A football field that was slicker than a slip-n-slide from all day rain couldn’t slow down an explosive Stansbury offense in the Stallions 44-13 victory at home against the North Sanpete Hawks on Friday night.
The Stallions scored on their second offensive play of the night when quarterback Gage Manzione fired a pass to running back Josh Griffith, who rolled out to the left side of the field on a screen pass behind blocking from his offensive line and took off for the end zone. Griffith exploded behind his blockers and past the defense untouched for a 78-yard touchdown reception. The ensuing point-after-attempt from kicker Landon Stice gave the Stallions an early 7-0 lead.
Stansbury scored two more times in the first quarter to give it a 21-0 advantage going into the second period. The first of those scores came on a nine-play, 48-yard touchdown drive that culminated on a 3-yard touchdown run from Zayne Anderson.
The third score of the quarter came with 17 seconds left on the clock when Manzione fired a pass downfield to Stice, who scampered into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown reception. Manzione finished the night with three passing touchdowns and 205 passing yards.
On a night where the rain could have been the biggest factor, Stice emerged as the player with the biggest impact on the game with a fantastic performance that was too much for the Hawks to handle. Stice finished with 117 receiving yards and three touchdowns. “Our team had an amazing game,” said Stice. “Gage threw me some perfect passes, all I had to do was go up and catch them.”
Two of the touchdowns by Stice were from receptions while the other was a fumble that he recovered early in the second quarter and returned 39-yards for a touchdown. Stice also blocked a North Sanpete punt and connected on a 37-yard field goal to close out the first half.
Following the blocked punt Griffith scored his second touchdown of the night on a 6-yard run through the middle of the offensive line, giving Stansbury a 35-0 lead with 10:21 remaining in the half.
North Sanpete scored its first points of the night midway through the second quarter on a run from the 2-yard line by Brady Wheeler, cutting the Hawks deficit to 35-7. Stansbury quickly responded on their next drive with an 82-yard pass from Manzione to Stice for their second scoring connection of the night. The field goal from Stice at the end of the half gave the Stallions a 44-7 lead heading into the break.
Stansbury didn’t score again in the second half, which featured two quarters of back-and-forth defensive football that saw a lot of dropped balls on handoffs and pitches from both squads, though the Hawks scored one more touchdown in the fourth quarter. “The fumbles were from the timing not being there and having some younger guys on the field in the second half,” said Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen.
The wet field didn’t deter the Stallions performance a bit in their first game of the season. “This game was a great effort from our kids, especially in the first half,’ said Christiansen. ‘The field was wet but we still played extremely well and did what we were supposed to do, we’re happy with both sides of the ball.”
Stansbury allowed the Hawks to score twice, but overall the performance from the defensive side of the ball left the Stallions’ coaching staff pleased, but they know there is plenty of work still to do to improve.
“(The defense) came out and played outstanding. (Defensive coordinator Curtis) Ware did a great job of getting the defense ready,” Christiansen said. “The guys kept their assignments, but there are always things to fix. (North Sanpete) hurt us a couple of times with their backs out of the backfield with guys being in the wrong spots, but those are the little things that we can fix. We’re going to be twice the team next week than we were this week.”
Stansbury will travel to southern Utah next week as they play their first road game of the season against the Hurricane Tigers, who lost on Friday to Skyline.