There’s nothing more exhilarating in the world of high school football than a rivalry game.
Here in Tooele County, we’re lucky enough to have three schools within 15 miles of each other. And while Grantsville has the historic rivalry with Tooele and the grudge match with Stansbury, realignment that has placed the Cowboys in a different classification than the Buffaloes and Stallions has sadly taken some of the edge off through no fault of Grantsville’s.
Tooele vs. Stansbury? You have proximity. You have the fact that it’s a region game. You have the fact that Stansbury High has only been open for 10 years, yet it has won seven of 10 meetings with its more-established neighbor to the south.
Best of all? You have plenty of star power on both teams. Even if you didn’t graduate from SHS or THS, it’s worth heading over to Stallion Stadium on Friday night and checking it out if you’re a fan of high school football. Even if it wasn’t my job to be on the sidelines, I’d be there just to enjoy the intensity of this one.
On one side, there’s Tooele senior Nukuluve Helu, who will be playing at Brigham Young University next season, as well as fellow seniors Joe Douglas, Gavin Ware and Kulani Iongi. On the other, there’s up-and-coming Stansbury quarterback Kru Huxford, running back Tommy Christopherson, star wide receiver/defensive back Gabe Harris and lineman Andrew Hanson. Tooele coach Andru Jones and Stansbury coach Eric Alder will be coaching in the Battle for the Boot game for the first time, adding yet another twist to the storyline.
There is a lot at stake in this one, too. The winner will be 2-0 in Region 10 play, likely tied with Park City and Mountain View for the top spot in the region standings, given those two teams’ opponents this week (one-win Ogden and one-win Uintah, respectively). Next week, Stansbury plays at Park City, with a home game against Mountain View two weeks later. Tooele’s last two games of the season are at home against Park City and at Mountain View. Friday’s losing team isn’t out of the Region 10 race by any means, but they’re no longer in control of their own destiny, either.
At very least, positioning in the Ratings Percentage Index that determines playoff seeding is on the line. The first RPI rankings of the season are set to be released Monday, and both the Stallions and the Buffaloes would like to see themselves among the top 10 teams — meaning they’d have a first-round bye in the playoffs — or, better yet, in the top eight that get to host a second-round contest. A win Friday night means a record over .500 for the time being, and an RPI boost.
But the most important thing of all might be the bragging rights. The winners get the satisfaction of having the Boot in their school’s trophy case for the next year, as well as having that little extra bounce in their step when they see their rivals/friends from the other school around town.
It’s the little things that make these high school rivalries fun.
Whether you’re rooting for Stansbury or Tooele, enjoy Friday’s game.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. Even though his high school’s chief rival dominated his alma mater, he still looked forward to those games every year. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.