With the start of school rapidly approaching for the students here in Morgan County, one thing is certain: football season is about to begin. During this early point of the season, optimism runs high as every team in the state believes they are championship contenders. As the games begin, some teams will step up, while others will fall out of playoff contention.
Morgan head coach Kovi Christiansen and his staff like their chances this year, based on two unique aspects of this year’s team: first, the coaches recognize that they have a hard working group of 21 seniors on the roster; and second, there is speed in every position, more so than they have had in the past.
“We have a good core of seniors this year, and they, as well as the whole team, have been working hard in the summer and pre-season,” Christiansen said. “We have a lot more team speed, so we are excited about that. As far as the skill positions, we have lots of guys who can play a lot of different positions. We have good leadership from the seniors; they have jumped into that role more so than in other years, and the coaching staff is impressed with their leadership and poise.”
Coach Christiansen has also been impressed with some of the juniors on this year’s squad. “Some of the juniors have really stepped up and earned some spots. We will have to see how that plays out as we begin to play games--how they play in practice is one thing, but how they perform in games is another. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
On offense, the team will run the double wing, which employs run fakes and misdirection plays with the occasional pass to keep things interesting. The offense will have four returning starters. For the first time in two and a half years, the team will have a new starting quarterback. In fact, coach Christiansen has three quarterbacks on his roster who will see playing time, at least at the first of the season. Junior Ben Saunders, senior K.T. Tibbitts, and junior Matt Murdock will all take snaps under center. “We have never had the luxury to have three good quarterbacks that we trust. All three do different things well and complement each other. We will see who plays the best in game situations to start the year,” said coach Christiansen.
Whoever finds themselves under center will have experience all around him. The offensive line, led by junior Kyle Stapley (6’4”, 245lb), senior Bryce Fearn (6’0”, 300lb) and senior Thomas Ericson (6’3”, 270lb) all saw playing time last year, and are being counted on to open huge holes for the running backs to squirt through.
Speaking of the running backs, the Trojans welcome back their four leading rushers from a year ago. Junior Kade Carrigan, senior Bridger Anderson, senior Lantzen Toomer, and senior Joe Kippen will be looking to chew up huge chunks of yardage running behind the offensive line. With all the experience gained last year by the four returning backs, the Trojans will likely have at least two of the four backs end up with nearly 1,000 yards on the ground this season.
Defensively, the Trojans will set up in a 3-3-5 formation, with three down lineman, three linebackers, and five speedy defensive backs who will be counted on to fly to the ball. The defense returns six starters from last season. Seniors Ethan Hipwell and Cameron Skinner as well as Stapley will anchor the D-line. Other players that will be counted on defensively are linebackers sophomore Brandon Anderson, senior Kody Hoopes, and juniors Carrigan and Ben Holland. At defensive back will be seniors Travis Carter, Tibbitts and Toomer, as well as juniors Christian Elton and Murdock.
The kicking game will be handled by senior Camen Gray, a recruited soccer player. The Trojans have had great success over the years having soccer players handle kickoffs, extra points and field goals. Christiansen believes a great kicker can be a huge weapon. “A kicker who can kick it routinely into the end zone, so our opponent can’t return it, are worth their weight in gold.” At 6’3” and 175 lbs., that’s a good sized chunk of gold that Gray brings to the table.
Coach Christiansen believes every game in Region 11 will be a dog fight, with virtually every game a “rivalry” game. Over the years the Trojans have enjoyed big games with Bear River, Grantsville, Ogden and Ben Lomond. Throw Tooele and Stansbury into the mix, and every Friday night will be a big game. “Losing even one region game can move you from first place to third place in a hurry,” said Christiansen. A top-two finish in region is crucial to ensure a first round home playoff game. A third or fourth place finishe means playing on the road against a top two team from a different region.
Make sure to come out to the Trojan’s home opener tonight, Friday, Aug. 24, against South Summit at 7 p.m. and support the mighty Trojan football team.