Three-time defending state champion Juan Diego ended Grantsville’s season in the state quarterfinals on the Cowboys’ home turf for the second straight year on Friday.
Grantsville nearly pulled off an upset last year, losing 14-13 in the quarterfinals, but this year the Soaring Eagle dominated to move on to the state semifinals with a 41-14 victory.
“We fought hard, but they are a great team and their execution was on point the whole game, and they capitalized on our mistakes,” said Grantsville coach Kody Byrd after the game. “We’re getting used to these situations, but they’ve been through it before. It’s old hat to them. We’ll get there. We’re still a young team.”
Juan Diego scored on its first two possessions for a 13-0 lead at intermission.
The visitors expanded the lead to 27-0 after three quarters, and both teams scored two touchdowns in the final quarter.
Juan Diego will take on Summit Academy in the semifinals at Provo High School on Saturday. The Cowboys defeated Summit Academy 35-24 in their second game this year. Grantsville also defeated semifinalist North Sanpete 14-0 in the first game of the season. North Sanpete is matched up with 3A North champion Morgan.
“I’m so proud of this team being able to earn a first-round bye and reach the quarterfinals. Going 8-2 is a great season and nothing to be sad about,” Byrd said. “We’re on the rise; we’re going to come back and be ready for next season.”
The visitors drove 67 yards for a touchdown on the first series of the game.
A 30-yard pass to tight end Kaiser Mataele on third down kept the the drive alive, and Hunter Easterly plowed in from nine yards out give Juan Diego a 7-0 lead.
Grantsville drove from its own 19-yard line to the Juan Diego 34 yard line on its first possession before giving up the ball on downs.
The Soaring Eagle took over and completed a lengthy drive that concluded with a 17-yard Easterly touchdown run to go up 13-0 with 8:44 until intermission. Juan Diego missed the PAT kick.
The Cowboys went four-and-out on their next possession, and Juan Diego appeared primed to tack on a third touchdown when it had the ball after a punt at their own 41. Easterly took off on another long run to the GHS 33, but the Cowboys defense was able to snuff out the drive at the 28.
After a failed fourth-down run, Grantsville gave up the ball at its own 25, but again the Cowboys defense prevented Juan Diego from scoring.
Grantsville drove to the Juan Diego 25 late in the first half, but the Soaring Eagle intercepted a Cowboy pass in the end zone to close out the opening half.
After Grantsville’s first second-half drive stalled out, the Soaring Eagle took some time off the clock with an 11-play drive that ended with a 7-yard keeper for a TD by Colby Smith to extend the lead to 20-0 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Juan Diego delivered a knockout punch two minutes later with a 37-yard interception return by Mike Curran to push the lead to 27-0 with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter.
James Fuluvaka fielded a short kickoff and returned it inside Juan Diego territory at the 40-yard line.
The Cowboys were able to drive to the 1-yard line, but a holding call placed the ball back on the 36-yard line.
Quarterback Jackson Sandberg connected with Ammon Bartley on a pass to the Juan Diego 25, followed by a run from Parker Thomas to the 17. Sandberg then hooked up with Bartley again on a 17-yard TD pass to put the Cowboys on the scoreboard. Sandberg kept the ball for a 2-point conversion to make it 27-8 with 10:26 left in the game.
Juan Diego recovered an onside kick at its 48, and took nearly five minutes off the clock to score with 5:48 left in the game and go up 34-8.
The Soaring Eagle picked off a GHS pass at the 35, and drove in for another score to make it 41-8. The Cowboys added a second TD with 2:51 remaining game on a 62-yard run by Fuluvaka.