It didn’t matter that the outcome of Friday’s playoff game had been decided long before the scoreboard clock struck zero at Stallion Stadium, giving the Stansbury Stallions adequate time to wrap their heads around the idea that they finally broke their quarterfinal-round jinx.
With friends, classmates, family members and other well-wishers storming the field at the end of the home team’s 54-0 win over Park City, it was impossible for anyone associated with the Stansbury football team to hide the emotion that often comes with erasing years upon years of frustration.
Stallions coach Clint Christiansen is as intense and as tough as they come as he paces the sideline during games, exhorting his team to play as close to mistake-free as possible. But after Friday’s game, he was overflowing with pride and happiness as his team took the next step in the Stallions’ stunningly swift ascent to the top of Class 3AA. He had a hard time keeping the tears from welling up in his eyes as he spoke about how proud he was of his players, both as a team and as individuals.
After the celebration moved from the field, unabashed joy could be heard from outside Stansbury’s locker room. Every player who walked back into the crowd waiting behind the home bleachers wore an ear-to-ear grin as he exited the locker room, especially quarterback Mitch McIntyre. The senior, who ran for a touchdown and threw for another to help blow the game open just before halftime, could hardly put his thoughts into words some 30 minutes after the final play.
It was the kind of atmosphere that makes my job fun. You try not to be biased in any way, but when you follow a group of players and coaches for an entire season, it’s hard not to be happy for them when their dreams come true. Getting to Rice-Eccles Stadium is a dream that every high school football player in Utah’s top three classifications hopes will come true. The Stallions are one of four squads in Class 3AA to make that dream a reality this season.
That said, the Stallions aren’t done yet. They still have Thursday’s state semifinal against Desert Hills on tap. Friday’s win currently stands as the biggest in school history, but a win over the Thunder would surpass it.
Knowing Christiansen and McIntyre, as well as the rest of the Stansbury football squad, they’ll channel the emotion from the quarterfinal win into a no-holds-barred effort come Thursday night.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He was impressed by Clint Christiansen’s ability to (mostly) avoid his players’ attempt to soak him with the water jug toward the end of Friday’s game. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.