For the second year in a row, Stansbury football will need to take a bus east on I-80 in November.
The No. 4 Stallions controlled the second half and ran away from the No. 21 Olympus Titans at home, 42-7, on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the 5A state championship playoffs, securing a second-straight appearance in the 5A semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium next week.
“It’s such a blessing,” Stansbury coach Eric Alder said. “I’m very fortunate to coach great kids. To be able to do this two years in a row … I couldn’t ask to be in a better situation with better kids that do things the right way. Slow start or not, this is football in the playoffs; everything’s hard. We’re just grateful to still be playing.”
Stallions senior quarterback Ezra Harris completed his 39th touchdown pass of the season, part of a three-touchdown day plus a fourth TD on a run in the second quarter. Senior receiver Trent Jones was a reliable target for Harris, catching two touchdowns in the third quarter.
Olympus came into the matchup as a heavy underdog, but with every reason to be feared after pulling off a string of upsets in the playoffs against Stansbury’s region fellow, No. 12 Payson, then last week against No. 5 Brighton.
Olympus junior quarterback Chase Moseley found junior receiver Luke Bryant for the Titans’ only touchdown of the game. He was also intercepted twice.
“They had every reason to be confident, just coming off of beating Brighton,” Alder said. “(They’re a) tough team, they were going to come with confidence and without a lot of pressure. We just knew that if we play with maximum effort on every single play, by the end of four quarters, we’ll have made more plays than they did.”
Stansbury wasted very little time in establishing its offense as Harris connected with senior Brock Wilson for about 30 yards on the first play of the game. Only a few plays later, senior wide receiver Dylan Hamilton streaked around on a sweep to pick up the first touchdown of the game from 18 yards out.
Olympus opted for a slower kind of game plan, picking up small gains on nearly a five-minute drive. The Stallions stopped the Titans on third down near midfield, but then Moseley took a deep shot for Bryant, who hauled in a 40-yard score to tie it up after a quarter of play.
After both teams fought back and forth without much to show for it, Stansbury rekindled its fire when junior Bracken Matthews intercepted Moseley in Titan territory to set up a prime scoring chance for the offense. Harris didn’t let it go to waste, taking the lead with a 3-yard run up the middle for a 14-7 lead.
Shortly before the end of the half, Harris further separated the Stallions from their competition with a 6-yard strike to Hamilton for a touchdown, and sophomore defensive tackle Tobi Johnson laid out Mosely on the last play of the half to keep it at 21-7 for the Stallions.
After the half, Stansbury went to work in earnest with two quick touchdowns in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Harris first hit Jones for a 19-yard score, and Jones followed up the big play by snagging an interception on defense to set up Stansbury inside the red zone. A few plays later, Wilson took a handoff up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown, and with the score at 35-7, the rout was on.
The Stallions scored once more in the third quarter on a 14-yard pass from Harris to Jones.
By the end of the game, the Stallions already knew they had Lehi waiting for them next week.
“My plan right is to enjoy this, enjoy the night,” Alder said. “We’ll get into the film room tomorrow and start preparing for Lehi and seeing what they do. It’s about playing with great effort and execution and making plays. That’s the formula we’ve used, and that’s what we’ll continue to use.”