It happens all the time in sports, where a team is thoroughly dominant during the regular season, only to falter when it matters most. (See Tom Brady’s 16-0 New England Patriots, the 73-9 Golden State Warriors or the Ken Griffey Jr./Alex Rodriguez-era Seattle Mariners for reference.)
There were no signs of that ever happening to the Grantsville baseball team. It was obvious early on that the Cowboys were on a level few other teams could reach — and certainly not in Class 3A. And when the games got tougher, so did Grantsville.
Over three mostly rain-soaked days in Kearns, when the Cowboys should have had a tough time with their toughest competition, GHS instead outscored Carbon and Manti by a combined score of 27-7. Honestly, at times, it didn’t even feel like it should have been that close, as Grantsville simply had too much talent and too much focus on reaching its championship goal for anyone else to even have a shot.
But beyond the talent and drive that got them to the promised land and their second state championship in the past five years, the Cowboys had something else going for them that you can’t teach — likability. I’ve covered a lot of state championship teams over the past 12 high school sports seasons across three states, and I can’t remember a team that was as much fun to be around as this Grantsville group.
They had nicknames such as “Beanz” (starting catcher Keagan Landon) and “Dirty Grass” (relief pitcher/first baseman Matt Collier). They had an otherwise stoic superstar in Brady Arbon who would break into song between innings in pressure situations. Coy Johnson, Jake Paxton and Brody Barney all belong on an all-state hairstyle team, with Johnson and Paxton sporting curly locks and Barney’s rat tail. And they all have incredible baseball talent to go with that personality.
I know I’m supposed to be largely unbiased, but it felt good as I left the parking lot at Gates Field in Kearns on Saturday night knowing that this group of Cowboys was going to experience the thrill of a fire-truck ride down Grantsville’s Main Street later that evening. If ever a group of kids deserved that opportunity, it was this one.
Certainly, the Cowboys will have some holes to fill in order to defend their title next year. You don’t lose the kind of seniors that Grantsville will and not suffer a little bit. But when you also boast the likes of Justin Richardson and state-championship starter Parker Thomas as the foundation of your starting rotation going into next season, something tells me things are going to be just fine.
Something tells me this is only the beginning in Grantsville. Get the fire trucks ready.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He was also glad to see that the Utah High School Activities Association was able to get the state tournament completed despite the bad weather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.