I know, I know — I’m supposed to be impartial.
And I promise you, Tooele and Stansbury, that I enjoy seeing your teams do well just as much. I wish nothing but the best for all of Tooele County’s prep athletes, whether they wear red, blue or purple.
But there was something about this year’s Grantsville football team that I can’t quite put my finger on, yet it made me want the Cowboys to win even more than usual.
Maybe it was because I could relate to the depths that they reached last season when they won just one game. My last two years of high school, my alma mater went a whopping 1-18, including a perfectly-imperfect 0-9 mark my senior year. While I didn’t play, I was still around the team day in and day out and witnessed how the culture of losing overwhelmed whatever talent we might have had.
Grantsville could have suffered the same fate. To put it bluntly, the Cowboys had an awful 2015 season. Their only win was against Carbon, and the last time the Dinos were competitive, “Jurassic Park” wasn’t just a movie.
The Cowboys won their season opener in a defensive struggle against Cyprus, but then it appeared the bottom had fallen out. Controversy off the field and struggles on it (albeit against Tooele, Stansbury and Desert Hills, all possible Class 3AA semifinalists) left Grantsville reeling going into Class 3A North play.
Some may have asked whether the Cowboys could recover from all that.
Did they ever.
Yes, Grantsville’s record may read 4-7, and that doesn’t seem impressive on the surface. But the Cowboys could have been 7-4 just as easily had a few breaks gone their way. They dominated Union, Emery, and — yes — Carbon, put a scare into Juan Diego and nearly upset Morgan on the road. The Cowboys had a chance to win a share of the region title in the final week.
For a team that seemingly couldn’t get out of its own way last season, the 2016 campaign didn’t just represent modest improvement. Rather, it seems to be a giant step toward putting Grantsville football back on the map as a force to be reckoned with.
Sure, there will be holes to fill, as there are every year in high school football. The likes of Riley Smith and Gavin Eyre don’t come along every day, especially not at a small school. But where my high school team may have had talent, what made us a losing team rather than a winning team was our attitude.
Grantsville won’t have that problem. Winning is contagious, and the Cowboys certainly caught the bug this season. Fans may look back a year or two from now and say that 2016 was the turning point for a program on the rise.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. When talking about his own high school sports experiences, he tries hard not to sound too much like Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite.” Email him at email@example.com.