North Summit football comes back to beat Grand |

North Summit football comes back to beat Grand

After scoring on its opening possession Friday night in Coalville, the first half didn’t go so well for the North Summit High School football team.

Squaring off against Grand in the 2A playoff quarterfinals, the Braves’ offense was ineffective as the Red Devils took a 14-6 lead into halftime.

However, coming out of the intermission, the Braves began playing like a new team. On their first possession of the third quarter, running back Tristan Woolstenhulme had a long run to bring North Summit across midfield. On the next play, running back Rand Pentz burst through the line and ran 48 yards for a touchdown to cut Grand’s lead to 14-12.

Pentz’s touchdown energized the Braves defensively, too, as North Summit allowed zero second-half points while coming back to win 28-14.

North Summit Coach Devin Smith said there wasn’t a big motivational halftime speech that changed the Braves’ fortunes. The coaching staff simply asked the players one question.

"We just challenged them," he said. "We said, ‘Do you want to go to the semifinals or not?’ Grand came ready to play. We came out a little bit sluggish. We didn’t do anything miraculous at halftime. We made a couple adjustments, but we told them if they didn’t win, this was it. They obviously rose to the challenge."

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Receiver Luke Keisel scored the Braves’ first touchdown on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Braxten Northrup. Pentz added an eight-yard touchdown run to his 48-yard score and Northrup also had a one-yard scoring run. Kicker Gonzalo Portillo scored the game’s final points on a 36-yard field goal.

Knowing how important the first drive of the second half was, Smith said he was thrilled with the way the Braves executed.

"[Pentz’s touchdown run] couldn’t have been bigger," he said. "It made it a whole new game quickly."

Woolstenhulme, who had been battling an ankle injury entering Friday’s game, re-injured it in the third quarter. Though Smith hopes Woolstenhulme will be available for the semifinals, he said Pentz has filled in admirably.

"Rand stepped up and really became a stud for us," he said.

In the fourth quarter, the Braves crossed midfield twice before facing fourth downs. Smith made the decision to punt both times, despite being deep in Grand territory. Portillo, the punter, was up to the challenge, pinning the Red Devils inside the five-yard line both times.

"Those were great punts," Smith said. "In any other game, I wouldn’t have wanted to punt that, but they have a similar style of play to what we do, so I knew if we could get it inside the 20, that makes for an awfully long drive for them."

The North Summit defense stepped up when Portillo pinned Grand deep, forcing two late turnovers, including Mason Simister’s game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter. Smith said the Braves’ defense has made a habit of making plays when it matters most.

"We’ve been that way all year," he said. "We had to make some adjustments at half, and we did some different things with our linebackers and our ends and it seemed to really help."

Now North Summit (7-3) will have a chance to avenge one of its early-season losses on Saturday when it squares off against Beaver (9-1). The Braves lost to Beaver 21-17 at home in week four. Smith said he and the Braves are just happy to have a chance to play in the semifinals.

"Any time you start a season, you dream of playing in a big stadium," he said. "Any kid dreams of that. For us to be able to go play in the semifinals at a college field is an honor. We’ll relish it and we’ll work hard this next week to give ourselves the best chance."

Saturday’s game against Beaver at Southern Utah University is scheduled to kick off at 1:30 p.m.