The mood on the Stansbury football team’s sideline was somber on Thursday night.
However, they weren’t lamenting how close they came to glory after falling to Mountain Crest 17-7 in the Class 4A state semifinals. Rather, despite the emotions of seeing their season come to a close, they held their heads high, knowing just how far they had come.
This wasn’t a team that got much respect from the experts all season. Sure, they were projected to run roughshod over Region 11, but that was because the league as a whole didn’t garner a whole lot of excitement. Despite being projected as the region champion in the preseason, the Stallions weren’t ever ranked among Class 4A’s top five teams by the Salt Lake City media.
Their early-season struggles seemed to back up those predictions, particularly their blowout loss to Mountain Crest in Week 4. They’d win their region and be mere cannon fodder once they got to the postseason. It looked like another one of those seasons to which Stansbury has become all too accustomed – one in which the Stallions would make another early postseason exit on their home field.
Even when region play started, the Stallions struggled. They were the masters of the ugly victory. In Utah’s playoff system, where wins and losses are the only things that matter in terms of seeding, there are no style points – which was a very good thing for Stansbury. However, by the end of the regular season, it looked like the Stallions had finally found something.
Their never-say-die attitude earned them a hard-fought win over Cedar City in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. It also got the monkey off the Stallions’ backs, as Stansbury had never beaten a Region 9 team in the postseason.
Then came the quarterfinal game against Ridgeline. According to the big-city media, this was supposed to be the end of the line for the Stallions. It was supposed to be a close game, but the Riverhawks were supposed to be the latest team to stop Stansbury short of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Somebody forgot to tell the Stallions, who simply dominated the game in all facets in a 38-7 win, advancing to their second straight semifinal berth.
Then came Thursday’s game. It wasn’t supposed to be close. Mountain Crest had blown out the Stallions 52-19 the first time they played. A similar result was expected at Rice-Eccles. But Stansbury had come too far to allow its season to end in such a way. These Stallions weren’t going to go quietly into the Salt Lake City night.
If Mitch Lindsay had found Conner McKay on that fourth-and-goal pass late in the fourth quarter, or if the Stallions had elected to let Jay Mackay boot a late field goal, they’re an onside kick away from a shot at tying the game and possibly advancing to the state championship game. That’s a scenario that seemed impossible way back in Week 4, when the Stallions were sitting at 1-3 overall.
The Stansbury football program is knocking on the door of greatness. Eventually, the day will come when the Stallions kick that door down.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He thoroughly enjoyed this past high school football season. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.