Friday’s season-opening football game between Grantsville and North Sanpete wasn’t the prettiest game ever played.
There weren’t many offensive fireworks outside of two scoring plays. The weather conditions were so bad that Cowboy Stadium had to be cleared during a lengthy lightning delay and it was well after 10 p.m. by the time the game ended. First-game jitters led to sloppy play at times.
However, Cowboys coach Kody Byrd and his team weren’t about to complain after Grantsville shut out the visiting Hawks 14-0 on the strength of a dominant defensive performance.
“That’s what I envision football as — that’s my type of game,” Byrd said. “(The Hawks) were a very well-coached team. They were physical. They came out and wanted to play smashmouth, and we love those type of games. We were ready for it, we hit back and it was fun to watch.”
Grantsville (1-0) led 7-0 at halftime after a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jackson Sandberg to Taylor Wood in the second quarter. North Sanpete (0-1) kept knocking on the door, but while the Cowboys’ defense might have bent a few times, it never broke, thanks in large part to seniors Isaac Riding and Drake Hall, who combined for 14 tackles and two sacks.
“We preach to them that big-time players step up with big opportunities,” Byrd said. “Someone needed to step up and make a play, and they answered it.”
The Cowboys managed to maintain their 7-0 lead well into the fourth quarter before junior running back Parker Thomas struck the decisive blow. Thomas, who had a touchdown called back earlier in the game because of a penalty, blasted through the Hawks’ front seven and seemed to pick up speed as he raced into the open field en route to a 45-yard touchdown run.
“He wanted it,” Byrd said. “He got the other one taken away from him … He wasn’t going to get denied that time, that’s for sure.”
Thomas finished with 104 yards on 15 carries, white teammate Trent Brown added 44 yards on 12 rushing attempts. Sandberg, in his first game as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, was 9-for-17 for 101 yards and a touchdown. He completed passes to seven different receivers, led by Wood (two catches, 34 yards, 1 TD). Ammon Bartley had one catch for 24 yards, Daltyn Peasnall had one catch for 15 yards and Hall caught one pass for 12 yards. Ethan Holmes caught two balls and Riding and Parker Bird each had one reception.
The victory was a huge positive for the Cowboys, though they won’t be able to celebrate for long. Summit Academy, one of the top teams in Class 3A South a season ago, will come to Cowboy Stadium on Friday for an intriguing non-region matchup between teams with lofty postseason aspirations.
“We concentrate on what we do, cleaning up our mistakes and our schemes a little bit,” Byrd said. “We just know that we’ve got to play our game and be ready. They’re going to be a well-coached team and really athletic, so we’ll try to go back to our physical game and grind it out and try to keep their offense off the field.”