Hawk defense closes the doors on Grantsville in 7-6 Season opener
By Matt Harris
PLEASANT—North Sanpete football team displayed stellar defensive tenacity in a 7-6 season-opening win over visiting Grantsville in a game that saw only a single touchdown.
The Hawks’ win in their first game of the season broke a seven-year losing streak in season openers. “I didn’t even think about that,” Coach Rhett Bird said candidly. “It has been a long time.” The last time the Hawks started with a win, Bird was a senior on the team.
For much of the first half, Grantsville’s visible size advantage along the line and among their running backs allowed the Cowboys to move the ball effectively downfield with power running. Over time, however, the athleticism, technique, and conditioning of the Hawks gained the edge as Grantsville ran out of options on offense.
“That’s the one thing I told these guys coming out before the game,” Bird said. “I said to just relax because we are further along this year than we’ve ever been before defensively…and they showed that tonight. We didn’t blow any assignments, we played sound defense. We’re a ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ defense.”
The Hawks’ defense showed up on Grantsville’s first drive following a short offensive possession. Faced with a fourth down with short yardage, a Hawks linebacker jumped through the line and broke up a run play, taking the Cowboy running back’s leg out from beneath him for a two-yard loss.
Langschwager was the first to show up on offense for a first-down catch, but the Hawks continued to stall all throughout the first half.
Grantsville again started to pound the ball up the middle of their large offensive line and got inside the North Sanpete 20-yard line. Holding strong on defense, the Hawks forced a 39-yard field goal by Grantsville that sailed wide to keep the scoreboard dark.
Following another stalled possession by North Sanpete, Grantsville’s quarterback ran an option play and unexpectedly rushed the defense en route to nearly hitting the end zone before getting tackled inside the 5-yard line. Once again, however, North Sanpete’s defense held up, this time on a goal line stand for three downs, and the Cowboys made a chip-shot field goal to go up, 3-0, at the half.
Bowles stumbled out of the gate in the second by almost immediately throwing an interception against a heavily covered receiver, and Grantsville took over in the Hawks’ territory. The next possession turned out to be critical.
On another impressive play on defense, Langschwager took down Grantsville’s quarterback, who came down awkwardly on his right leg and was injured the rest of the game. Grantsville subsequently made a field goal from 35 yards for a 6-0 lead.
On the ensuing North Sanpete possession on fourth down, North Sanpete attempted a fake punt by throwing a long pass. It fell incomplete, but a yellow flag flew for defensive pass interference gave North Sanpete a first down, sustaining the Hawks’ drive. Driving up to the Grantsville 20-yard line, Bowles delivered a smooth pass over the middle to Langschwager for a touchdown, claiming the lead 7-6.
The Hawks nearly lost the lead immediately when the Cowboys ran the ensuing kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, but a flag negated the play.
Rallying the troops in the fourth quarter, it was all about the defense from there on. The game all but ended when a Hawks defensive back batted down the fourth-down pass by Grantsville in the final minute, allowing North Sanpete to kneel out the clock the rest of the way.
The Hawks are slated to visit Emery this week before hosting South Sevier the following Friday. Kickoff tomorrow night in Castle Dale will be at 7 p.m.