The Stansbury Stallions played without their starting quarterback Friday, and the order was too tall against unbeaten Springville.
The Red Devils (3-0) protected their home field against the visiting Stallions (1-2) with a 27-14 win.
Stansbury quarterback Chase Christiansen, who injured his ankle against Hurricane, missed the game with the injury and will miss the next two games as well. So junior Gage Manzione stepped in under center for the Stallions.
Manzione made some big plays early in the game, giving the Stallions a lead in the second quarter. He hit senior Tyler Jensen on a 32-yard pass for a touchdown that put the Stallions ahead 7-0. But the Red Devils came right back down to score with 22.6 seconds left until halftime. Springville quarterback Dylan Slavens found Justin Ollerton for the 26-yard touchdown pass.
The Stallions weren’t ready to go into the locker room just yet as junior Hudson Conrad returned the kickoff 71 yards to the Springville 21-yard line. They lined up for the field goal, but kicker Jordan Shields just missed it, keeping the score at halftime tied at 7.
At the start of the third quarter, Stansbury had the ball on fourth down in their own territory. Shields bobbled the snap on the punt, and he attempted to run out of danger with the ball. However, the Red Devils were right there and tackled him at the 7-yard line. Slavens then hit teammate Willy Child for the 7-yard touchdown pass, giving a 14-7 lead to Springville.
That’s when Manzione made both a blunder and a save for Stansbury. With the Stallions marching toward the Springville end zone, Manzione ran the option on second down. He rolled to the right with no one at his side. He got the pitch read from the Springville defender and made the pitch with no running back there to receive it. The ball skidded across the grass on a fumble, and the Red Devils recovered.
But that’s when Manzione made up for the mistake. The Red Devils lined up to punt, and Manzione came in and blocked it. He scooped the ball into his arms and ran into the end zone for the touchdown, tying the game at 14.
Things looked up for the Stallions after a personal foul on the Red Devils pushed them back to their own 45-yard line. But the long penalty didn’t matter to the lefty quarterback from Springville. Slavens fired the ball across the middle to his wide receiver, who ran the rest of the way for a 55-yard touchdown, which gave the Red Devils the lead that they didn’t relinquish.
The Stallions then attempted a fake punt in the fourth quarter, but they fumbled the ball on the attempt, which was recovered by Springville. The Red Devils then decided to go for it on fourth down as well, and the Stallions were caught in the middle of a shift. The Stallions originally lined up in a punt return formation, but after seeing the Red Devils’ offense stay on the field, they tried to shift back to a regular defense. Slavens snapped the ball during the shift and found Rhett Clark, on the right side, and he ran most of the 34 yards to the end zone. Springville had the lead at 27-14 and kept the Stallions away.
“We learned that it hurts when our starting quarterback is not in,” SHS head coach Clint Christiansen said. “The handoffs are different; the exchanges are different. We had a couple of them down in the end zone, and we fumbled right away. If you put the ball on the ground that many times, you’re not going to beat a good team at home.”
Christiansen alluded to a first-quarter possession with the Stallions knocking on the door at Springville’s goal line. The ball went to running back Jesse Horowitz, who pounded through the line for what looked to be a touchdown. However, the referees didn’t blow the play dead, and Horowitz fumbled the ball into the end zone. The Red Devils recovered it for a touchback.
“We fumbled the ball and never gave ourselves a chance,” Clint Christiansen said. “It seemed like we were just constantly doing things to put ourselves in a hole.”
Springville’s Slavens had a big game through the air despite also throwing an interception to Conrad for Stansbury. Conrad also broke up a pass in the end zone during the second quarter to keep the Red Devils off the scoreboard temporarily.
“We had some different players in there,” Clint Christiansen said. “[Springville] got some mismatches. We had to move some kids around when Chase went out … just trying to save some bodies, and they had some mismatches on us. They’re a good team. They were the better team tonight. Give them all the credit in the world. They spanked us.”
Manzione will continue at quarterback for the Stallions during the next two region games.
“There’s no sense to keep bringing [Chase] back and getting him hurt,” Clint Christiansen said. “We’ve got to have him 100 percent to make a run down the later part of the stretch. So we’re just going to have to figure out how to get it done with a backup quarterback.”
The coach admitted that having Chase at quarterback makes a huge difference for the offense.
“He’s such a big playmaker,” he said. “There are so many plays that he could take it to the house at any time. But it’s not an excuse. We put the ball on the ground. We did that, not [Springville]. If we’re going to fumble the ball, we deserve to lose.”