PAYSON—North Sanpete may have been the first football team in all of Utah to score a touchdown last Friday, but the moment proved as fleeting as it was exhilarating.
The rest of the contest belonged to Payson as the Lions ran over the outmanned Hawks, 44-14, in North Sanpete’s first game of the season. The Hawks struggled to keep up with a Payson squad that has vastly improved since last year.
“Obviously the score tells a little bit of the story,” coach Rhett Bird said. “But we didn’t execute very well. I thought we did a lot of good things, but for us as a team, we were able to find out who we were and where we need to put more work in. It wasn’t a very good outing for us.”
One of North Sanpete’s greatest struggles in keeping up with the Lions was in having a significantly smaller roster, down to nearly half the size of the 5A program.
“Our kids played hard throughout the whole game,” Bird said. “We have a lot of kids going both ways. The physicality that Payson brought this year was much different than what they’ve had in years past. Give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done.”
Fate smiled on the Hawks in the first few minutes when they recovered a fumble by Payson on the opening kick- off. Less than 2 minutes later, senior quarterback Ty Allan turned that opportunity into a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Allan finished with 90 yards passing with the one touchdown and two intercep- tions. Allan also earned the respect of Payson’s staff, one of whom said he was “freakin’ elusive.”
Bird showed how serious he was about his team learning to run the ball. Despite playing from behind for most of the game, the Hawks combined for 172 yards rushing on 31 attempts, a respectable 5.5 yards per carry as a team. Senior fullback P.J. Cook punched in a 4-yard touchdown in the final minute to wrap up a decent day for his group.
On Payson’s first real offensive possession, North Sanpete still had some good mojo as they were able to get a stop on defense deep in their own territory to force a field goal, which Payson made from 29 yards.
From there, it was all about the Lions as they turned the deficit into a 17-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Kade Edwards put on a clinic, tossing five touchdowns, four of them to the same senior receiver, Cooper Swasey. Swasey had over 200 receiving yards.
The Lions collected 463 yards of total offense.
Improved teams are a com- mon theme of North Sanpete’s opponents this year. Just like Payson, the Hawks will contend with what is expected to be a better-than-usual Emery team this Friday.
“That’s what you deal with with a two-year schedule,” Bird said. “It’s tough. We’re going to play some physical teams, and we know that, but no one starts the season not wanting to compete. We could be playing teams that we can handle a lot easier, but that’s not going to help us with where we want to get to.”