I’m quickly running out of ways to describe this year and all the curveballs it has thrown our way.
And that’s just talking about how it relates to sports. To channel Lucy of “Peanuts” fame: of all the weeks in 2020, this past one was the 2020est. It had unpredictability on the field, and even more disappointment off of it. The only thing certain so far, and from this point forward, is uncertainty.
If everything went smoothly, it just wouldn’t be 2020.
On the field, it was a surprising, and ultimately disappointing, weekend for the two Tooele County high school football teams remaining in the state playoffs. Grantsville was overwhelmed by a stellar Morgan team for the second time in two meetings this season, as the Cowboys ultimately couldn’t get their running game going against the Trojans’ stifling defense. And while Friday’s 28-0 loss in the Class 3A semifinals wasn’t how the Cowboys wanted to see their season end, they have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about.
No. 6 seeds aren’t supposed to make it to the semifinals, let alone beat the No. 3 seed on the road to get there. Teams that lose four out of five games in the final weeks of the regular season typically bow out in the first round of the playoffs. Not the Cowboys. Even in a year where just about everything that could have gone wrong in Region 13 play did for Grantsville, the Cowboys still maintained their place among Class 3A’s elite programs.
And then, there’s Stansbury. The sixth-seeded Stallions lost to No. 3 Snow Canyon on the road by a single point. According to the bracket, that result isn’t altogether surprising, though it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking, disappointing and downright painful for Stansbury and its fans — particularly in a game the Stallions controlled for most of two and a half quarters.
What was surprising was the score: 20-19. Two teams that combined to average 85 points per game during the regular season didn’t even score half that much. Stansbury had put up 27 points against Class 4A’s top scoring defense — Sky View — earlier this season, and there was no reason to think the Stallions might not do the same to Snow Canyon’s No. 2-ranked defense. The Warriors, of course, had other ideas, forcing two late turnovers that helped them rally past, and ultimately hold off, Stansbury.
But perhaps the bigger thing we learned from Friday’s game was just how underrated the Stallions’ defense was this year. Everybody saw the huge numbers Stansbury’s offense put up this season, while the defense was rarely called upon to do much more than merely slow the opponent down, even if just slightly.
But when the situation called for it on Friday, the Stallions’ defense was more than up to the task. In fact, they were spectacular at times. They had two interceptions against a quarterback who had thrown two interceptions all season, one of which set up Stansbury’s first touchdown, and they added a safety that gave the Stallions a lead they maintained for more than 32 minutes. They limited a team that averaged 37.1 points per game to just 20 on its home field.
Unfortunately, someone had to lose. That’s really the only shame about Friday’s game. If we could have more Stansbury-Snow Canyon games, sign me up. That was playoff football at its best.
The end of football season is always a bit of a body blow, but it’s one typically softened by the fact that basketball and wrestling are just around the corner. Or, they were, until 2020 struck again. Tryouts were supposed to start on Monday, with the first games Nov. 24. Now, all of that has been pushed back by at least two weeks, if not longer. For all the athletes who already had to endure the loss of an entire spring sports season last school year, as well as numerous postponements and cancellations through this past fall, there has to be a feeling of “here we go again.”
I know there is for me. But, even in the face of a year like none other, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the basketball players, wrestlers, swimmers, cheerleaders and drill team members can get back to doing what they love sooner rather than later.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. This year, he has learned what John Lennon meant when he sang, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.