WEST VALLEY CITY — Believe it or not, despite giving up four touchdowns in a 44-30 victory over Granger Thursday night, Cottonwood's defense played the type of dominating defense it will need to compete with 5A's big boys in the playoffs.
"It's another step toward the playoffs," said Cottonwood coach Tom Jones, whose team improved to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in Region 3. "One of the goals we have is to host a playoff game."
If the Colts continue playing defense like they did in the first half, that shouldn't be a problem.
In jumping out to a 17-6 halftime lead, Cottonwood's defense limited Granger to 21 rushing yards on 21 attempts. For an option team that rarely passes, an ineffective running game is very troublesome.
"That was a big thing for us," said Jones.
Through six games this year, it was no secret Cottonwood's rush defense was its biggest liability. In a game earlier this year, West Jordan torched the Colts for 541 rushing yards.
There was no sign of that passive rush defense Thursday as eight of Granger's 21 first-half rushing attempts went for negative yardage. Perhaps the only criticism for Cottonwood was it was too aggressive late in the half. With 49 seconds remaining, Granger quarterback Zellie Franco connected with Francisco Santoyo on a 67-yard touchdown passes down the middle of the field.
It took Cottonwood just four plays to spoil any momentum Granger was hoping to build on in the second half. After a poor rush attempt, Colt quarterback Alex Cate completed three straight passes, including a 24-yard touchdown strike to Zach Wade — who also connected on a TD strike in the first half.
Granger trimmed the deficit to 24-14 on an Edward Tavo 79-yard punt return just two minutes later.
That's when running back Stanley Havili took over. "I just started seeing the hole and hitting it," said Havili. "I wasn't hitting the hole in the first half. I was dancing too much."
Havili put the Colts back in front 31-14 a minute after Tavo's punt return by capping a three-play drive with a 38-yard rushing touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, Havili added a 70-yard rushing touchdown to put the game away at 44-22.
"He's always a threat," said Jones.
In other Region 3 Games:
SKYLINE 61, KEARNS 6: Twelve different running backs combined to rush for 336 rushing yards for the Eagles. Skyline's Joey Putnam three three touchdown passes on just seven attempts.
HUNTER 42, TAYLORSVILLE 7: Hunter's Matt Asiata had 12 carries for 124 yards and three first-half touchdowns.