The Stansbury Stallions are in their first year as a 5A school, but nobody in Tooele County is looking at them as an underdog in the state football playoffs.
Facing longtime power East in a quarterfinal game on Friday, it was the Stallions who were the dominant team. Senior Nate Bushnell rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense forced seven turnovers en route to a 21-7 victory and, more importantly, earned another opportunity to play on the University of Utah campus.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about since I was a kid,” said Bushnell, whose 99-yard scamper in the first quarter set a school record and gave the Stallions the momentum they never relinquished.
Stansbury, 10-2, stayed undefeated on its home field not only with Bushnell’s running but also with its opportunistic defense that forced five fumbles and two interceptions.
East’s lone score of the game early in the game when Chase Barker returned a pick 70 yards.
The Leopards’ offense, headed by last year’s 5A MVP, Amini Amone, had its moments but never found the end zone. Amone broke loose several times but was always corralled before he scored. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, East got inside Stansbury’s 20-yard line three times in the third quarter but couldn’t score.
East came into the game with a 5-6 record but had averaged 42 points per game in its last four contests — all wins. Amone had led the way with four 200+ yard efforts and 20 touchdowns this season.
“It’s good to get lucky, but the kids played their hearts out,” said Stansbury coach Eric Alder, whose staff spent extra hours during the last week helping the Stallions prepare for East’s option attack.
“They had to know their assignments,” he added. “We put in a few wrinkles, too, to keep them off balance.”
Surprisingly, Stansbury’s line got the best of the Leopards, which allowed Bushnell to break free and average 8.7 yards on 17 carries. After it was clear the Stallions’ defense wasn’t going to give up any big rushing plays, East tried to pass and didn’t have much success either.
Dylan Hamilton anchored the Stansbury secondary, and Jacob Rich got the home crowd excited several times with quarterback pressures and a couple of sacks.
The outcome of the game was still in doubt, though, until Hamilton caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ezra Harris with 5:53 left in the third quarter, and the defense turned away East’s threats, which included fumble recoveries by Cael Trinchitella and Kaleb Olivares near the Stansbury goal line and a fourth-down stop after Hamilton tipped away an almost-certain touchdown throw the play before.
“We may not have had their size, but we’re the hardest-working team in the world,” said Alder, whose team will face Lehi in one 5A semifinal next Thursday. “The kids were physical.”