Thursday’s rivalry football game was everything it should be — with high hopes, close competition, ups, downs and turnovers. And though Grantsville ruled at moving the ball initially, the second half and win went to Stansbury.
The two stars of the night were sophomore Parker Thomas for the Cowboys and junior Silas Young for the Stallions.
Thomas shone during the first half with 20 carries and scored the only Grantsville TD in the first quarter, and he amassed eight more carries for 80 yards in the game. Young managed four touchdowns and totaled 174 yards.
Stansbury’s first TD occurred in the opening minutes of the game.
The Cowboys had the ball first but went three and out. Their next possession stalled when they were penalized with a false start and they were forced to kick it away again. However, Stansbury’s Dawson Stewart blocked the kick, giving the ball to the Stallions on the Cowboys’ 2-yard line.
Young capitalized, driving into the end zone on the first play. The point after was good, putting the Stallions up 7-0.
Midway through the first quarter, Grantsville’s motor began churning and the Cowboys were able to convert on a fourth-down run. On the same possession, Thomas gained 19 yards on two running plays. But then, the Cowboys sputtered as Coy Johnson’s next throw was over intended receiver Brady Arbon’s head.
His following pass was also incomplete and the Cowboys turned it over on downs. But the ’Pokes defense stood firm, stymieing the Stallions again.
In its touchdown drive, Johnson and Thomas shared running duties. On third down, Johnson threw to Ammon Bartley, who carried the ball to the 2-yard line. Thomas powered into the end zone for a Cowboy TD, and the extra point brought the game even at 7-7.
Grantsville continued to show tough defense, and Stansbury found itself grasping at straws on its next drive. The Cowboys sacked Richins on a second-down play. On third down and 10 yards to go, Richins had nowhere to throw, and the Stallions were once again forced to punt.
It looked as though Grantsville was cruising along on its next possession, when Thomas broke away for a 16-yard run to midfield. But, the Cowboys were unable to convert and the ball returned to Stansbury.
The turnovers continued as Mitch Lindsay came in at quarterback for the Stallions. Lindsay pitched the ball back too far left to hit Kyle McKenna and Grantsville came up with the interception.
Thomas carried the ball on Grantsville’s first play for 2 yards. Johnson then overthrew long to Arbon, who could not reel it in, but the Stansbury defender was called for pass interference. The ball was moved half the distance to the goal for GHS, who looked poised to strike again before the end of the half.
The Stansbury defensive line held, forcing Thomas back a foot from the line of scrimmage. With second-and-10 and 12 seconds on the clock, Johnson completed a pass to Arbon at the 5-yard line. But, the referees had ruled the ball dead and an encroachment penalty was assessed against the Stallions.
The referees called for a resetting of the clock back to 12 seconds and moved the ball half the distance to the goal. On third down, Johnson’s pass connected with Hunter Johnson, but the play was negated by an offensive holding call.
The clock would not be reset, but they would replay the third down. Grantsville opted for a field goal attempt from the 30-yard line, but the kick went wide as the first half came to a close.
Richins continued as QB for Stansbury after the half. On the Stallions’ third down, Richins’ pass, long to the goal line, was intercepted by Grantsville. The Stansbury defense held, and on the Stallions’ next drive, Young exploded for a long 59-yard run into the end zone.
The point after was good, to put the Stallions up 14-7.
Both defenses battled all night. Grantsville and Stansbury were both assessed 10-yard holding penalties on consecutive drives.
In the fourth quarter Young struck two more times.
Grantsville attempted to punt away the ball, but the snap was too high and flew into the end zone. The Cowboys recovered the ball and ran it out of the end zone, only to be stopped at the 2-yard line. Stansbury’s Young punched the ball in on the next play to put the Stallions up 21-7.
With about seven minutes to play, Young once again broke into the clear and sprinted 79 yards for his 4th touchdown, which was also the longest play of the game.
Stansbury had three fumbles on the night, recovering only one. Tavita Gagnier led the Stallions in total tackles with nine, and Conner McKay followed with seven. Calvin Mead tallied three QB sacks.
Grantsville’s Johnson had 118 yds on nine carries for the night.
Of Thomas, coach Kody Byrd said, “He’s playing great, playing hard. He’s really tough runner and tough to bring down. He’s only getting better.”
Byrd acknowledged there were plenty of mistakes throughout the game, but that the Stallions came out on fire in the second half.
He said, “We didn’t capitalize on their mistakes. And they seemed to capitalize when we had them. That was kind of the outcome of the game.
“It came down to just giving up those big plays, you know-the four big plays we gave up ended up in touchdowns for them … If we don’t have those big plays and the two missed fumbles, the two special teams mishaps, I think it’s a different game.”
Regarding Young’s breakout game for Stansbury, coach Clint Christiansen said, “He’s always been our plan … he’s our guy, he’s our fullback.”
Of his junior standing, Christiansen said, “We get him another year and that’s a good thing. He’s a good player.”
Though Richins started and played the game, with the exception of one rep, Christiansen said the team does not yet have a set starting QB.
“Mitch Lindsay is right there still battling, too. You know, he’s a senior and wants to play and he is putting pressure on Jet as the starting QB. I tell them every week that it’s a week-to-week thing. I am not going to be set on a quarterback yet … We want someone breathing down their neck trying to take their job away,” Christiansen said.
“We’re happy with the win, I thought they played hard,” he added.