With only four players that have seen significant varsity playing time prior to this season, the Mountain Crest High football team had it’s inexperience exposed Thursday in a 37-7 loss to Highland on the road.
Under the spotlight as the only high school game of the day, the Mustangs struggled against a Rams defense that intercepted four passes – returning two of them for touchdowns – and the offense added three more in Highland’s win.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Mustangs, who lost a number of key players to graduation, including Eddy Hall and Moroni Laulu-Pututau.
Trailing 37-0 in the third quarter, senior fullback Gaje Fergusen finally got the Mustangs on the board with a 20-yard touchdown run.
“Gaje is obviously a very experience player for us, played fullback for us,” head coach Mark Wootton said in an interview on KVNU’s Full Court Press on Wednesday. “Gaje just plays with great effort, great passion. He’s an extremely determined kid.”
Fergusen is one of Mountain Crest’s key returning players on a team that reached the state title game last season for the second time in three seasons. In three seasons for the Mustangs, Fergusen has rushed for 454 yards on 82 carries, or an average of 5.5 yards per touch.
At quarterback, Tanner Schwab got the start against the Rams, but the underclassmen struggled in the pocket.
“He’s a sophomore, he’s a smaller kid but a very bright quarterback, pretty good leader. He just makes plays, he plays with a lot of confidence.
Brock Eliason and Luke Smith each have seen reps at the quarterback position, but Wootton said the job is open.
“We’re just going to see how people defend us. Luke will probably more of a wildcat look, but whichever of those kids aren’t in at quarterback will be receivers.”
Another veteran returning for Mountain Crest is lineman Kyle Christiansen, a University of Utah commit that plays both offense and defense.
“He’s had a ton of reps in varsity reps, even last year he was playing both ways. As I watched the highlight reels, I didn’t realize how dominant he was in those games. His speed is unbelievable. He has worked very hard for a kid who’s already had some offers.”
Wootton said the Mustangs will rely heavily on their defense this season, especially with the loss of several offensive stars like Hall and Pututau.
“It’ll be fun to see these kids get an opportunity to play and see if they can keep things rolling, Wootton said.
Mountain Crest was picked ahead of region and valley rival Logan in the KSL coaches poll at No. 3, with the Grizzlies at No. 4 and Highland at No. 5.