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High school football: Morgan hoping for more defensive dominance in 3A semifinal clash with Grantsville

Inexperience was a big question mark for defending state champion Morgan heading into the 2020 season, especially with a new head coach in Jared Barlow.

The Trojans stumbled through some tough 4A competition in the preseason, but since returning to 3A competition in Week 4 they have been absolutely dominant. Morgan is 6-0 against 3A teams this year with an average margin of victory of 37.2 ppg.

One of those running clock victories came against Grantsville in Week 10, and duplicating that performance is Morgan’s return ticket to the state championship game as the team’s meet in Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal at Southern Utah University.

Even though Morgan won the previous meeting pretty handily 35-0, Barlow fully expects a more competitive game in the rematch.

“Knowing the Grantsville staff, they have a lot of good coaches on their staff, so we know they’ve looked at things they could’ve done differently … and they’ll make their adjustments,” said Barlow. “One thing Grantsville always does, they’re a hard-nosed football team. They were one of the most physical teams we played all year so that’s something we have to deal with.”

Morgan quarterback Ryder Lish passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another in Morgan’s victory, and he’ll be the key again.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete and such a fierce competitor. You definitely have to know where he’s at and keep him corralled in the pocket. He’s so dangerous out in the open field,” said Grantsville coach Kody Byrd.

Lish has passed for 13 touchdowns an run for 10 more this year.

Morgan’s dominance at the other end of the field is Grantsville’s biggest challenge. It led 3A in only allowing 12.9 ppg, and including the Grantsville shutout win last month Morgan has shut out two of its past three opponents.

Barlow said this year’s group has been motivated to prove all season that they’re equally as good of football players as last year’s seniors that helped the program end a two decade state title drought.

Grantsville is back in the semifinals for the second-straight year. A year ago there were high expectations internally and externally about reaching the championship, but this year Morgan is the clear favorite to get back.

After starting the season 4-1, Grantsville ended the regular season with a 1-4 record to hobble into the playoffs with a 5-5 record.

Back-to-back wins over Emery and Summit Academy in the playoffs, however, has given the Cowboys another crack at longtime rival Morgan.

Grantsville has a healthy offensive line heading into Friday’s rematch and Byrd said that is giving everyone confidence that they can compete. He’s a phenomenal athlete and such a fierce competitor. You definitely have to know where he’s at and keep him corralled in the pocket. He’s so dangerous out in the open field.

Morgan statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 36.0 (fourth in 3A).

Scoring defense: 12.9 (first in 3A).

Passing leader: Ryder Lish (83-149, 55.7%, 1,181 yards, 13 TDs).

Rushing leaders: Tanner Belinski (91 carries, 814 yards, nine TDs), Ryder Lish (105 carries, 747 yards, 10 TDs).

Receiving leaders: Jarron Savage (21 receptions, 319 yards, four TDs), Gavin Turner (19 receptions, 310 yards, five TDs).

Tackles leaders: Tyker Adams (60 tackles), Sam Hansen (57 tackles).

Sack leaders: Jaxon Laarsen (five sacks), Isaac Rees (five sacks).

Interception leaders: Tanner Stanley (5 interceptions).

Grantsville statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 27.7 (ninth in 3A).

Scoring defense: 23.1 (seventh in 3A)

Passing leader: Caleb Sullivan (122-197, 61.9%, 1,305 yards, 14 TDs, 7 interceptions).

Rushing leaders: Blake Thomas (122 carries, 751 yards, 16 TDs).

Receiving leaders: Noah Mourtisen (41 receptions, 466 yards, four TDs).

Tackles leaders: Kaden Kelley (61 tackles), Gabe Mouritsen (44 tackles).

Sack leaders: Joey Scorsone (two sacks).

Interception leaders: Ethan Rainer (five interceptions).

Felts Facts for Morgan High School

All-time record: 493-340-22 (93 years)

Region championships: 25 (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, 2017, 2018, 2020).

Playoff appearances: 53.

All-time playoff record: 60-45

State championships: 7 (1940, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1997, 2019)

State championship record: 7-6

Felts Facts for Grantsville High School

All-time record: 410-466-21 (104 years)

Region championships: 10 (1960, 1967 co, 1973, 1978, 1984 co, 1985, 1986, 1991 co, 1998, 2019).

Playoff appearances: 43.

All-time playoff record: 43-39.

State championships: 3 (1992, 1996, 1997)

State championship record: 3-5.