It doesn’t always have to be pretty, and Friday’s Class 4A playoff football game between Cedar and Stansbury certainly wasn’t.
The teams combined for eight turnovers, including five interceptions. Receivers missed routes and linemen missed blocks. It was the kind of game that drives coaches crazy and leaves fans alternating between elation and frustration, sometimes from play to play.
That’s the way it goes sometimes. But what makes a good team truly good is its ability to find a way to be good enough when things aren’t going smoothly.
Stansbury has built a reputation as one of the most consistent programs in the state of Utah largely because it seems to find a way to be good enough more often than not. Sure, the Stallions have had their fair share of dominating performances over the years, but they’ve also found a way to grind games out — particularly this season.
A Stansbury fumble early in the fourth quarter gave Cedar the ball just outside the red zone with the Stallions clinging to a one-touchdown lead. It took CHS seven plays before it broke through for a crucial touchdown, putting Cedar an extra point away from tying the game.
That’s when the Stallions’ knack for making the big play showed up at the biggest time. Junior lineman Calvin “Jebus” Mead got his arms up and blocked Cedar kicker Adam Rogers’ point-after attempt, preserving the Stallions’ one-point lead with just over six minutes left in the game. It was a huge momentum swing in Stansbury’s favor.
The Cedar players looked dejected as they walked back to their sideline despite having just scored a touchdown. The Stallions, despite being disappointed at yielding a score on a fourth-down play mere minutes earlier, was on cloud nine.
And Stansbury’s players rode that emotion all the way to a clock-draining, nine-play, 65-yard drive that essentially clinched the game. When Tavita Gagnier finished the job with his third touchdown of the game, and later picked off Cedar quarterback Jaxon Garrett in the final seconds, it put a giant exclamation mark on Stansbury’s first-ever postseason win against a team from the vaunted Region 9.
It may not have been the prettiest victory in school history. That title probably goes to last season’s blowout win over Park City in the quarterfinals that sent the Stallions to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the first time. But at this time of year, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
It just has to be good enough.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He wishes his own high school football team had found a way to be “just good enough” at least once. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.