coach Tony Cloward.
Grantsville tallied 50 more offensive yards in the first matchup with 186 yards rushing and 60 yards passing for 246 yards. Juab passed for 127 yards and rushed for a meager 69, totaling 196 yards.
“It does give us confidence that we had success against them before, but a few things have changed. They are trying to run the ball more,” Cloward said.
Juab is seeking more balance on offense, and have won five-of-six games after the loss to the Cowboys.
The Wasps’ lone loss after Grantsville came against 3A South champion Manti. The Wasps scored 33 points in the 41-33 setback with all their points coming on long pass plays of 48, 68, 51, 50 and 23 yards.
Grantsville opponents have had success with long touchdown passes. The Cowboys gave up one long TD pass to Cedar, three to Manti, three to Judge and two to Delta.
Grantsville has countered with six long touchdown passes itself all in separate games.
Ky Fisher has the most receptions from his running back slot with 15 grabs for 155 yards and one touchdown. Dillon Hutchins has 12 receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Jake Riding leads the team in reception-yardage with nine catches for 221 yards and one touchdown. Riding averages 22.1 yards per catch. Nick Arbon has eight catches for 60 yards, and Dallin Williams has six grabs for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Fisher, quarterback Nephi Meono and running back Wyatt Smith do the groundwork for the Cowboys. The trio has combined for 1,482 of Grantsville’s 1,971 rushing yards for the season. Fisher has more than one-third of Grantsville’s rushing totals with 762 yards on 147 carries for 5.18 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns. Meono had 89 carries for 322 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith has packed the ball 89 times for 398 yards and two touchdowns.
Grantsville has four shutouts for the season and in two games gave up only one touchdown.
The Cowboys’ attacking defense can move an opponent in the opposite direction at times. Grantsville has 46 tackles for losses. Fisher has 14 tackles for loss, Riding 10, Noah Mecham four, Barrus four, Smith four, Devin Adams four and Kyle Mecham three.
Twelve Grantsville players have tallied double digits in solo tackles. Fisher has 53 solos, Riding 36, Adams 32, Noah Mecham 31, Clay Matthews 21, Nick Arbon 19, Barrus 19, Alec Anderson 16, Smith 15, Williams 14 and Kyle Mecham 10.
“We realize we have a tough road ahead of us starting this week against a very good Juab team. If we catch fire these next three weeks we can reach our No. 1 goal of winning a state championship,” Cloward said.