4A high school football championship: Size doesn't matter to Mountain Crest's little big man
Keith Johnson, Deseret News
HYRUM — If you bumped into Mountain Crest's Jordan Haun on the street, there is no way you would picture him as a football player.
If he told you he was a letter-winning athlete, you would look his 5-foot-8, 160-pound frame over and think a swimmer or cross country runner, maybe even a soccer player.
So if you happen to believe him that he was on the Mustangs' team and getting ready to play against Highland in Friday's 4A state championship game, you would think he was a cornerback or receiver, maybe even a quick little running back — but you'd be wrong. Haun plays defensive tackle and goes up against an opposing teams' biggest linemen play after play. And he not only challenges the big-uglies up front, but he beats them, too.
"I love it," he said of playing on the line. "I love getting out on the field and seeing the guy across from me look me up and down and think, 'I am going to tear this guy up,' and then going out and beating them. I love to get past a guy and get in the backfield and disrupt things."
It wasn't Haun's first choice to play tackle. In fact, it kind of just happened that way.
"I hurt my ankle at the beginning of the year," he said. "And when I got healthy, really the only way I could get on the field and help my team was to play tackle. It took a little bit to get used to, but now, I wouldn't have it any other way."
Coach Mark Wootton is glad Haun found his way to tackle as well.
"He is a tough player to block," he said. "You look at him and think, 'There is no way, he is going to get killed out there.' But he not only holds his own, he can be pretty dominant at times."
Playing alongside Haun on the line is 5-foot-10, 180-pound (generously listed) Nate Rigby at nose guard. So between the two playmakers, they have 340 pounds — soaking wet or after a very large meal — or roughly the same weight as one collegiate or NFL lineman nowadays. But that doesn't intimidate them in the least.
"I just try to use my quickness," said Rigby, who is also the team's starting running back and one of the fastest players on the team. "I think it is much better to be quick on the line than big. I can run around a guy before he can get his hands on me."
There are other reasons why the two — and the rest of the defensive line regulars Ethan Peterson, Braden Fuller, Joseph Carley, Porter Wilden, JD Brown, Kyle Christiansen, Brady Lowe and Troy Pickett, none of which weighs more than 220 pounds — succeed despite being undersized: heart and desire.
"I always say that there are players that have all the physical attributes to be football players like speed or size or strength, but the one thing you can't really measure is how hard someone will play," said Wootton. "I think that for all the time I have been here, the South Enders (of Cache Valley where Mountain Crest is located) just have a different mentality. They are going to work harder, dig deeper and just get the job done despite their size. You can't measure that."
So while Highland will certainly have a size advantage, and the Rams' players may overlook — since they will certainly look over — the Mustangs, that doesn't matter even a little bit to these dynamos.
"I don't care if I get knocked down a couple of times, I am going to keep on coming at them," said Haun. "I am going to keep fighting and try to keep their linemen off of my linebackers behind me so they can make plays. I love playing football and will do whatever it takes to help my team win."
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