By Matt Harris | Coming into the sixth week of high school football action in the Beehive State, most teams around Utah are either well into their region slate of competition or they’re about to get started today.
We’d like to thank the fates for giving us one last nonregion matchup that is built for intrigue.
In a battle of 3A versus 2A, the 4-1 3A Grantsville Cowboys will play their final game before region play by traveling down to Beaver County to take on the reigning monarchs of 2A football, the undefeated Beaver Beavers.
Both teams in this matchup are coming off solid victories. Beaver manhandled rival Milford, 48-7, while Grantsville pulled away in the second half against a talented San Juan squad, 39-14. Grantsville head coach Kody Byrd was not reserved in talking to The Hive Sports last week about the excitement he held in playing the Beavers. “Personally, I’ve been looking forward to it,” Byrd said. “I love playing great teams…If you have to challenge someone, it might as well be someone that good. It’s a good challenge for our kids to see where we stand.”
Beaver enters this matchup protecting an 18-game winning streak dating back to their 2019 season opener, including the 2019 2A championship. In that time, not only have the Beavers won 17 of those games by over 30 points, but their hit list is no stranger to opponents from higher classifications. Beaver beat 3A Delta twice, 3A South Summit twice, 3A Grand once, and 4A Canyon View once. Those six games were decided by an average of roughly 45 points.
The Beavers’ unstoppable offense is entirely predicated on the run game. Beaver averages 348.2 of their 460.2 yards per game on the ground attack. Most of that is currently fueled by a three-headed monster of seniors Treyson Hunter and EJ Allred and junior Turner Williams. The three have combined for 23 touchdowns in their 5-0 start, and each average over nine yards per carry.
On defense, Beaver is solid as a rock. The Beavers have only allowed ten points or more twice in 22 games. In their last game, Beaver allowed 212 total yards to Milford. It was the most allowed in a single game against Beaver this season. Their winning streak includes six shutouts.
As much as Beaver has owned 2A, and several teams above them, Grantsville is a different test, and the Beavers know it.
Grantsville struggled in the early part of the 2010’s, but as Byrd took control in 2017, the Cowboys slowly turned the program into one of the most powerful teams in the 3A classification, and the dividends are paying out.
Byrd guided the Cowboys to their first region title in 21 years with a 5-0 region record in a 10-3 season, and they nearly took down the 3A state runner-up, Juab, in last year’s semifinals, falling in a 22-20 heartbreaker. Byrd has a record of 23-10 with the team.
Grantsville’s only loss this season was an offensive fireworks show as the Cowboys fell in the season opener to a title favorite in North Sanpete, 47-31, but the team hasn’t let anyone get close since then. The Cowboys tore apart 4A Tooele, Manti, Delta, and San Juan since that week.
“Grantsville is a very good football team,” Beaver head coach Jon Marshall said. “On film, they appear to be the most talented team we have played in several years. They are very well coached and have very good players. We were really excited to get them on our schedule. I’m really excited to see if we are good enough to play with them. We feel this game is going to make us better.”
The Cowboys’ offense will test Beaver’s ability to defend in all aspects. Grantsville averages 335.8 yards per game, and the run-pass yardage split tends to be about even with a slight favor towards the run. Junior quarterback Caleb Sullivan has shown solid ability to guide an offense with his arm with a 60.7 percent completion rate and 141.2 passing yards per game.
Byrd’s offense functions, according to what he told Deseret News at the start of the season, around the leadership of two-way tackle Branson Yager. Yager is a force on both sides of the ball and is committed to Nebraska, an incredible achievement for a player at the 2A level.
The strength of the Cowboys’ line has made it possible for junior running back Blake Thomas to excel at his position. The first-year starter is averaging 131 rushing yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns. He’s also caught six passes for 46 yards.
On defense, the Cowboys can make things difficult for Beaver’s rush heavy game. Grantsville holds opponents to a meager 72.4 yards per game, with Manti being the only team that could get over 100 yards. The defense has combined for 21 tackles for loss, most of them from senior Kaden Kelley, who has 9. Should the Beavers make the attempt to beat the Cowboys through the air, they will have to contend with sophomore safety Ethan Rainer, who already has five interceptions on the season.
The Beaver’s are solid favorites over the Cowboys, according to Parry’s Power Guide. In MaxPreps’ Utah rankings, the Beavers are ranked No. 30 in the state, 11 spots ahead of Grantsville.
Beaver does not know how to lose, but I’d be straight up lying if I said I didn’t like Grantsville’s chances of winning this one. Whoever wins it, that coach is going to have a real reason to be proud. It’s going to come down to whoever’s defense breaks first, as neither of these offenses can be held completely in check for 48 minutes.
I have a friendly bet on Beaver in this one, and I’m sticking to it with Beaver at home. The Beavers may struggle to score at the same level they’re used to, and the defense will be tested more than they have in a long time, it’s not like Beaver hasn’t seen a good offense before and destroyed it. Most of these kids helped shut out a historically-good Milford offense last year.
Beaver’s got three different rushers who can pound this Cowboy defense until something gives, and it’s going to be the closest game the Beavers have won in a while.
Beaver – 28 Grantsville – 18
Game time is set for 7pm at Beaver High School, and the game can also be streamed online through CentraCom at local10.tv.