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Mustangs take road less traveled to victory

HYRUM — Mountain Crest turned the ball over three times during the first half of its clash with Payson in the opening round of the 4A tournament. And, with Payson pounding the ball behind bruising back Leroy Unga, its offense spent most of the half on the sidelines.

It was hardly a recipe for success.

However, the Mustangs got back on track after halftime, and the end product was an opening-round playoff victory.

Freshman quarterback Alex Kuresa, filling in for injured starter Ethen Lofthouse, went 10-for-12 for 126 yards and one touchdown, and Mountain Crest's defense was solid throughout en route to a 21-6 win over Payson Friday afternoon.

"We only ran 32 plays. That's difficult to beat a team, Payson, that got 63. So they doubled our plays," said coach Mark Wootton. "But our kids made plays to win the game."

Mountain Crest, the No. 2 seed from Region 5, will meet Bonneville, the No. 4 seed from the same league, in the quarterfinals next weekend.

Friday's opening-round win over Payson largely hinged around a huge momentum swing at the end of the first half and at the start of the third quarter.

Payson trailed 7-6 midway through the second quarter, but, with Unga rushing the ball, the Lions methodically moved down the field and had 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line with less than two minutes left in the half.

However, Mountain Crest's defense stuffed Payson on its next three plays, and the Lions' 14-play drive yielded no points when a 25-yard field-goal attempt failed with 30 seconds to go.

Mountain Crest's defense held Payson to 3-and-out on its first drive of the second half, and Kuresa, making his second consecutive start, strung together an outstanding drive on the subsequent possession to help his squad take permanent control.

Following two run plays, Kuresa completed four-straight pass completions, including a 30-yard pitch-and-catch to sophomore running back Alex Knowles that ended in the endzone.

From there, the Mustangs simply took care of business. After coughing the ball up three times early, they largely limited their mistakes in the second half.

"Our coach came in and told us at halftime, it was up to us whether we wanted our season to end now or quit making our mistakes that we've been making all season," said junior Hayden Snow, who scored two TDs. "We just took that to heart and came out and just played like we can."

Snow's 25-yard interception return with 1:48 left in the third quarter put Mountain Crest up by two touchdowns and was the final score of the game.