In the third year of this non-region series, it was anything but.
North Sanpete’s high-powered spread offense face-planted in a big way, suffering their first shutout in three years, as the Cowboys stomped the Hawks, 27-0, in front of the Hawk faithful at home last Friday. Grantsville, the last team to have shut out the Hawks as well in 2018, handed North Sanpete their worst margin of loss in a regular season game since September of 2017.
While the Hawks have grown accustomed to having their offense generate 300 plus yards in every game, Grantsville held them to only 234 total yards, with only 52 rushing yards, mostly in the first quarter. The Hawks, while able to move downfield several times, fell flat when it mattered most with three total trips inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, where they generated a goose egg on points, something Coach Rhett Bird felt was more on him than any of the players.
“I can do a better job on my end as a coach to get those kids ready in the red zone,” Bird said. “Typically, I have a little bit more of a package ready in the red zone. I’ll take a little bit of that on my own. The kids did a great job of marching the field and getting us in scoring position a few times. I have to be better as a head coach to get our kids in a better position to score when we’re down there.”
Senior quarterback Landon Bowles had one of his worst outings in his time as a Hawk, completing 21 of 34 passes for 161 yards with two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, the second pick-six thrown by Bowles this season. After being injured in last week’s game, Bird said that Bowles had not practiced this week up until the day before the game. More concerning to Bird was that Bowles did not have a single rush attempt.
“The last thing I told him was that for him to be really good, he’s got to start using his legs and putting pressure on the defense with his legs,” Bird said.
Senior Morgan Bowles led all receivers with five catches for 51 yards. Senior Dakoda Harward led all rushers with nine carries for 52 yards.
After a defensive struggle both ways in the first quarter, Grantsville got their first score in the second quarter, breaking several big runs consecutively which culminated in a 26-yard touchdown run around the left side for a 6-0 lead by the Cowboys.
On the very next possession, Bowles forced a desperate throw on 3rd-and-15 into triple coverage, and it was easily intercepted by Grantsville’s star junior, Ethan Rainier, who took it all the way back for a 65-yard pick-six and the 13-0 lead.
Rainier intercepted Bowles yet again on North Sanpete’s next possession. The Cowboy offense responded with an 89-yard drive all the way down for the score as senior running back Blake Thomas ran untouched for a 1-yard touchdown right through the middle of the Hawk defense, the last score before halftime as the Cowboys led, 20-0, heading into the locker room.
After halftime, the frustration continued as the Hawks took their opening possession all the way down to the 12-yard line, but several miscues on their last few plays led to a turnover on downs, leaving the offense fruitless on their best drive of the game so far.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys went into clock-eating mode, but not before a screen play went 30 yards for another touchdown.
Two more times in the last five minutes of the fourth, North Sanpete got down within scoring position, but came up with nothing either time.
The final seconds of the game saw North Sanpete at the goal line looking to score for pride, but a pair of throws to the end zone by Bowles both sailed high over head of the target, a somewhat appropriate end to a tough night for a senior signal-caller.
It wasn’t lost on Bird that Bowles rough night came just a week after Allen, the backup quarterback, led a comeback win against Delta. “I’m not worried about it at all,” Bird said. “As we go down the road, we’ll continue to push [Bowles]. We know what he can do.”
North Sanpete will have to get up and dust themselves off sooner than later as their next opponent is arguably the toughest on their whole schedule. Desert Hills, a 4A powerhouse, comes to Mt. Pleasant this Friday, coming off a rivalry win in St. George, taking down Crimson Cliffs, 33-21. The Hawks have not beaten a team in a higher classification since 2016 when they prevailed over Maple Mountain in 5A.