TOOELE – A moment of history occurred when Stansbury hosted Maple Mountain in the season opener for both teams on Friday night. It marked first time since 1925 two Utah high school teams played their first football game against one another.
The Stallions made their debut a memorable one, grounding the Golden Eagles behind a powerful running game and a stingy defense to coast to a 35-7 victory.
Maple Mountain had a tough time containing Stansbury on either side of the ball. The Stallions top three runners – quarterback Gareth Anderson and running backs E.J. Jones and Payeton Reed – combined for 241 yards and five touchdowns. On defense, Stansbury kept Golden Eagles quarterback Jacob Watson under constant pressure and sacked him seven times.
It all added up to exactly the kind of first impression the Stallions wanted to make.
"It was fun to watch," Jones said.
Feelings of fun were mostly reserved for players and coaches on the Stansbury sideline. For Maple Mountain, this is a debut it would like to do over or at least forget.
The Golden Eagles netted minus three yards of total offense in the first quarter and did not get positive yardage in that category until 5:33 remained before halftime. Stansbury took full advantage of the situation. The Stallions seized a 14-0 lead less than two minutes into the 2nd quarter behind a three-yard touchdown run from Jones and an 11 yard score from Reed.
A big turnover temporarily brought Maple Mountain back into the game. Chris Clark picked off a pass from Taylor Hunt and returned the ball to the Stallion 49 to set up a 1 yard touchdown run by Watson that made it 14-7. The Golden Eagles then sacked Hunt on consecutive plays on the next drive to get another crack at the end zone before the half.
But Maple Mountain ran out of time after getting down to the Stansbury 12 yard line and the Stallions resolved to put things away in the second half.
"We challenged them at halftime," Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen said. "I told them the biggest thing I wanted to see is what they would do in the next 12 minutes of the third quarter. I knew if they would take care of the next 12 minutes, the fourth quarter would be just fine."
The Stallions responded to the challenge. On defense, they limited the Golden Eagles to just 12 yards of total offense in the third quarter. Then, on offense, Jones and Anderson each chipped in a short touchdown run to make it 28-7 with 2:56 left in the quarter.
Running the ball proved to be a simple matter at times against Maple Mountain. Stansbury repeatedly found holes up the middle or enough space on the edge to rip off one big run after another. Jones credited the offensive line for holding its ground from start to finish.
"When they block, the holes are wide open," Jones said. "We'd be bad backs if we didn't just hit them and get yards."
Maple Mountain had a slim chance at a rally in the fourth quarter when the Stallions fumbled on consecutive drives. But Stansbury's defense came to the rescue. It forced Watson to fumble on the first drive of the quarter and stopping fourth down conversion attempts on the next two drives – the final stop coming on a sack by Derek Christensen.
"That's the type of defense we play," Christiansen said. "It's a high octane pressure defense. Sometimes we're going to give up some big plays, but we're betting we make more big plays than we give up and usually we do."