For three quarters during last Friday’s 3A quarterfinal football game, it looked like neither the Morgan Trojans nor the Richfield Wildcats really wanted to win. Both teams struggled moving the ball on offense and each had committed multiple turnovers. By the end of the third period, the score was tied at 13-13.
But finally, in the fourth, Morgan broke it open with a pair of touchdowns to give the Trojans a 27-13 victory and a spot in the final four. Morgan will face Juab today at 5 p.m. with a trip to Cedar City for the state championship on the line. Today’s game will be played at Weber State University’s Stewart Stadium.
Although it appeared that the Trojans were rusty against Richfield after a two-week layoff, Morgan Coach Kovi Christiansen was quick to give the Wildcats credit for keeping the Trojans at bay – at least for a while.
“I don’t take anything away from Richfield,” Christiansen said. “They’re solid and their team speed is something to be reckoned with. Plus they were disciplined. They were where they were supposed to be on defense and they were physical with us. I think eventually we wore them down just a little bit, but they did a heck of a job.”
For the first three quarters, the bulk of Morgan’s offense came from wide receiver Tyson Hurd. After the Trojans fell behind 6-0 on a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter, Hurd quickly responded with a TD of his own – a 65-yard reception from quarterback Jacob Stephens. Hurd finished the game with 12 catches for 182 yards. If it wasn’t for some cramping in his leg, he could have very easily eclipsed the 200-yard mark.
Carson Flitton booted a pair of field goals – a 42-yarder just before halftime, and one from 26 yards out near the end of the third quarter. Flitton’s kicking – with his right leg – was a welcome sight for the Trojans. For most of the season, Flitton has been struggling with a right quad injury, which forced him to kick left-footed for several games. The result was often not pretty, and there was a noticeable sense of relief from the team and fans as he returned to kicking with his stronger leg.
Eventually, the Trojans’ depth wearied the Wildcats, allowing Morgan to tack on two touchdowns in the final period. The first came on a quarterback keeper by Stephens from five yards out. That score was followed by a 3-yard run from Bridger Miller.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have,” Christiansen said. “But we powered through and found a way to get it done.”
One of the top players of day was one who rarely gets any recognition – Dillon Petty, the punter. His first punt of the day was a beauty – a high spiral that took a favorable bounce once it hit the turf. In the fourth quarter, it was Petty who set up Stephens’ go-ahead touchdown run. His punt pinned Richfield down at their own 1-yard line. A three-and-out forced the Wildcats to punt, which gave Morgan excellent field position at the Richfield 42-yard line.
Then, with 1:41 left to play in the game, Petty had one of his punts blocked deep in Morgan territory. But he quickly scrambled to the ball, picked it up and ran eight yards for a first down. That play sealed the victory, as the Wildcats were unable to stop the clock.
“I told Dillon he was going to get to run the ball at some point this year,” Christiansen said. “And there it was right there. I didn’t think he’d kick it to himself. But good for him.
“He was able to flip the field for us a couple of times, which was huge,” Christiansen added. “He spends a lot of time at (punting). He tries to be good. Kids practice things and it pays off.”
Morgan (8-2 overall) now stands as the only team left in the playoffs from the 3A North region. The other remaining teams – Juab, Juan Diego, and Summit Academy – all tied for first place in the 3A South region. During the regular season, Juab beat Summit Academy, Juan Diego defeated Juab, and Summit Academy beat Juan Diego. So to undo the knot, the three teams participated in a coin flip to determine how the teams would be seeded.
Juab won the flip, but instead of choosing to go into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed, it opted instead to go in as the No. 2 seed. This meant that the Wasps would not have to face either Juan Diego or Summit Academy until the championship game. It also gave the distinct impression that the Wasps thought that going through the Trojans would be the easier path to the state championship game.
So do you think that provides the Trojans with a bit of motivation?
“You bet your butt,” Christiansen said. “(Juab’s coach) told me (his intent) was to screw over the two private schools, but there had to be a little bit of easier-route-thinking.”
Juab (7-3) earned its spot in the semifinals by shutting out Union last week, 31-0.