by Matt Harris | For most of the 3.2 million residents of Utah, Beaver County is a place of little consequence.
The only thing many know about Beaver County is it is the first county mentioned in that fun little song some of us learned in elementary school to memorize all 29 counties in the Beehive State. If you know, you know.
Here are two more nuggets to add to your noggin about Beaver County. First, it has two top-notch football programs, and, second, they’ll face off this evening in an exciting cross-county rivalry.
The coming weekend brings a Patriot Day Friday matchup of 2A powerhouses as the defending champion Beaver Beavers and the Milford Tigers go for a rematch of last year’s 2A title game. The two schools have a combined five state championships in the last five years in two different classifications.
Beaver has been a mainstay in the big game for the last five years, playing in four of the last five seasons. The Beavers claimed the 2A title in 2015, 2016, and 2019, and made it to the title game in 2017.
The Beavers’ recent dominance is nothing surprising. Head coach Jonathan Marshall is the third consecutive coach to guide Beaver to a championship. Beaver has won 12 state titles dating back to 1970. Most of them under the direction of Coach Al Marshall, who led the program for 25 years.
The Beavers have not had a losing season since 2009. Jonathan holds a current record of 35-6 with Beaver going into this week of his fourth season coaching the team.
Milford is a former 1A program that joined 2A when 1A was disbanded for football after the 2018 season. The Tigers won back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018 behind the talent of a historically good quarterback in Bryson Barnes. He now sits in the quarterback room at the University of Utah.
Jumping into 2A in 2019, the Tigers made themselves known quickly, fighting their way to the title last year in Barnes’ senior season. They were humbled in a 45-6 rout to none other than the Beavers. Head coach Thane Marshall, a Beaver High grad himself, holds a record of 52-20 and is in his seventh season with the Tigers.
With the teams meeting today, Beaver enters as a massive favorite on the road against the Tigers. It’ll be the first time since 2009 that the Beavers travel to Milford despite the schools being roughly 30 miles apart. They are the only public high schools in the county.
Beaver currently stands at 4-0 but largely untested. Their four victories come against teams that are a combined 3-13 entering the fifth week of the season, including two winless teams. The Beavers have done their part to flex their muscles, though, beating their opponents by an average of 50.5 points per game. Beaver is likely better than their undefeated 2019 predecessors, having returned 15 starters from that squad.
The Beavers are the archetype of a small-town team, sporting a run game that is virtually unstoppable, running over 300 yards per game. Seniors EJ Allred and Treyson Hunter, along with junior Turner Williams, combine to average over 10 yards per carry. Hunter handles the lions’ share of the signal calling as well and has five passing touchdowns to one interception.
On the other side of the ball, Beaver is a suffocating defense. Only once since the beginning of last season did the Beavers allow more than one touchdown scored against them.
Thane fully expects that the only way to beat Beaver is to be perfect.
“I expect them to run like a well-oiled machine,” Thane said. “We need to play at a very high level to keep it competitive.”
Milford’s football success is more recent. They were not a good team prior to their two recent 1A titles. Barnes was a revelation to the program, but the Tigers are now moving on.
Milford is 2-2 on the season and has played some tough teams. Their two losses come against a tough 4A squad in Ogden and the ever-powerful Duchesne. They beat South Summit and a resurgent Gunnison Valley team to begin the season.
Sophomore Bo Hardy took the reins at quarterback in Thane’s spread offense and has showcased as much talent as he has rawness. He has nearly eclipsed 1000 passing yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
How Milford handles this tall order will likely depend on how prepared Hardy is to take the next step. It will also depend on whether or not a talented defense can contain their rivals. Casek Hardy, Blake Barnes, and Heston Sullivan will be heavily relied upon to take on this huge task.
The Beavers may not have faced anyone particularly tough this season, but there is no reason to think this isn’t going to go in their favor quickly. Milford has a talented enough defense to, at the least, give the Tigers’ offense some more scoring opportunities and keep Beavers from throwing a 50-pointer on them.
Beaver – 42 Milford – 14
The game kicks off at Milford HIgh School at 7pm tonight, with streaming available online via CentraCom at local10.tv.
Featured image via Deseret News.