Note: Morgan finished with an 8-4 overall record in 2016 and first in 3A North with a 5-0 record. It lost to Delta 21-14 in 3A semifinals.
MORGAN — Morgan got a huge monkey off its back last season in beating Juan Diego 49-20 for its first win over the perennial 3A power in school history.
Unfortunately for Morgan, there was no championship celebration afterward. The win came on Sept. 16 with over half the season remaining. The win did help Morgan claim its first region title since 2008, but that wasn’t the trophy it wanted.
Morgan bowed out of the playoffs with a 21-14 loss to Delta in the 3A semifinals while Juan Diego marched on to win its second consecutive state title.
Repeating as region champs and making another deep push in the playoffs is going to be difficult for the Trojans in 2017.
“We don’t have a lot coming back, so we’re really in a rebuilding mode. We’re going to be really young. We’re probably going to have some sophomores seeing some significant playing time,” said Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen, who acknowledged that as many as eight sophomores could play significant minutes this season.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing as Morgan builds for the future. During freshman football last season Morgan’s team went undefeated and won every game by 18 points.
“They’re really talented, really committed,” said Christiansen.
One of the areas the sophomores are really going to prop up Morgan is on the offensive line. Only one starter, Dillon Petty, returns on the offensive line this season, and most of the front-runners for the other four spots are sophomores.
Chase Trussell is actually a second returning starter on the offensive line, but Christiansen is moving him to running back after the team graduated Conley Breshears and Austin Francis, two players who combined to rush for over 2,000 yards last season.
With youngsters on the line and no bruising rushers in the backfield, Morgan might have to get creative to duplicate that productivity on the ground.
Just like the offense, the defense returns just two starters from a group that ranked first in 3A scoring defense last season (17.1 ppg). Even though it's young talent, there’s enough talent and athleticism on the team this year for Morgan to dominate defensively again.
Morgan Trojans at a glance
Coach: Kovi Christiansen is entering his 11th season as Morgan’s head coach with a career coaching record of 78-38. He’s a graduate of Lovell High in Wyoming.
Morgan Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: John Millward
2016 offensive production: 26.6 ppg (3rd in 3A)
-- 2 returning starters
-- Double Wing-T offense
Key offensive returning starters
-- Chase Trussell (OL)
Started on the offensive line last year, but this season he’ll likely play running back for the Trojans.
-- Dillon Petty (OL)
Started most of the season last year on the offensive line, and he’ll be expected to anchor the line as the lone returning starter.
Returning offensive starters
Chase Trussell (OL) – moving to RB
Dillon Petty (OL)
Offensive newcomers to watch
Jake Stephens (QB)
Bridger Miller (RB)
Jake Rounkles (RB)
Tyson Hurd (WR)
Derek Peterson (WR)
Hunter Hardy (OL)
Christiansen comments on lineman Chase Trussell:
“Chase has been a kid that we’ve moved all over the place. He’s just an all-around football player. He gets a little of his toughness from being an All-American wrestler. Always like those kids. He’s a committed kid that likes to practice and likes to work hard and hopefully that will be a little more contagious as we go on.”
Christiansen comments on QB Jake Stephens:
“He’s really made a transition of understanding that he might be the guy, and so he’s really worked his tail off in the weight room, hasn’t missed too many workouts at all. He’s matured that way and understands that quite a bit more is on his shoulders than has been in the past.”
Christiansen comments on RBs Bridger Miller and Jake Rounkles:
“They’re both really shifty and quick. We’ve got to work on ball security with both of them, but they’ll give us a little bit of edge on the edge. We don’t have the big 190, 200 pound backs like we’ve had the past couple years that can run between the tackles, so we’re going to try and get into space a little bit more.”
Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:
Morgan figures to start a couple of sophomores on the offensive line this season, and how quickly that unit develops will be a determining factor in just how successful the season is. Jake Stephens takes over at quarterback after getting some playing time in the playoffs after an injury to Tucker Skinner, and his development will be critical as well for the Trojans as they look to become more dynamic offensively.
Morgan Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Jared Barlow
2016 defensive production: 17.1 ppg (1st in 3A)
-- 2 returning starters
-- 4-3 defense
Key defensive returning starters
-- Chase Trussell (LB)
Played on the defensive line last year for Morgan and finished third on the team with 49 tackles to go along with his two sacks. He’s shifting to linebacker this season.
-- Bronson Neuenschwander (S)
Was a strong safety for the Trojans last season and recorded 25 tackles and two interceptions.
Returning defensive starters
Chase Trussell (LB)
Bronson Neuenschwander (S)
Defensive newcomers to watch
Hunter Hardy (DL)
Colton Hansen (LB)
Bridger Miller (CB)
Jake Rounkles (CB)
Christiansen comments on platooning players:
“We’re going to try and get away from (two-way players). In the playoffs and in the fourth quarter that’s kind of hurt us in the past. You play those schools that have 500 or 600 more kids than we do and they’re able to roll in a brand-new fresh set of backers or a fresh set of DBs, bunch of O-lineman ... it kind of wears on kids that play two ways.”
Christiansen comments on defensive mentality:
“Open field tackling and being physical. Something we try and focus on every year is taking the fight to them, not letting them do whatever they want and then trying to react. We want to instigate on defense.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:
Morgan has traditionally been a strong defensive team that’s loaded with athletes who like to fly around to the football and make plays. Maintaining that mentality despite so many unproven players will be key again. One player who isn’t unproven is Chase Trussell. He’s a fierce competitor, and his leadership should help everyone raise their level on Friday nights.
Coaches preseason 3A North straw poll: First
Deseret News 3A North prediction: First
Key Region Game: at Judge, Sept. 22 (Week 6)
Bottom line: In the state’s smaller classifications, programs always ebb and flow based on the quality of their classes. For Morgan, last year was a senior-dominated team that won a region title and reached the 3A semifinals. This year’s senior class and junior class are smaller in numbers which will force Morgan to play quite a few sophomores. Does that mean Morgan is a year or two away from trying to win another region title? Not necessarily. Those sophomores are really talented, and the Trojans are still the favorite to repeat as region champs.
Aug. 18 — PARK CITY, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — at South Summit, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — BEAR RIVER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — at Grantsville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Judge Memorial, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Emery, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — CARBON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 — UNION, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — BYE
Felt’s Facts for Morgan High School
All-time record: 457-331-22 (89 years)
Region championships: 22 (1930 co, 1935, 1939, 1940, 1946, 1947, 1975 co, 1976, 1977 co, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1989, 1991 co, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2005 co, 2008, 2016)
Playoff appearances: 49
Current playoff appearance streak: 22 (1995-2016)
All-time playoff record: 51-43
State championships: 6 (1940, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1997)
State championship record: 6-5
Most played rivalry: 83 meetings with Wasatch dating back to 1928. Wasatch leads 50-31-2.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Morgan holds the single-game sack record (tied with Weber) of 15, set in 1972 against Grantsville. ... Trojan Jordan Wamsley returned five kickoffs for TDs in 2009 to set a state season record (tied with San Juan’s Jens Wilson). … Trojan Kenny Adams set the single-game tackle record, 36, in 1993 and the unassisted tackle record, 20, in the same game.
2016 — 8-4 (5-0 in 3A North – 3A Semifinals)
2015 — 10-3 (4-1 in 3A North – 3A Runner-up)
2014 — 6-4 (3-2 in 3A North – 3A Quarterfinals)
2013 — 9-3 (4-1 in 3A North – 3A Semifinals)
2012 — 7-5 (5-1 in Region 11 – 3A Quarterfinals)
Morgan coaching history
2007-current — Kovi Christiansen (78-38)
1997-2006 — Renn Hoopes (81-33)
1994-1996 — Mike Grajek (19-10)
1990-1993 — Blaine Monkres (32-9)
1988-1989 — Steve Coburn (13-6)
1985-1987 — Jan Smith (113-59-1)
1984 — Dave Christiansen (5-4)
1972-1983 — Jan Smith (113-59-1)
1971 — Richard Rodak (3-6-1)
1969-1970 — Brent Thorne (9-11)
1967-1968 — Joe Dilworth (11-7-1)
1962-1966 — Bob Wilson (15-24)
1961 — Bob Wilson/Don Johnson (2-6)
1958-1960 — Don Johnson/Don Guest (7-11-1)
1957 — Jack Raymond (0-6)
1950-1956 — Kent Murdock (12-19-1)
1949 — Tally Stevens (3-3-1)
1947-1948 — Garth Bellston (10-3-4)
1946 — Francis Porter (5-4-1)
1941-1945 — Fred Bohman (8-22-1)
1939-1940 — Bill Cowley (10-2-2)
1929-1938 — Wes Schwab (19-24-3)
1928 — I.L. Peterson (1-2-1)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2016 — Austin Francis, RB
2016 — Hunter Beddoes, OL
2016 — Cade Moore, DE
2016 — Conley Breshears, LB
2015 — Spencer Larsen, RB
2015 — Wyatt Ekblad, DL
2015 — Jared Fry, DB
2015 — Dallen Calder, K
2014 — Bridger Streadbeck, TE
2014 — Wyatt Ekblad, DL
2014 — Nick Porter, DB
2013 — Kade Carrigan, RB
2013 — Kyle Stapley, OL
2012 — Lantzen Toomer, Specialist
2011 — Boston Saunders, DL
2010 — Tad Sargent, RB
2009 — Jordan Wamsley, SP
2008 — Jake Kinsey, DB
2008 — Chad Crossley, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.