One week after the Stansbury football team put together a victory only a mother could love, the Stallions put on a clinic — a master class on how to not just merely win in the playoffs, but how to do so while completely dominating every facet of the game.
As a result, they’re headed to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the state semifinals for the second year in a row, and they’ve got plenty of well-earned confidence as they make their way to Salt Lake City on Thursday night. There was a different feeling around Stallion Stadium as the SHS squad made its way to the locker room after Friday’s 38-7 win over Ridgeline.
Last year, when the Stallions blew out Park City in the Class 3AA quarterfinals to make it to Rice-Eccles, their excitement was evident. Emotions ran high. By the time they got to Salt Lake City to face Desert Hills, perhaps they’d worn themselves out a bit, and by the middle of the second quarter, there was a “happy-to-be-here” mentality that took over on the Stansbury sideline.
I don’t see that happening with this year’s squad. Sure, there was a celebration afterward. There was definitely a sense of satisfaction — you don’t normally see a smile from Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen on the sidelines when there’s still time left on the clock, but once the Stallions tacked on their last touchdown, he let his guard down a bit, knowing his team had it wrapped up.
But things seemed a lot more businesslike when the Stallions left the locker room Friday night. There was joy, but there was also a sense that the job isn’t done yet. Merely making it to the semifinals isn’t the Stallions’ goal. They’re after something bigger this year.
That’s not to take away from what Stansbury accomplished on Friday night. As dominant as last season’s win over Park City in the quarterfinals was, this year’s quarterfinal win over Ridgeline was even more impressive.
The Riverhawks were a very talented team that had shown they could compete with the state’s best, including a narrow win on the road over Spanish Fork a week earlier. It was no fluke that Ridgeline made it this far. When you come from a region that includes two of the four Class 4A semifinalists in Sky View and Mountain Crest, nothing scares you.
But Stansbury had also seen those two teams during the preseason. Nothing scared the Stallions, either. While it looked like Friday’s game should be a close one on paper — some in the Salt Lake City media had even picked the Riverhawks to win — once the game kicked off, the result was never really in question. It was the Stallions’ night from start to finish.
There were few, if any, mistakes by the Stallions. The slow starts that had plagued Stansbury all season were nowhere to be seen. Turnovers? Not a factor. The defense didn’t yield much of anything.
Through nine regular-season games and a first-round playoff win over Cedar City, Stansbury had mastered the art of the “ugly win.”
On Friday night, the Stallions might as well have gone straight from finger paints to the Sistine Chapel. It was an effort that took them straight from Stallion Stadium to the University of Utah.
It will be fun to see what they do for an encore.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. There are few things he enjoys more as a sports fan than the intensity of playoff football. Email him at email@example.com.