Sometimes, the other team is just better.
Thursday night’s 49-14 loss to Desert Hills in the semifinals of the Class 3AA football playoffs shouldn’t be an indictment of the quality of the Stansbury football team, the effort the Stallions put into this season or the coaches guiding them along the way.
The Stallions were simply overmatched on that field at Rice-Eccles Stadium. There’s nothing for them to be ashamed of at all. They gave it all they had.
It’s just that the Thunder had too much going for them. Each of their starting offensive linemen was bigger than anyone on the Stallions’ roster — and there were more waiting on the bench should someone need a breather. Very few Desert Hills players had to play both offense and defense, keeping them fresh while many of Stansbury’s top players have to play both ways — a tough task when they’re spending much of the night chasing Thunder star Nephi Sewell all over the field.
I’m sure when many people picked up their newspapers or looked on the Internet on Friday morning and saw Desert Hills 49, Stansbury 14, they thought the Stallions probably just gave up and let the Thunder roll right over them — taking a page out of the Denver Broncos’ late-1980s Super Bowl playbook.
But I watched those Broncos Super Bowls (as well as the Peyton Manning-era debacle against Seattle a few years back). I also watched Thursday’s game in Salt Lake City. I was on the Stallions’ sideline, as a matter of fact.
Did the Stallions quit? Hardly. It can be argued that senior Casey Roberts shouldn’t have played at all with a troublesome ankle that hobbled him several times this season, but he gave it a go on Thursday. All he did was outrun the Desert Hills defense to turn a screen pass into a long touchdown, and he later tracked down one of Desert Hills’ many offensive weapons for a touchdown-saving tackle before the pain became too much.
McCoy Didericksen, Mitch McIntyre and Matt McIntyre kept running hard throughout the night, even as the hits became harder and louder, and the deficit got larger. No quit in those guys.
There was no quit in coach Clint Christiansen or his coaching staff, either. When things got out of hand, it would have been easy for everyone on the Stansbury sideline to just pack it in and let Desert Hills put up 60 points or more. Instead, the Stallions avoided the mercy rule until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, unwilling to let their season end that way if they had anything to say about it.
So, yes, the Stallions fell short of their state championship dream. Yes, the championship trophy is staying in southern Utah for another year –– possibly only a few miles away from being in Arizona, if Desert Hills gets its way.
But brighter days are ahead for the Stansbury football program. Thursday wasn’t the be-all, end-all for the Stallions as they continue to forge ahead. Someday, the Stallions will have a chance to bring the championship trophy home.
Someday, that trophy might find a home at the corner of Bates Canyon Road and Aberdeen Lane in Stansbury Park.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. While he’s not happy that football season is over, he is glad there weren’t any cold, snowy games this year. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.