Up against the toughest opponent of its schedule so far, Box Elder needed to play the best game it could muster.

By the end, Bees head coach Robbie Gunter was hugging fans and family and saying, “They couldn’t possibly have played better.”

Box Elder, the truest “road warriors” of high school football in 2023, added another signature win to its surprisingly dominant campaign by going to Roy and taking down the Royals in a shootout, 42-34. The win moved the Bees to 5-0 on the season, the first 5-0 start in Gunter’s entire 15-year tenure with the program, which is the longest-tenured run in the state.

Senior running back Daxton Sumko, in fulfillment of the role he’s taken on in almost every game this season, erupted for several big plays as he marched his way over the goal line for three touchdowns, giving him an astounding 14 on the season. Sumko’s been the featured back through the last two seasons in Box Elder’s run-heavy Wing-T offensive scheme that relies heavily on dominant play along the offensive line.

“Honestly, I don’t know what else to say besides credit to the line,” Sumko said. “Every touchdown I score, every yard I get …I gotta credit the line. They’re the only reason I’m relevant in high school football.”

Senior running back Mason Jeppsen had himself a big day as well, catching a 16-yard touchdown pass in the second half to put the Bees ahead by two scores. He finished with two touchdowns.

“He is incredible,” Sumko said. “There’s not a kid like Mason in the state, in my opinion.”

Shootouts in high school football tend to be defined by teams throwing the ball at a high frequency, but between Sumko and Jeppsen, along with a Roy game plan that adjusted its way toward keeping the ball in the hands of backs Robert Young and Logan Cella, this game turned out to be a ground-and-pound affair.

Ultimately, neither team had many answers for the other’s run game. Box Elder stayed ahead the whole game other than a brief period of a 7-7 tie in the first quarter, but of the 11 TDs scored between the two teams, neither squad scored more than two in a row.

For Gunter, Box Elder’s game plan relied on “complementary football,” and it worked to near perfection. Even on a night when the Royals put together one of their best offensive performances and even had a kick return touchdown late in the game, the Bees stayed in control. They had zero turnovers and only punted once.

“Offense trusts defense,” Gunter said. “They trust each other. It got a little bit crazy at times, where the defense (for Roy) was really good. The offense just kept doing their thing and kept going.”

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Outside of a critically scoreless second quarter, Roy’s offense scarcely stopped moving either. The Royals equally had zero turnovers and punted just once in the game, pinning Box Elder at the 10-yard line, though the Bees would go on to score a 70-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Griffin to Damon Rodriguez.

One of the biggest factors in boosting the scoring ability of both teams was that they both seemed content to avoid kicking off to each other’s returners for the most part. Most of the kickoffs in the game were either onside attempts (none of which worked) or squib kicks.

Box Elder’s final kickoff was another squib kick in the fourth quarter, and Roy’s leading rusher and returner Robert Young, sensing the strategy, bolted up from his spot behind the return unit to pick up the ball around the Royals’ 30-yard line. The speedster shed a few tacklers and turned the Bees’ game against them, scoring a 70-yard touchdown on the return.

Needing to secure the ball as long as possible, the Bees found themselves in a rough spot facing 3rd-and-20 with just over 3:30 remaining in the game. Sumko took a pass 16 yards to set up 4th-and-4, and instead of pinning Roy back and putting it on the defense, Gunter made his offense keep the ball with a critical 5-yard run by Sumko up the middle.

Box Elder’s fascinating start to the season comes despite the fact that the Bees have yet to play a true home game, with turf in the process of installation at their field. Despite the struggle of playing home games anywhere but home, Gunter said Brigham City has followed them wherever they went.

“We bring the whole town with us,” Gunter said. “It is one of the most amazing things.”

The Bees will be (truly) on the road next Friday to take on Clearfield.

Roy, which fell to 3-2 with the loss, will remain at home next Friday with a matchup against Bonneville.