Competing in its first game of the 2022 UHSAA Football Championships, the Stansbury Stallions played host to the Cedar Valley Aviators in the second round of the tournament.
In the team’s previous meeting, Stansbury defeated the Aviators 46-7 during a home game in September.
From the game’s opening whistle both teams played neck-and-neck, spearheaded by a Stallion kickoff return for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game. The run back, scored by Brock Wilson, gave Stansbury an early 7-0 lead and set the stage for a back-and-forth affair.
Despite giving up a touchdown in the wee moments of the game and failing to score on its first drive, the Aviators responded to a Stansbury field goal to get on the board on its second go around.
Following a series of completed passes and several first downs, Aviators quarterback Ethan Johnson completed a 16-yard touchdown to bring the score to 10-7 in favor of the Stallions.
The end of the first quarter became a little disjointed, as Stansbury fumbled the ball on their next drive which led to a failed drive by the Aviators. After a long punt that set the Stallions up deep in their own zone to end the quarter.
In the second, Stansbury was able to dig itself out of the first-down hole and put together a couple short plays to set up first down at midfield. Then, running back Mateaki Helu took the ball the distance and scored a touchdown off a 48-yard run to put Stansbury ahead 17-7.
Continuing its fighting spirit, Cedar Valley responded with its own long distance scoring drive to keep pace with the Stallions and score a touchdown to bring the game within three points; 17-14.
After the touchdown, the Stallions looked to be on their heels following a bobbled kickoff return to start its drive stuck the team deep in their own end yet again. A three and out led to a Stansbury punt which gave the Aviators favorable field position at midfield.
Another successful drive, highlighted by a 20-yard pass to get the team to the Stallions’ 21-yard line, Cedar Valley capitalized on a third-down conversion to score another seven points to take its first lead of the game and bring the score to 21-17.
Stansbury was unable to convert on either of their subsequent drives, which led to the Aviators having one final set of downs. Cedar Valley was unable to put together any offense before the clock wound down on the half. Both teams headed into their respective locker rooms with the score standing at 21-17 in favor of the Aviators.
Stansbury’s defense took the wheel to start the second half, as an early stop against Cedar Valley prevented the four-point margin fr0m getting any larger.
Then, on the next drive the Stallions regained the lead thanks to a 66-yard touchdown pass by Harris to connect with Hamilton to bring the score to 23-21.
From that moment on, the Aviators had no answer for Stansbury’s defense and the closest they got to scoring was a botched field goal attempt that would have given Cedar Valley the lead again.
The failed attempt proved to be the turning point of the game, as the Aviators began to unravel and the Stallions started to pull away. A six-yard touchdown pass thrown by Harris into the hands of Hamilton — yet again — gave Stansbury a 36-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
Both teams traded turnovers and in the last four minutes the Aviators watched both the clock, and their chances to get back into the game, dwindle away. A failed fourth down conversion late in the game gave the Stallions the ball with less than a minute to go to seal the victory.
Final score: Stansbury 36-21
With the win, the Stallions advance to the quarterfinals and will face No. 5-ranked Brighton High School. The game will take place at Stallions Stadium and start at 4 p.m.