This is what it’s about. This is our chance to prove ourselves. —Kanab head coach Bucky Orton
Milford (9-1) vs. Kanab (5-6)
1A state tournament quarterfinals
Friday, 2:30 p.m. (at Weber State)
Parry’s Power Guide: Milford by 4
All-time series: Kanab leads 48-11-1
Coach vs. coach: Kanab’s Bucky Orton leads Milford’s Thane Marshall, 2-1
Last meeting: Oct. 6 (Week 5) — Milford 29-26
Before the 2017 season began, it seemed pretty fair to think the Kanab Cowboys and Milford Tigers would both end up in the 1A semifinals. After all, the Cowboys are perennially strong and have made the state championship game three consecutive years, while the Tigers returned a whopping 22 seniors from a team that won its first playoff game since 1999 in 2016.
Such has indeed happened, as the two squads will square off on Friday afternoon at Weber State in the second 1A semifinal, but the road each team has taken has been drastically different.
For Milford, it’s been a year of expectations realized thus far. With so much experience returning from a good team a year ago (including star sophomore quarterback Bryson Barnes), there was a great deal of excitement around town during the summer, and the Tigers set goals to host a first-round playoff game, finish first in 1A South and win the state championship.
Milford has thus far delivered, going 8-1 during the regular season to win the North, and it beat Rich in the quarterfinals last week at home. Along the way, Barnes has racked up nearly 2,400 yards through the air and almost another 400 on the ground, Ty Netto has added another 800-plus yards rushing and the defense has given up less than 13 points per contest.
“It’s kind of scary when you’re the smallest school that plays football to have to come up against some of these giants in our classification,” head coach Thane Marshall said. “To even compete like we’ve done has been a pretty good deal.”
It’s been a much different story for Kanab as far as things going according to preseason plan. The Cowboys started well enough, going 2-1 in their first three games against teams in higher classifications, but then starting in Week 4, injuries ravaged the squad and it won just two more games the rest of the regular season.
The fact that all four of Kanab’s losses after a 47-28 defeat to 3A’s Summit Academy in Week 4 came by seven points or less added insult to the literal injuries, but also helped the Cowboys realize they could still be competitive despite having multiple key players out each week.
“This season’s been different than any season I’ve ever been a part of,” said 15th-year head coach Bucky Orton, who has two state titles to his name. “I like to kind of call it ‘Scramble Mode.’ It’s been difficult for our kids obviously to battle as hard as they have and then come up short in all of our games. We’ve just been telling them to stay after it. We’re beat up, and look how close we are to winning games.”
Although this matchup will likely look different from the game the two teams played Oct. 6 (Kanab is getting healthier but has a new quarterback in Sam Orton), it could be a good one if that one was any sort of a sneak preview. In that contest, Kanab led by six after the first quarter, by five after the second and by three after the third before Milford put up a touchdown in the fourth and the Cowboys couldn’t respond, and the Tigers won, 29-26.
Recalling that game, Marshall gave the prediction that this one could end up being quite similar.
“It’s going to be one of those games that whoever has the ball last may be the winner,” he said.
For all the struggles Kanab went through during the year, Orton noted his team would have run into a good opponent in the semifinals regardless what its regular season record was, so he feels like they’re in a good spot headed into Friday.
“I’m thrilled with our kids and their tenacity and their willingness to be resilient and stick it out,” he said. “This is what it’s about. This is our chance to prove ourselves.”
Milford statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 39.4 ppg (2nd in 1A)
Scoring defense: 13.3 ppg (3rd in 1A)
Passing leader: Bryson Barnes (121, 218, 55.5%, 2,396 yards, 24 TDs, 4 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Ty Netto (117 carries, 809 yards, 14 TDs), Bryson Barnes (81 carries, 381 yards, 13 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Cole Wilson (35 rec., 795 yards, 9 TDs), Jaxon Davis (30 rec., 403 yards, 6 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Brian Williamson (151 tackles), Jaxon Davis (79 tackles)
Sack leaders: Gus Thompson (9 sacks), Christopher Keller (7 sacks), Vincent Pierce (7 sacks)
Interception leaders: Ty Netto (4 INTs)
Kanab statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 18.8 ppg (4th in 1A)
Scoring defense: 15.9 ppg (4th in 1A)
Passing leader: Tavin Ott (74-144, 51.4%, 903 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Tavin Ott (121 carries, 351 yards, 10 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Wyatt Houston (17 rec., 207 yards, 2 TDs), Matt Glover (16 rec., 192 yards, 2 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Jake Shakespear (51 tackles), Parker Collins (40 tackles)
Sack leaders: Jaxson Giddings (5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Kayden McDonald (2 INTs)
Note: Does not include individual stats for Week 11
Felts Facts for Milford High School
Head coach: 2014-current — Thane Marshall (25-16)
All-time record: 232-393-11 (76 years)
Region championships: 4 (1990, 1991, 1999 co, 2017)
Playoff appearances: 32
Current playoff appearance streak: 9 (2009-2017)
All-time playoff record: 14-30
State championships: 1 (1993)
State championship record: 1-1
Felt’s Facts for Kanab High School
Head coach: 2003-current — Bucky Orton (115-62)
All-time record: 421-242-7 (68 years)
Region championships: 22 (1963, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 co, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989 co, 1994 co, 2002 co, 2004 co, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013 co, 2016)
Playoff appearances: 48
Current playoff appearance streak: 5 (2013-2017)
All-time playoff record: 57-38
State championships: 9 (1974, 1976, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1994, 2005, 2007)
State championship record: 9-8