SALT LAKE CITY — Knowing snow was inevitable for Friday’s 4A semifinal at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Mountain Crest and Highland did their best all week to prepare for the blizzard-like conditions.
Nothing could’ve prepared the teams for what they faced, though. Snow started falling hours before kickoff and never let up, with snow shovels and snow plows clearing the field frequently.
Mountain Crest ultimately survived the conditions best.
In a game plagued by seven turnovers, including five for Highland, the Mustangs punched their ticket to next week’s 4A state championship game with a workmanlike 14-6 victory over underdog Highland.
“(The snow) changes everything. That’s what I was saying to the Highland kids. You feel bad for them as well because neither team could really do what they’ve prepared to do all year long when you get in a situation like this,” said Mountain Crest coach Mark Wootton.
The Mustangs tried for a half to run their regular offense, but they just couldn’t.
Despite starting three of its first four possessions inside Highland’s 26-yard-line after Rams turnovers, an early 2-yard touchdown run by Nick Taylor was the only thing Mountain Crest had to show for it.
“It was frustrating the whole game, we couldn’t really move the ball, but our defense kept getting it back and getting it back,” said Mountain Crest running back Eddy Hall.
Mountain Crest’s defense did it again late in the second quarter, forcing Highland into its fourth fumble of the game at its own 20. Three plays later, Hall marched into the end zone on a 5-yard burst to give the Mustangs a 14-0 lead.
Just when it seemed Mountain Crest was poised to run away from the fumble-happy Rams, Malcolm Card-Turner came up with a huge special-team play. The Highland specialist took the ensuing kickoff the distance, racing 95 yards to trim the lead to 14-6.
Despite the halftime lead, the Mustangs had their share offensive troubles too as quarterback Jamison Webb completed only 2 of 10 passes for 11 yards, with two interceptions.
At the half, Mountain Crest’s coaching staff decided to abandon the pass. It lined up Hall at quarterback for most of the second half and just ran the ball play after play. It never led to points, but it took time off the clock and swung field position in Mountain Crest’s favor.
“We were seeing if we could pass a little, and do our normal thing, but in the second half we knew we couldn’t 'cause the weather was getting far worse. So in the second half we just ran it,” said Hall, who finished the game with 110 yards on 32 carries.
Despite all of Highland’s offensive troubles, it was still in position to potentially tie it late in the third quarter on its only drive of the game into Mountain Crest territory. Despite first-and-goal though, the Rams had a touchdown negated by a holding penalty and the drive stalled on a fourth-down incompletion.
Mountain Crest’s defense held Highland to just two first downs in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“That’s been the difference with this team this year, the defense. The way they play and the motion and the desire, they’ve literally carried us at times this year. We’ve been fairly consistent on offense, but not anything like our defense,” said Wootton.
Mountain Crest’s defense held the Rams to just 115 yards of total offense to advance to the 4A championship next Friday against Timpview.
The Mustangs will obviously be the underdog in the title game, but that’s all right with Wootton.
“That gives us an opportunity to see if we’re as good as those teams that get talked about all the time,” said Wootton.