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Mustangs hope to stop Rams' versatile attack

Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, the first of three championship games will be played at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Class 4A will be decided when the Highland Rams (11-2) and Mountain Crest Mustangs (12-1) take the field in a rematch from week one, a game the Mustangs won 13-9.

In that game, the Rams' offense looked nervous and uncertain. The team committed penalties, turnovers and looked very rough around the edges.

Since then, Highland has built a quick-strike offense around the pass and has used the run to keep opponents off-balance.

"This group is amazing," said Rams head coach Ray Groth. "We sometimes try to pass the ball more than we run it."

Over the last three weeks, Highland's offense has set the tone, scoring early and often. The Rams have outscored their opponents 97 to 39. The main reason for their success has been quarterback Thomas Bradley. He's mixed up the run and pass on the defense so effectively, Mountain Crest will have a hard time recognizing the Rams this time around.

"We have a powerful passing attack, and it opens up our running game," said running back Sam Bergen.

Finding balance has been a top priority for the Rams, and that means getting the ball to wide receivers Jake Orchard and Les Brown. The hoop stars have produced in the playoffs, catching five touchdowns in three games.

"We have to use our wide receivers because they're probably the best in the state," said Bradley.

Orchard (at 6-feet-2) and Brown (6-5) will have a great height advantage over the smaller Mustangs defensive backs. None of them are over 6 feet tall, although Mountain Crest senior Brad Bybee picked off Cottonwood's Alex Cate twice in last week's semifinal victory.

If you ask Mountain Crest head coach Mark Whooten, he says their top priority is to stop Bradley. He thinks that both teams are better, and the game will be much more physical.

"I'll tell you their quarterback, Bradley, is playing real well right now," Whooten said. "They're obviously playing their best."

The play of Highland's QB has been exceptional during the playoffs. The senior has accounted for 10 of the Rams' 14 postseason touchdowns. More importantly, the team has come together under his leadership. They are expecting another big performance from him in the biggest game of the year.

"He runs our offense," Bergen said. "He's a great leader and we look for him to do great things."

4A finals

Highland (11-2) vs. Mtn. Crest (12-1)

Friday, 10 a.m.

At Rice-Eccles Stadium


E-mail: tpeterson@desnews.com