Last year’s Stansbury football team set a new benchmark for success, advancing to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
A lofty achievement, to be sure. But Stallions coach Clint Christiansen believes this team has the potential to reach that level again — if not exceed it.
“I think we’ll be as good as last year, and maybe even a little better,” Christiansen said. “These kids are going to play for 48 minutes. They’re going to fly around. I’m pretty excited and fired up every day to come to practice because they keep getting better and better.”
The Stallions have a number of key pieces returning on both sides of the ball. Inside linebackers Alix Taukeiaho and Jet Richins, outside linebackers Dawson Stewart and Justin Matthews and defensive linemen Calvin Mead and Dallon Brooks all figure to play big roles, along with linebacker Conner Kincaid and defensive lineman Cole Veach.
“The defense has been tough,” Christiansen said. “I’m really excited, man — this year could be a dandy.”
On offense, Stansbury will have to replace the production of graduated seniors Mitch McIntyre, Matt McIntyre and Casey Roberts, as well as McCoy Didericksen, who transferred to Alta High School. As a result, there will be a number of new faces on the offensive side of the ball, though many of them got valuable playing experience as underclassmen thanks to the Stallions’ penchant for going two-deep at most positions.
Richins takes over at quarterback, while Taukeiaho moves to fullback. Tavita Gagnier, Kyle McKenna, Abram Miller, Silas Young and Kincaid will also see time in the backfield.
“Everyone always says the next year for Stansbury’s going to be a down year, but it’s the complete opposite,” McKay said.
Christiansen said Richins’ skill set, along with a strong receiving corps, could create headaches for opposing defenses.
“Jet’s a powerful runner and he’s been throwing the ball extremely well,” Christiansen said. “If we can put the ball in the air more than we ever have and have a chance to keep teams off-balance, we’re going to be all right. It’s going to be really difficult to defend us.”
Gagnier is another player who can be dangerous for the Stallions with his athleticism and leadership.
“There’s always that edge when you’re a senior,” Gagnier said. “We just want to be an example.
Preseason prognosticators have the Stallions as the favorites to win the revamped Region 11, which includes Tooele, Park City, Ben Lomond, Bonneville and Ogden. While Stansbury’s players don’t pay much attention to the rankings as a rule, they also know there’s a reason they’re ranked that high.
“I think we’ve got a different grind than everyone else,” Taukeiaho said. “Our coach (Christiansen) has an edge and we just feed off of it.”
Stansbury opens the regular season next Friday at home against Sky View.