All three of Tooele County’s high-school football teams will be in action when the state playoffs kick off next week.
That’s because of the seasons they’ve had. Grantsville’s lone blemish came in a game that might prove to be an appetizer for the Class 3A championship game. Stansbury ran roughshod over Region 11 for the first three weeks of the season. Tooele stepped up when the games mattered most and got the wins it needed.
But all three teams go into the playoffs with some level of concern.
Grantsville will go into the quarterfinals, likely against a Juan Diego squad with championship aspirations, having not played a competitive game in more than a month. There’s something to be said for the way the Cowboys have taken care of business in their wins over Union, Carbon, Judge Memorial and Emery — blowing all of them out and avoiding the upset bug. But Juan Diego is a different beast, as are Summit Academy and Morgan after that.
Grantsville showed it belongs among those teams early in the season, beating Summit Academy and playing Morgan close on the road. But it has been so long since they faced an opponent of that caliber, it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can flip that switch.
Stansbury won its region title and looked pretty convincing doing it — at least at the beginning. Questions have popped up, however, in the past two weeks. The Stallions very nearly gave Ben Lomond its first win of the season two weeks ago, having to rally from a 28-21 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Scots 35-28. On Thursday night, they lost 17-7 to a Bonneville team that was already out of the playoffs.
There is a precedent for this. One only has to look back at the 2016 season to realize this isn’t the end of the world for the Stallions. In 2016, Stansbury beat Ben Lomond 35-28 in a game that came down to the very last play. The next week, SHS lost 9-6 at home to Bear River. It didn’t look promising as the Stallions backed into the playoffs. But they pounded Park City 54-0 in their first playoff game and ended up in the semifinals. You know they’ll be hard at work during this bye week to be ready for Mountain View.
As for Tooele, there’s no team in Class 4A that has seen more high-quality competition. Having seen Sky View and Dixie already, along with Grantsville and Stansbury and this week’s game against Mountain Crest, there isn’t anybody who should intimidate the Buffaloes. The problem is that the Buffs haven’t managed to beat any of those teams yet.
It has been a trying, frustrating season for the boys in purple. Certainly, they hoped for better than a fourth-place finish in region play. They definitely didn’t want to see Orem this early in the playoffs. But even in Thursday’s three-touchdown loss to Park City, Tooele showed flashes of what it can be at its very best. Forty-eight minutes of that could make for a much more competitive game than anyone expects.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He is thankful that the playoffs also come with earlier start times so he doesn’t have to freeze on the sidelines. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.