It’s the biggest week on the Tooele County high school football calendar: the week of the annual Tooele-Stansbury game, also known as the Battle for the Boot.
There’s more than just bragging rights on the line this time around. Both teams are coming off big wins last week, and are looking to get a leg up in the Region 10 championship race. Throw in all the pageantry surrounding this annual showdown, and it has the makings of an instant classic.
Meanwhile, Grantsville is looking to make a statement on behalf of the northern part of the state, as the Cowboys are making the long trek to southeastern Utah to face San Juan in a battle of two early-season favorites in Class 3A. At stake is a firmer grip on one of the top seeds in the Class 3A state playoff bracket.
Here’s a closer look at Friday’s games.
(2-2, 1-0 Region 10)
at Stansbury Stallions
Where: Stallion Stadium, Stansbury High School, 5300 N. Stallion Way (Aberdeen Lane), Stansbury Park
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last week: Tooele defeated Ben Lomond 60-0; Stansbury defeated Cedar Valley 52-20
All-time series: Stansbury leads 7-3
Last meeting: Stansbury 42, at Tooele 21, Sept. 14, 2018
The scoop: Both teams took a major step forward in last week’s Region 10 openers, taking care of business with a pair of convincing victories. However, the intensity level promises to be ratcheted up several levels as the two Tooele County rivals renew acquaintances.
The Stallions and Buffaloes appear to be adjusting well to their new coaches. Stansbury was dominant on both sides of the ball against Cedar Valley, using a balanced attack to pick apart the Aviators’ defense while all but silencing CVHS’ rushing attack on defense. In fact, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Cedar Valley put together a fourth-quarter drive against the Stallions’ reserves, as the Aviators’ other two touchdowns came as a result of kick-coverage breakdowns.
Stansbury’s defense will have a much more difficult task this week. Tooele’s offense pounded out 349 yards on the ground last week against Ben Lomond, and that was with carries split between seven different ballcarriers. Nukuluve Helu scored four of the Buffaloes’ nine touchdowns. Quarterback Kulani Iongi threw for 187 yards, and tight end Joe Douglas had four catches for 131 yards and a score.
That said, Stansbury isn’t Ben Lomond. Not only do the Stallions have a stronger defense than the Scots, but they also have a far more potent offense. Quarterback Kru Huxford has already accounted for 1,120 yards of offense — 817 passing, 303 rushing — and running back Tommy Christopherson averages 123.8 rushing yards per game. Senior Gabe Harris is a legitimate two-way threat, catching 25 balls for 553 yards and four touchdowns while also racking up four interceptions and six pass breakups.
Whether you bleed Tooele purple or Stansbury blue, Friday’s matchup promises to be memorable.
Grantsville Cowboys (2-2)
at San Juan Broncos (3-1)
Where: San Juan High School, 311 N. Bronco Blvd. (100 East), Blanding
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last week: Grantsville defeated Delta 35-8; San Juan defeated American Leadership Academy 58-41
Since 1970: San Juan leads 8-4
Last meeting: San Juan 18, at Grantsville 7, Sept. 10, 2010
The scoop: These two schools used to do battle on a regular basis in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Cowboys and Broncos ruled Class 2A and were seemingly always on a collision course come state playoff time. However, Friday night’s contest will be the first time they’ve met in nearly a decade.
Grantsville is looking for its first win over San Juan since the 1997 Class 2A semifinals — a 41-27 triumph that helped propel the Cowboys to the state championship that year. However, nobody on this year’s Grantsville and San Juan rosters was born yet when that game was played, so that’s ancient history. At stake Friday night is an opportunity to move up in the Ratings Percentage Index and move closer to earning a home game in the first round of the state playoffs next month.
This year, the Cowboys boast one of Class 3A’s stingiest defenses, while the Broncos have one of the most potent offenses. Grantsville has allowed just 47 points in four games — an average of 11.75 points per contest — and San Juan has scored 163, or an average of 40.75 points per game. Broncos quarterback Shaw Nielson has already thrown for 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing an impressive 61.9% of his attempts. He has also rushed for 197 yards and 3 TDs, both of which rank second on the Broncos.
Grantsville will also have to slow down running back Kian Conway, who had 576 yards and 6 TDs on the ground, as well as the three-headed receiving monster of Porter Ivins (28 catches, 242 yards, 3 TDs), Randall Flavel (24-307-4) and Ryan Imlay (20-205-4). Grantsville’s secondary will need to be good, and Kaden Kelley has risen to the occasion this season with a team-high 20 tackles, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Clock control figures to be a major key for the Cowboys on offense. Trent Brown has rushed for 287 yards and James Fuluvaka has 161 yards on the ground, while quarterbacks Jackson Sandberg and Logan White have thrown for 636 yards on 45-for-83 passing with eight touchdowns and just one interception. Ammon Bartley (21-328-4) and Taylor Wood (8-91-2) are the primary targets in the passing game.