Grantsville used its lethal passing attack and stellar defense to defeat previously undefeated Morgan 34-18 in the regular-season finale Wednesday night at home to capture the Region 13 championship.
Quarterback Jackson Sandberg fired four long touchdown passes and accounted for 314 yards passing while connecting on 17-of-25 attempts to baffle the Morgan defense. Grantsville’s defense shined as well, with four interceptions and four quarterback sacks in the melee.
“Jackie stepped up big time today. This win’s on him,” said Grantsville coach Kody Byrd. “He stepped up and made some huge throws when we needed them. The defense stepped up again when we needed them and made some big stops.”
Grantsville’s defense came up with huge plays whenever Morgan got inside Cowboy territory en route to the end zone.
A long pass play set up Morgan at the Grantsville 25 on the first series of the game, but Grantsville forced three incompletions and the Trojans hit a 42-yard field goal to lead 3-0. Grantsville stormed back with an 80-yard TD drive on its first possession. capped by a perfect 37-yard TD pass to Taylor Wood, who caught the ball in stride at the back of the end zone to make it 7-3 Grantsville with the PAT from Nathan Wright midway through the first quarter.
The Cowboys kept the Trojans on their heels on the next offensive series and moved the ball from their own 36 to the Morgan 16. But a sack left Grantsville with fourth-and-14 at the Morgan 22.
Sandberg connected with Ammon Bartley at the right pylon at the front of the end zone, and officials needed to confer as to whether Grantsville had scored a touchdown.
Instead of a TD, the ball was placed at the 1-yard line, where Sandberg kept on sneak to push the lead to 14-3 with 7:34 remaining in the first half.
Two long pass completions by Morgan sliced the margin to 14-10. With the ball at the 50, Brinton Winn hauled in a pass in the flat, juked a defender and ran for a touchdown with 2:51 until intermission.
The Cowboys struck back quickly for a two-play scoring drive. Sandberg connected on a perfect pass to Daltyn Peasnall in the middle of the field and the speedster sprinted to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown to give Grantsville a 21-10 advantage. Blake Thomas came up with one of his two interceptions for the game late in the first half to thwart a Morgan drive and preserve the 21-10 lead.
The Cowboys faced adversity early in the second half when Morgan blocked a punt near the Grantsville goal line and the ball squirted out of bounds at the Grantsville 4-yard line.
Morgan was hit by a penalty, but managed to score on a 6-yard run to close the gap to 21-18 with a 2-point conversion pass with 9:58 remaining in the third quarter.
The Trojans were on the move again later in the quarter, but Dalton Williams picked off a pass to give the Cowboys the ball back at their own 20.
Grantsville came up with more big plays in the fourth quarter with a second interception by Thomas, followed by a perfect strike from Sandberg to Gipson, who sprinted down the Morgan sideline for a 64-yard TD to push Grantsville’s lead to 27-18 with 9:25 left in the game.
Morgan drove inside the Grantsville 30, but Gipson intercepted a pass at the GHS 3 to end the drive.
The Cowboys closed out the scoring with a 74-yard scoring pass to a wide-open Peasnall late in the final quarter to make it 34-18.
Austin Gray and Bartley came up with a pair of sacks on defense late in the game.
Gipson, who had an interception and TD reception, said winning the region championship was the best feeling in the world.
“Especially winning it with these guys I’ve grown up with,” Gipson said. “We can’t lose focus as we head to the playoffs.”
Bartley said he was happy with the win and glad to get a few days off before going back to practice on Monday.
The Cowboys finished the regular season at 8-2 overall and 5-0 in region play. The final RPI comes out Saturday morning and Grantsville will learn who it will face in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament.