by Matthew Harris | A matchup between top-five 3A Utah teams got out of hand so much quicker than could have possibly been expected.
North Sanpete football’s offense fired on all cylinders in a dominating 52-28 victory over the fifth-ranked Richfield Wildcats. The Hawks led 35-7 after the first quarter and 49-14 at halftime before the mercy rule took over.
North Sanpete head coach lauded the dedication of his players to preparing for what was expected to be a tough contest for the relatively unproven Hawks.
“All week long, their heads were in the film,” North Sanpete head coach Rhett Bird said. “They were prepared. We wanted to start early and start fast, and I thought our offense did a great job at starting quick in that game.”
North Sanpete came out of the gate against Richfield with a fury. North Sanpete’s Landon Bowles showed no mercy with three touchdown passes in the first five minutes of the first quarter. The junior quarterback finished with six touchdown passes to four different receivers, two each to seniors Magnus Clawson and Brady Jacobsen.
“He is a special quarterback,” Richfield head coach Ryan Shaddix said of Bowles. “But he has got some big, athletic receivers that run crisp routes. I mean, he throws a nice ball, but his receivers are amazing. They’re athletes, man.”
Richfield senior quarterback Gavin Brown finished with two touchdowns on the ground in a losing effort for Richfield. On the other end, Bowles continued to separate himself from the competition as he eclipsed 20 touchdowns for the season, enough to not only lead the state of Utah, but every state in the country currently playing football.
“He’s a humble kid,” Bird said. “That’s the thing with him is, he’s not looking too far ahead. He just wants to compete right now. He wants to go give his teammates the very best chance to go and compete at the very top level.”
Richfield finally got a drive together to answer back in the first when senior quarterback Gavin Brown spun into the endzone for a short touchdown, trimming the Hawks’ lead to 14.
For a short period time, it appeared that North Sanpete had lost composure in response to the score, throwing an incomplete backward pass, getting another batted down, and committing a false start. Not to be denied, Bowles delivered an absolute strike up the middle of the field to senior tight end Cole Mickel with running room. Mickel dragged two defenders into the endzone for a spectacular 58-yard touchdown.
North Sanpete still wasn’t done. The Hawks’ ensuing kickoff was an intentionally short one recovered by North Sanpete, and after a 20-plus-yard run by Bowles, the junior completed his fifth touchdown pass, hitting on a left corner route to Clawson a minute before the first quarter mercifully ended.
North Sanpete continued to pour it on in the second quarter as Bowles hit Jacobsen again for a short touchdown in the right flat. After Richfield stalled out on their next drive, the Hawks scored their seventh touchdown on a run by Morley, the first score of the game that wasn’t Bowles.
On the final possession before halftime, Richfield got their legs back under them, sustaining a drive down into Hawk territory off a huge completion to junior receiver Ethan Udy. Brown took the reins a few plays later to run in another keeper for Richfield’s second touchdown right before halftime.
“I think we missed some really good opportunities early that really came back to bite us,” Richfield head coach Ryan Shaddix said. “We just didn’t do what we came in planning to do offensively and defensively. Ultimately, North Sanpete dictated to us, and that’s the bottom line on that.”
With the mercy rule in effect for the second half to keep the clock running, Brown and the Wildcats committed to the pass, and it took three plays for it to go wrong as Mickel, playing at linebacker, picked off a quick pass to let the Hawks take over their first drive after halftime in Wildcat territory.
The Wildcats did just enough to keep North Sanpete from scoring a touchdown for the first time in the game, and Hawks’ kicker Rance Christensen nailed a 32-yard field goal for a 52-14 lead.
On the Wildcats’ ensuing drive, Brown connected on another long pass to receiver Max Robinson that was a shoestring tackle away from being a touchdown, but that was all Richfield could manage to do as they turned over on downs in North Sanpete territory.
With the game already out of reach in the fourth, the Richfield defense finally managed to keep the Hawks from scoring on a drive at the 5:47 mark as the Hawks’ Christensen shanked a 39-yard field goal to turn the ball over.
Richfield junior running back turned in the Wildcats last touchdown for pride’s sake with a minute remaining for a 52-21 ending, or so it was thought.
The Wildcats got yet one more at the very end with a touchdown pass for a 52-28 result after North Sanpete’s backups fumbled a snap away.
North Sanpete’s 4-0 start to the season is the second consecutive for Bird’s squad after not accomplishing the feat since 2003. The Hawks are expected to have smooth sailing through Grand County and Delta before a huge matchup with Juab in three weeks.
Richfield returns home next week to host Manti.
Featured image via The Daily Herald.