WOODS CROSS — Three weeks ago, Tanner Richardson was just another junior linebacker trying to earn a permanent spot in the starting lineup.
On Friday night, he was the hero in Mountain Crest's 42-35 win over Woods Cross.
Nursing a sore shoulder, he didn't go as hard as he usually would in practice this week. But because injuries have depleted the Mustangs' linebacking corps, he got the second start of his high school career.
On the next play, the Wildcats went to running back Anthony Kendrick, who was impressive in his ability to shake — and sometimes run over — multiple tacklers.
"My coach told me to set up in the 'A' gap, and as soon as I saw the ball go, I went," Richardson said of tackling Kendrick on the two-yard line. "I was kind of keying in on No. 24. Just good timing, I guess."
He had good timing on the next play when a bad handoff between Woods Cross quarterback Tyler Parson and Kendrick fell to the ground and Richardson jumped on it.
"I just held on for dear life," he said.
That play meant the Mustangs got the ball back with about four minutes to play and 98 yards to go. But with a quarterback like Alex Kuresa and a running back like Nate Rigby that's not too tall of order.
"That's the game right there," said Mountain Crest Mark Wootton. "We still had to go down there and score, but it was to win it. If they'd scored, it's just been for the tie. It gives your kids quite a bit of momentum."
The contest was a thriller with many memorable performances.
Kuresa finished with four touchdowns — four he ran into the end zone himself, while he connected with Taylor Root on a 20-yard pass play for the fifth. Nate Rigby scored the team's other touchdown, which tied the game at 4:51 in the fourth quarter.
Kuresa was 28-for-42 with 339 yards passing. The team rushed for 209 yards — 152 yards of which were thanks to Rigby.
"Nate ran his butt off," said Kuresa. "You can't ask more of a kid than what he gave."
While the huge defensive play in those final minutes was key, the Mustangs also had a big defensive play in the second quarter. Woods Cross had moved the ball almost 50 yards when sophomore Eddie Hall intercepted a pass at the 10-yard line, which set up the Root touchdown seven plays later.
"We are glad to be able to beat a team that's that good," said Wootton. "We've had 68 documented injuries in two games. Just bad luck. But our younger kids are getting a chance to play and that should make us more deep in a few weeks."
Kuresa said as painful as the loss last week to Lone Peak was, it actually may have been a blessing.
"That helped us," he said. "It made our team better."
The Wildcats didn't get off to a great start — three incomplete passes — but showed they have both a passing and running game after that. They also showcased a trick plays when sophomore tight end caught a lateral from Parson and threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Darchon Taggart. Later in the game, Barton caught an 80-yard touchdown from Parson, who had an impressive game at linebacker, as well as leading the offense.
"That was a tough game," said Kuresa. "It was hard fought. That's what we expected."