MORGAN — Grantsville High might consider changing its school's nickname.
Cowboys is a fine moniker and all, but something like Bakers, Pastry Chefs or even Sticky-Fingered Outlaws might be more fitting after Saturday's 3A quarterfinal game. Grantsville's defense concocted eight turnovers against a talented Morgan offense to help cook up a 14-7 upset playoff victory.
After starting the season 0-5, including a 24-7 home loss to the Trojans, the turnaround Cowboys have now won three straight to earn a spot in the state semifinals against Pine View.
"We're really rolling now. We're playing the best football of the year right now," said Grantsville first-year coach Tony Cloward. "They believe. They believe in each other. They are a great team."
Aside from a snafu against BCS-worthy Logan a month ago — the Cowboys gave up 48 points to the powerhouse Grizzlies — Grantsville's defense has stonewalled opposing offenses since an impressive turnaround began in late September. They've won six of seven, allowing an average of only one touchdown a victory.
Their hard-hitting and aggressive defense forced so many Morgan turnovers — five interceptions and three fumbles — that Trojan fans must have wondered if Grantsville provided greased-up pigskins to the normally sure-handed home team. Senior defensive back Travis Taylor had the biggest turnover appetite, gulping up three interceptions off misfiring Morgan quarterback Alan Tucker, who threw four picks and fumbled twice.
"It's football. It's just what you do," Taylor said. "I was just at the right place at the right time."
Taylor's first interception — he tipped it away from the receiver and then snarfed it down — led to Grantsville's first touchdown and surprisingly the only score of the first half, a 2-yard run by Brent Mouritsen. The Cowboys' second touchdown — another Mouritsen run, from 12 yards out to make it 14-0 in the third quarter — was also preceded by a Morgan turnover. Then again, most Grantsville drives seemed to be.
"That's one of the most defensively dominating games I've seen," Cloward said. "Our defense won this game."
Still, Morgan, which only had one loss coming in, made a game of this. A 67-yard punt return by Alex Blazzard paved the way for a 3-yard touchdown run for Josh Wilson, putting the Trojans within striking distance with 8:22 remaining. Blazzard followed that great play with a heads-up interception.
But a few minutes later, Grantsville linebacker Ryan Butler dove for the ball, picking off the pass and the Trojans' comeback bid.
"I just saw that guy wide open in the end zone, and I saw the quarterback's eyes go to him. When he threw the ball, I laid it out and hoped I'd get there," Butler said. "It was amazing. I still don't believe it. We were just flying to the ball and hitting them."