Note: Stansbury finished with a 9-3 overall record in 2016 and tied for first in 3AA North with a 6-1 record. It lost to Desert Hills 49-14 in 3AA semifinals.
STANSBURY PARK — For one quarter in last year’s 3AA semifinals Stansbury held its own against eventual champ Desert Hills. That 14-14 score line, however, quickly snowballed to 35-14 by halftime and 49-14 at the end of the game.
“They had their way with us,” said Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen.
As frustrating as the loss was, simply getting to the semifinals for the first time in school history was a major accomplishment for a program with a history of heartbreaking quarterfinal losses over the previous five years.
That happy-to-be-here mentality hurt Stansbury as the game wore on against Desert Hills.
“Obviously Deseret Hills is an outstanding football team, but we wanted to put on a better performance than that with them. That’s what we’ve been stressing with the kids,” said Christiansen.
This season the goal isn’t to just be content to make it to Rice-Eccles Stadium. There’s talent to make it happen.
Christiansen believes this could be the most talented offensive line he’s every had in his nine seasons at Stansbury, which is complimented by a strong collection of skill position players who have big shoes to fill from last year’s seniors.
Defensively Stansbury returns six starters from a team that ranked in the top four defensively in 3AA last season, including two terrific linebackers in Jet Richins and Alix Taukeiaho.
Stansbury did not crack the coaches 4A preseason top 5 rankings this season, checking in at No. 8 in the voting. Christiansen will definitely use that as motivation as the Stallions look to take that next step as an elite program.
“We’re just flying under the radar and we’re excited to get going. This junior class we have along with this senior class is going to be fun to watch them play,” he said.
Stansbury will get a great early test in Week 1 when it hosts new-look Sky View, which checks in at No. 4 in the 4A preseason rankings. In Week 4 it travels to fifth-ranked Mountain Crest.
Those two games will be great barometers for Stansbury and the rest of the Region 11 teams about how it stacks up against Region 12.
Stansbury Stallions at a glance
Coach: Clint Christiansen is entering his ninth year as head coach at Stansbury, and owns a 55-22 record. His overall record in 16 years as a head coach is 102-80. He’s a graduate of Grantsville High School.
Stansbury Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Clint Christiansen
2016 offensive production: 34.1 ppg (2nd in 3AA)
-- 3 returning starters
-- Triple option offense
Key offensive returning starters
-- Alix Taukeiaho (FB)
As a junior Taukeiaho started on the offensive line, but this year he’s shifting to fullback and big things are expected of the power runner.
-- Calvin Mead (OL)
Is the lone player who picked up much experience on the offensive line last season, and he’ll be counted on for leadership this season.
Returning offensive starters
Calvin Mead (OL)
Alix Taukeiaho (OL) – moving to FB
Conner McKay (WR)
Offensive newcomers to watch
Jet Richins (QB)
Silas Young (FB)
Kyle McKenna (WB)
Kavika Gagnier (WB)
Abram Miller (WB)
Konner Mason (WB)
Drake Schlappi (WR)
Hunter Thomas (C)
Peerce Matravers (OL)
Jared Brown (OL)
Dallon Brooks (OL)
Christiansen comments on new center Hunter Thomas:
“Hunter Thomas is our center, he’s a junior, and I believe he is going to be one of the best centers we’ve ever had. He reminds me a lot — not of the same caliber — of East’s center they had last year. Short, stocky, get in your legs. Really strong. He’s going to anchor that center position and he had an outstanding camp for us.”
Christiansen comments on FB Alix Taukeiaho:
“He’s always been such a tough runner, but he didn’t have that speed. This year we felt like he’s really increased his speed. It’s what he does after contact that impresses me. Every time they hit him we’re going to get (5 yards) after contact. He’s low to the ground, he’s hard to tackle. He was a fullback his freshman and sophomore year, last year we moved him to the offensive line, and this year we moved him back to fullback.”
Christiansen comments on depth at running back:
We try to stay two-deep at our running backs. We try to stay that way every year, two fullbacks and two A backs on both sides. So it’s not like when we come back the next year we’re bringing in kids who didn’t get a lot of playing time, they’re usually kids who had started or had been in a role play the year before.
Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:
Losing to Desert Hills in the semifinals last year was an eye opener in many ways for Stansbury. From an offensive standpoint, it walked away knowing it needs to be a better passing team. That’s something Christiansen has really stressed this preseason. The team will still be a run-heavy triple-option team, but the threat of the pass — and an effective one when it does pass — is a must this season. It might not be necessary in most region games this season, but against the 4A elite it will see in the playoffs, it’s almost impossible to win being one-dimensional.
Stansbury Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Atu Havili
2016 defensive production: 18.1 ppg (4th in 3AA)
6 returning starters
Key defensive returning starters
-- Alix Taukeiaho (LB)
Was tied for second in tackling for Stansbury a year ago with 69 tackles, and he’ll be counted on for more dominance at linebacker.
-- Kavika Gagnier (S)
As a cornerback last year he recorded 40 tackles for the Stallions and recorded two interceptions. This year he’s moving to safety.
Returning defensive starters
Dallon Brooks (DL)
Calvin Mead (DL)
Alix Taukeiaho (LB)
Jet Richins (LB)
Conner McKay (S)
Kavika Gagnier (S)
Defensive newcomers to watch
Justin Matthews (LB)
Drake Schlappi (WR)
Christiansen comments on returning linebackers:
“Alix (Taukeiaho) is a pounder. He plays the mike backer for us, stays in the middle a lot, tackles really well. Jet (Richins) is our will linebacker and he has tremendous speed. It’s funny because he’s a quarterback and plays inside linebacker kind of like Chase (Christiansen) did when he was here for us. They’re kind of twins, they play so much the same way.”
Christiansen comments on balanced defense:
“We’re just a solid team. I don’t know that there’s very many amazing guys, it’s kind of like the same as it was last year, just 11 guys who play well together.”
Christiansen comments on making defensive improvements:
“They outmanned us, but a lot of it was I just wasn’t happy with our alignment as far as where we were putting kids. We were getting leveraged on the edges, so being able to make adjustments with our safeties to feel alleys and our backers to be better leverage on the perimeter for us.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:
Feistiness will be key this season. There aren’t a lot of 4A teams that Stansbury will be bigger than in the trenches this season. There are probably a handful of region foes, but wins in the region aren’t what will definitely Stansbury going forward. Playoff wins are what will define this team, and deep in the playoffs it will likely be outsized up front. Playing with a feistiness and utilizing great team speed will be a must.
Coaches preseason Region 11 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 11 prediction: First
Key Region Game: at Park City, Sept. 29 (Week 7)
Bottom line: Stansbury is young offensively, but the talent is there to be as good as last year when it ranked second in 3AA averaging 34.1 ppg. Defensively the team is loaded with quality returning starters. The group should have no problem rolling through Region 11 — and then it gets interesting. If the school takes care of business in the first two playoff games at home it will get another shot at impressing at Rice-Eccles. That should be the goal every year for every 4A program, and anything beyond that is gravy.
Aug. 18 — SKY VIEW, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — at Taylorsville, 4 p.m.
Aug. 31 — at Grantsville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — at Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — TOOELE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Ogden, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Park City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — BEN LOMOND, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 — BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 — BYE
Felt’s Facts for Stansbury High School
All-time record: 55-32 (8 years)
Region championships: 4 (2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 co)
Playoff appearances: 6
Current playoff appearance streak: 6 (2011-2016)
All-time playoff record: 3-6
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Most played rivalry: 8 meetings with Tooele dating back to 2009. Stansbury leads Tooele 5-3.
Felt’s Factoid(s): Stallion Chase Christensen is one of just 11 players to score on a 99-yard rushing play. He and Millard’s Jesse Rhodes were the last to accomplish the feat, in 2012.
2016 — 9-3 (6-1 in 3AA North – 3A Semifinals)
2015 — 7-4 (3-3 in 3AA North – 3AA First round)
2014 — 9-2 (6-0 in 3AA North – 3AA Quarterfinals)
2013 — 7-4 (5-1 in 3AA North – 3AA Quarterfinals)
2012 — 11-1 (6-0 in Region 11 – 3A Quarterfinals)
Stansbury coaching history
2009-current — Clint Christiansen (55-32)
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2016 — Matt McIntyre, FB
2016 — Dylan Mott, OG
2015 — McCoy Didericksen, RB
2015 — Brennan Calder, DL
2014 — Landon Stice, RB
2014 — Jacob Petersen, OL
2014 — Gage Manzione, LB
2013 — Alex Mackay, RB
2012 — Colton May, LB
2012 — Chase Christiansen, QB
2011 — Jeremy Cafe, DL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.