With more than a dozen returning starters, what the Mountain Crest Mustangs may lack in size they more than make up for in experience. That's a big reason why expectations are so high in Hyrum this year.
The Mustangs didn't do anything to alter those expectations in Friday's season-opener.
Fifth-ranked Mountain Crest came up with the big defensive stops when needed, and Brady Wootton ran his tail off in the fourth quarter as the 'Stangs eked out a 14-9 road victory over Highland.
"Both of these teams fought 'til the end of the game," said Mountain Crest coach Mark Wootton. "Beating a team like Highland is great with all of their tradition."
Brady Wootton, the coach's son, finished the game with exactly 100 rushing yards on 14 carries, and two receptions for 60 yards to key the victory.
He was at his finest in the fourth quarter. After rushing for just 14 yards in the first half, and then just 10 more in the third quarter, he churned out big run after big run when his team needed him the most in the final quarter.
"To tell you the truth, I've never seen him run like that," said Mountain Crest quarterback Brady Zimmerman. "It was amazing how good he was. He didn't stop his feet, he just keep running."
After Mountain Crest sacked Highland quarterback Thomas Bradley on the final play of the third quarter, the Mustangs opened the fourth trailing 9-7, and were 75 yards away from the end zone. Aided by two Highland offsides penalties, the Mustangs marched down the field, eventually capping the nine-play drive with a Wootton 18-yard touchdown run around the right end. On what turned out to be the game-clinching drive, Wootton carried the ball five times for 43 yards.
"The O-line just blew people up, and I just found the holes," said Wootton.
Highland had more than six minutes to try and mount a comeback, and got a big boost when Sam Bergen took the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to midfield. The Rams, however, could only muster up one first down and turn the ball over on downs at the 32 yards line. The Mustangs easily killed off the final 2:49 with four straight Wootton runs up the middle.
Mountain Crest opened the scoring in the first quarter as Jason Barker ran right up the middle on an 18-yard TD run. Just before halftime, Highland responded to tie the game with a 33-yard Michael Vick-esque run up the middle.
Highland went ahead 9-7 midway through the third quarter as David Nafe sacked Zimmerman in the end zone on a naked bootleg.
Despite racking up 238 rushing yards on 48 carries, the Rams could only punch the ball into the end zone once.