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3A football championship: History runs deep between Morgan and Grantsville

By Patrick Carr - | Nov 11, 2021

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Morgan High football players practice on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 at Morgan High School.

MORGAN — On Nov. 15, 1996, Morgan and Grantsville met at Mountain View High in the 2A football state championship.

Morgan’s current coach, Jared Barlow, called it the “Gold Cleat Game.”

“We usually would shine (our cleats) black before every game,” Barlow, an MHS class of 1996 graduate, said. “It’s just one of those things to prepare us mentally, get us focused on the game and for the state championship game for whatever reason, they decided to go gold.”

The Cowboys won 7-0, avenging a 15-7 regular-season loss to Morgan and stopping the Trojans, who had indeed painted their shoes gold, from having an unbeaten season.

History runs deep between these two one-school cities about 75 miles apart.

In football, they’ve met 86 times since 1945. They’ve often been in the same region and Morgan leads the all-time series 54-30-2, according to prep football historian George Felt.

Despite the all-time advantage in the series for Morgan, the teams have split their last four meetings.

“Anytime we have the opportunity to play them, it’s a fun game. It’s a game that usually we get up for and the kids want to play that game,” Barlow said.

Their 87th meeting comes at 5 p.m. Saturday in the 3A state championship game at Weber State, the third and final game of a title-game tripleheader at Stewart Stadium that day.

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Morgan High football players practice on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 at Morgan High School.

The Trojans could have somewhat of a home-field advantage, given Weber State is about a 30-minute drive from Morgan compared to what’s probably an hour-plus drive from Grantsville.

Both sides of the stadium should be packed, though.

“I’m just excited to be able to play,” linebacker Everett Gilson said.

Grantsville won the teams’ regular-season meeting 21-7. Morgan committed nine penalties for 92 yards; the number of penalties and yardage were above-average marks for MHS.

Morgan trailed 14-7 until an interception and a fourth-quarter Grantsville touchdown gave the Cowboys the final 21-7 score.

“I think that just everything that could’ve gone wrong kind of went wrong for us,” Gilson said.

Barlow felt like the Trojans played well defensively, but it was a different story offensively and that’s been a similar theme for all Grantsville opponents in 2021.

The Cowboys allow an average of 9.2 points per game (only 6A Skyridge has a better mark in the whole state at 8.8 ppg). Just one team, Beaver on Aug. 20, has hit the 20-point mark against the Cowboys. They had a streak of six games where they allowed a total of 20 points over the stretch with zero opponents scoring in double digits. And, Grantsville has forced 25 turnovers in 12 games.

It’ll be up to the balanced Morgan offense — MHS has exactly 2,071 passing yards and 2,071 rushing yards this year — to navigate the Cowboys’ defense.

The Trojans are coming off a 413-yard rushing performance in last week’s 54-38 semifinal win over Juab where four different players ran for touchdowns and Will Lance ran for 216 yards on 21 carries.

“Honestly, I think it was the O-line. They were making their blocks, making us look super good and that helped a lot,” running back Will Korth said.

Morgan has three main ball carriers in Lance, Korth and Alex Fisher, plus a dual-threat quarterback Nick Despain, plus receiver Tate Nelson. Nelson played two games at quarterback while Despain was injured and rushed for 178 yards against Ogden and Union.

“It’s unique, but it’s been good,” offensive coordinator John Millward said. “It kind of developed because Will Lance has been hurt most of the season so we had to develop some depth and so now it’s nice to have all three kids that can run the ball well.”

Millward says running back depth is something Morgan hasn’t had since it switched to a spread offense a few years ago.

Things are different from this time last year when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic got bad enough that the state mandated COVID testing for athletes and coaches to continue playing.

The mandates are gone, but one thing that’s unchanged is Morgan in the state championship game. The Trojans split consecutive title matches against Juab to claim one trophy in the past two seasons, and now try for another Saturday against Grantsville.

No matter how many times they’ve been there, the pregame nerves are always the same.

“You always have the first butterflies before kickoff but as soon as you get in the game, it kind of goes and energy takes you,” Gilson said.

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