It almost doesn’t seem fair.
Stansbury’s football season came to a close Friday evening with a 65-41 loss against Pine View, a final score more befitting of the basketball season set to begin later this month.
That came a week after Grantsville’s season ended with a loss to Juan Diego, a team that finished mid-pack in its own region behind two teams the Cowboys beat earlier in the season.
The end of the Stallions’ and Cowboys’ seasons seems even less fair when you look at the teams that are left in their respective brackets. In Class 4A, Park City made it to the semifinals with a 15-14 thriller over Sky View. That’s the same Park City team that Stansbury blew out during the regular season, though Sky View did beat Stansbury pretty handily before region play.
It’s even tougher for Grantsville. Summit Academy blew out Juan Diego, while North Sanpete upended Morgan. Grantsville shut out North Sanpete in the season opener and knocked off Summit Academy as well, and those two teams are playing for the Class 3A championship this weekend at Weber State while the Cowboys are staying home.
It has to be frustrating for the Stallions and Cowboys knowing that they’re arguably better that some of the teams still playing. Unfortunately for them, the bracket didn’t fall in their favor, forcing them to play higher-quality competition earlier in the tournament than they would have liked.
That’s partially a product of the Utah High School Activities Association’s system of bracketing state tournaments based solely on where teams finish in their respective regions, with no consideration given to the fact that not all regions are created equal. But that’s an argument for another day and another column.
This time, let’s talk about what there is to like about these two programs, even though they won’t be bringing home a trophy this season.
Grantsville is still an up-and-coming team, despite looking like one of the top two squads in Class 3A for most of the season. Remember that some of the Cowboys’ most important pieces — namely all-everything running back Parker Thomas and quarterback Jackson Sandberg — are only juniors. They’ll be back next year. And you have to love what coach Kody Byrd has done over the past two years.
When he was hired, Byrd became Grantsville’s fourth coach in as many seasons. The Cowboys were in disarray. They hadn’t had a lot to celebrate in recent years. But back-to-back quarterfinal appearances and earning the right to host playoff games at Cowboy Stadium are major steps. It will be exciting to see what the next step will be.
Over at Stansbury, consistency has been the name of the game. In 10 seasons, the Stallions have made eight postseason appearances and have won six region championships. And just when you think they’re going to take a step back and rebuild, all they do is find even more athletes.
There’s no doubt that losing this group of seniors will hurt. In the four full seasons I’ve watched Stansbury football, I’ve thought it would be hard for the Stallions to maintain the same high level at the end of every season. But, as the cliché goes, the Stallions don’t rebuild — they reload.
And in talking to coach Clint Christiansen earlier this season, there seems to be a lot of optimism for the future. Stansbury’s current sophomore class is loaded, according to the coach. Some of those players saw significant playing time this season, earning valuable varsity experience.
Sure, the top-end offensive talent the Stallions will lose to graduation will be hard to replace. But, if any program can do it, it’s Stansbury.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He feels lucky to have avoided any truly bad weather during football games this season. Email him at email@example.com.