Ravell Call, Deseret News
Asi Vakalahi of Granger runs the football as the Lancers claimed a 21-7 win over the Murray Spartans Friday night.
MURRAY — Granger head coach Alex Gerke says his football team is halfway to fulfilling its new credo — "disciplined and fit."
The Lancers showed how "fit" they were on both sides of the ball in a 21-7 victory over Murray on Friday night. Granger's defense was stifling through the first three quarters, holding Murray to negative rushing yards and one offensive first down — and forcing a key turnover late in the fourth to hold off the opportunistic Spartans. The offense, with its newly installed I-formation running scheme, ate up chunks of yardage and clock en route to the win.
As for the "disciplined" side, Granger racked up more than 100 penalty yards — including six personal fouls — and gift-wrapped the first downs that Murray didn't achieve offensively.
"I think discipline-wise we gotta continue to work on it," said Gerke. "It's a young club. … We gotta clean that up."
Early in a scoreless second quarter, Granger got the ball at midfield and rode its rushers to paydirt. Asi Vakalahi's 23-yard run got the Lancers in the red zone, and Vakalahi and Joseph Tonga powered Granger toward the goal line before quarterback Jordan Fernandez sneaked in from the one for the first touchdown.
Hernandez threw relatively few passes in the game, but he made one count big-time. On Granger's next possession, wideout Zach Buchanan got a few steps on his man over the middle and Fernandez threaded the needle to him for an easy 44-yard scoring strike and a 14-0 halftime lead.
Murray's lone offensive first down of the half came on a pass from QB Justin Adams to receiver Kevin Hales.
"You gotta take your hat off to the coaches. Our defensive coordinator, Joe Clausi, is outstanding with the players. He understands how to defend teams and (make) adjustments in the game."
In particular, the Lancers keyed in on Murray tailback Christian Jensen, who rushed for 166 yards last week. He had trouble finding positive yardage in this game.
"Excellent back," Gerke said of Jensen. "I thought our guys up front and our second-level guys did a great job. I thought the pursuit to him was excellent."
Despite being dominated by the Lancers' 'D', Murray's pluck kept it in the game. On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Fernandez threw a swing pass behind his intended receiver. The Spartans' Court Adams alertly picked up the live ball and took it into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown to cut the lead in half.
Granger came back with a 15-play, 80-yard, seven-minute and six-second drive, featuring one of its several fourth-down conversions and capped by James Elkins' 1-yard TD run over left tackle — where the Lancers found much running room.
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"It's good for us to be able to eat up the game clock," said Gerke, crediting new offensive coordinator Dustin Pearce and his staff for the running success.
Murray gave itself one more chance with a right-place-at-the-right-time play. Hales' punt hit a Granger player, and Derick Sanders fell on the ball for the Spartans at the Lancers' 33-yard line. Jensen bounced back to carry the ball for 32 of those yards, but Adams' play-action pass on second-and-goal was picked off by Buchanan.