Stansbury football coach Clint Christiansen made sure his team played a difficult non-region schedule so the Stallions would be prepared for a game like this.
He hopes that experience will pay off Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, where the Stallions will meet Mountain Crest in a Class 4A state semifinal game at 6 p.m. The winner will face either Sky View or Orem for the state title next week.
“We played that tough schedule for a reason,” Christiansen said. “I hoped it would come back and help us out down the stretch, and it has. The kids don’t care who it is right now — they just want to play football. We’re not going back there just to show up. We’re going to go back there and roll the dice and see what happens.”
The Stallions (8-3) have seen the Mustangs (11-1) already this season, losing a 52-19 decision in Week 4 in Hyrum. However, that’s the last time Stansbury tasted defeat, and they’ve since embarked on a seven-game winning streak.
“We knew that our our (pre-region) schedule was hard,” Stansbury senior Conner McKay said. “(Christiansen) scheduled hard teams for a reason. We weren’t going to let it shape our season. We just stayed as positive as we could, and now we’ve got seven wins in a row.”
Stansbury allowed more than 500 yards of total offense in the Week 4 loss to the Mustangs, but the Stallions’ defense has given up just 16 points per game in the seven games since, and limited Ridgeline to just over 200 yards of offense in a 38-7 quarterfinal win last week.
However, the key to Thursday’s game may be turnovers. Stansbury has struggled to hold on to the ball all season, throwing 10 interceptions and fumbling the ball away 17 times. Last week’s win over Ridgeline marked just the second time this season the Stallions didn’t have a turnover in a game.
In the first meeting with Mountain Crest, the Stallions threw an interception and lost two fumbles, one of which resulted in a touchdown.
“It was a disaster,” Christiansen said following the first meeting. “We didn’t do a whole lot right — I don’t know what to say about that game, other than it’s behind us. There were so many things that just killed us. I don’t even know where to start with that one.”
Stansbury’s run-oriented offense is led by Region 11 Co-Offensive Player of the Year Silas Young, who has 1,343 yards and 21 touchdowns on 184 carries this season. Quarterback Mitch Lindsay (244 yards, six TDs), Jet Richins (274 yards, four TDs) and Tavita Gagnier (235 yards, two TDs) are also threats in the running game.
The difference for the Stallions this season is their dangerous passing attack. Lindsay has thrown for 957 yards and nine touchdowns, the majority of which have come in the past three games. McKay has 544 yards and six TDs on just 18 catches, and Gagnier has 296 yards and three scores on 14 catches.
“I think we know what to expect,” McKay said. “We know the atmosphere and we’re ready for it.”
Mountain Crest comes into Thursday’s game riding a six-game winning streak, with its only blemish coming in a 16-13 loss to Cache County rival Sky View at the midway point of the season. They are led by quarterback Brady Hall, who has thrown for 2,727 yards, 29 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and has rushed for 776 yards and nine TDs. His primary receivers are Nick Nethercott (40 catches, 1,030 yards, 13 TDs), Beau Robinson (38 catches, 717 yards, eight TDs) and Cameron Moser (25 catches, 525 yards, seven TDs).
Robinson is also the Mustangs’ second-leading rusher with 574 yards and six scores.
An online stream of Thursday’s game can be viewed at goo.gl/PMmoT1 beginning at 6 p.m.