Braves out-gun Gunnison
The North Summit High School 2A quarterfinal game against Gunnison looked more like pinball than football.
The Braves, hosting the Bulldogs in Coalville, were bouncing off tacklers left and right, plowing through the defense past every obstacle in their way. Seniors Trevor Hale and Josh Birk led the way in the backfield, each scoring a touchdown, Hale on a one-yard blast and Birk on a 13-yard sprint to the pylon.
Junior Ryan McMichael contributed in a major way from the quarterback position, tossing a seven-yard touchdown to junior Cason DeForest and scoring on both a one-yard sneak and a four-yard scamper. Junior back Carson Richins also peppered in several powerful runs for the Braves as North Summit advanced to the 2A semifinals with a 32-20 victory.
North Summit coach Devin Smith was all smiles after the game, citing a balanced effort as the key to the win.
"The line blocked really well and our backs ran super hard today," he said. "I’m really proud of them."
Birk was also quick to credit the offensive line, saying it would have been hard not to succeed with the way the Braves outplayed Gunnison’s defensive line.
"We have 10 other guys out there doing their job," he said. "Our line was blocking amazingly. They’ve done a really good job this year. I was just running the ball, that’s it."
The win almost came at a hefty price for the Braves, however. In the second half, McMichael was tackled hard after releasing a pass. His right (non-throwing) shoulder had been driven into the ground and he walked off the field with his arm clutched tightly to his body.
Minutes later, though, he’d jog back onto the field to retake his safety position on defense, brushing off the injury.
"I’m feeling better," he said after the game. "I just got driven into the ground hard. I’ll be fine I just have a bruise on it."
Smith said keeping McMichael healthy is crucial to the Braves’ playoff run.
"Obviously that’s a scare for us," he said. "He’s been the leader of our offense and we need him. Fortunately, he’s going to be OK."
Overall, Smith said the Braves looked rested, not rusty, after a long break between games.
"It’s a big win because it’s been 17 days since we played," he said. "I didn’t say a word to the kids about that, but I was nervous. We tried to keep sharp in practice. And our kids played hard today. They want to keep playing and I couldn’t be more proud of them."
For McMichael, the break was a welcome opportunity to recover from some bumps and bruises.
"I think everyone came into this game full of health," he said. "I think that week off really helped us all recover."
But that doesn’t mean the Braves didn’t miss playing last weekend.
"I actually wanted to play last week," Birk said.
If the Braves want to keep playing, they’ll have to win on Saturday against Grand in a 2A semifinal game. Though Smith and his players don’t know much about the Red Devils, he said they’ll do everything they need to do to be ready for the game.
"We’ll learn a lot this weekend and be ready to go on Monday," he said. "We’ll go enjoy this win today and we’ll start getting ready tomorrow."
For a team that finished 2-8 last year, North Summit’s 8-2 mark has surprised a lot of people. Birk and his teammates are looking to keep that success going.
"It’s a surreal feeling," he said. "No one expected us to be here besides us. I’m excited for Grand. It’s going to be fun."
North Summit’s 2A semifinal matchup against Grand is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Southern Utah University.
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.