Cottonwood football wins first game of the season thanks to big plays over rival MurrayOct 01, 2022 08:07PM ● By Brian Shaw
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
The Cottonwood Colts were all business from the opening kick—that they were supposed to have kicked to Murray in their game on Sept. 16.
“Their kids on film turn and run before the ball is kicked,” said Cottonwood head coach Casey Miller, who told his soccer-style kicker to squib the football across the turf and past the onrushing Murray player on Homecoming Night.
“We thought we could get it and we did,” Miller said.
That ball squirted past one Murray player, went the obligatory 10 yards it had to go, and then a Colt fell onto the onside kick for the first big play of many in a 41-28 win for Cottonwood.
Cottonwood (1-5) wrapped up this first win on the season when senior Nick Bean intercepted a Murray pass at the Murray 20, one he ran back for a touchdown with 1:47 to play in the third quarter.
The Colts clomped ahead for good in that third quarter, getting three consecutive long gainers on the ground that all led to first downs.
The dominance Cottonwood displayed on the ground led to junior Jaxon Martinez third rushing touchdown of three on the evening, extending the lead to 35-22 after a missed PAT. Murray had answered back cutting the Colts lead to 29-22 with 5:29 in the third.
In addition to Martinez’ huge evening (nine carries for 36 yards rushing, three TD), there were several other players who stepped up big time for Cottonwood, including senior quarterback Brock Simpson.
In the first quarter of a 0-0 ballgame, Simpson started showing that poise under pressure that he has been developing under the tutelage of coach Miller, who was himself a quarterback in high school and in college.
Simpson has had a solid season stat-wise (1,078 yards passing, 7 TD, 6 INT). Over the past three games he’s shown marked improvement in each, going from a seesaw 21 for 35 completion night on 245 yards but only one TD pass in one game on Aug. 26 (a 7-16 L to Providence Hall) to two TD passes and 194 yards passing in a 45-17 Sept. 2 loss to Northridge—to three TD passes and 278 yards in a close loss (39-36, OT) against Stansbury on Sept. 9.
On this warm September night on the Colts first drive of the game, Simpson stood in the pocket scanning the Murray defense for a moment. He then fired a bullet into the hands of junior Kaelen Gray across the middle for a Cottonwood first down early in the first quarter. A false start on Murray pushed the Colts ahead five more yards.
From the Murray 14 Simpson called his own number on a designed read option for four more yards [he had 3 carries for 30 yards rushing].
Then Jaxon Martinez blasted through the Murray defense for a 10-yard touchdown run. It was all set up in Miller’s view, however, by Simpson’s ability to make the right play call.
Case in point: Earlier in the season Simpson struggled making the right play calls in several games, but the Colts weren’t done with just six here. They lined up for a 2-point conversion instead of a PAT, and Martinez’ big No. 20 frame at a stout 190 pounds rumbled over Murray tacklers and through to daylight.
With seven minutes left in the first quarter of this big rivalry game, the Colts had taken an 8-0 lead and, it was the first time all season that they had led by as many as eight points. Murray answered back tying the game at 8-8 with 5:26 to play in the first—then tried a squib kick that the Colts failed to pounce on.
After the Colts stood up Murray on three consecutive run plays they got burned on a 41-yard TD pass on a fourth down and what seemed like was forever to go, with 2:41 left in the first.
Down 15-8 after a point-after try was converted by Murray senior Lauren Fetzer, one of only a handful of females currently participating in Utah high school football. The Colts needed something big to go their way.
They got it when another sustained scoring drive led to Martinez bursting through the Murray defense with 11:22 to go in the first half, tying the game at 15-15 with the PAT after the 8-yard TD scamper. Then the Colts went up 22-15 when junior Roman Caywood, the Colts JV QB, hurled a pass up into the unseasonably humid air toward the junior Gray who was standing all alone in the right corner of the Murray end zone for an 11-yard score.
But rivalry games tend to be frenetic, hard-hitting slugfests with lots of tricks and this one wasn’t any different.
Murray tried an onside kick to start the second half, but was whistled for being offside. Then it squibbed a kick hoping for a Colts fumble but instead had multiple players whistled for infractions. That gave the Colts the ball at the Murray 44. From there they softened the Murray defense with three straight runs from Martinez and a first-down from the Murray 34. Then Simpson reeled back three steps and threw the ball so high you couldn’t see it from the camera.
When it landed, junior Roman Caywood had outleapt two Murray defenders in the end zone and snagged the ball out of midair for a 34-yard touchdown reception for Cottonwood.
That’s how magical this night went for the Colts, who hoisted the senior Simpson upon their shoulders in celebration, well after the homecoming king and queen had been crowned for 2022-23.
It was something they’ll all remember for a lifetime.