Note: Mountain Crest finished the 2010 season with a 10-3 overall record and claimed a share of the Region 5 title with a 4-1 mark. The Mustangs lost in the 4A state championship game to Highland.
HYRUM — When Springville defeated Timpview in the 4A quarterfinals last year, it looked like the only team that could keep Mountain Crest from a title was out of the playoffs.
With the state's best football player running the Mustangs' offense and the Goliath of 4A out of contention, the state title trophy appeared to be headed for Hyrum. It seemed logical that after losing two years in a row to Timpview in the 4A championship game, the Mustangs might finally earn the crown they'd come so close to claiming in those other games.
Instead, a different team, a team they'd beaten earlier in the season, was the team that managed to break their collective hearts once again. Highland defeated the Mustangs in a double-overtime thriller to earn the 4A title.
As disappointed as the Mustangs were last November, they are even more hopeful and energized about this season.
"You just can't dwell on it," said head coach Mark Wootton. "It's over."
He asked his team after the loss if they'd known when they started the season that they'd lose in the state championship game, would they still want to put in all the time, effort and sweat. Their answer was an emphatic "yes."
"Every kid said they would," he said. "If you focus on one game or one play, you probably weren't that good of a high school player."
Still, the loss to Highland isn't something they discuss often.
Maybe a larger problem than the bitter taste of losing the last game of the season is how to deal with losing one of the state's all-time great players in quarterback Alex Kuresa.
"You can't really replace a kid like Alex," said Wootton. "It's exciting and fun to coach a kid like Alex. For him, it was time to move on to college, and for these kids, it's their chance to prove what they can do."
And the player looking to not just fill Kuresa's shoes but blaze his own trail is last year's running back and this year's quarterback Eddy Hall.
"I think we'll be tougher to defend because the other team can't just key on Alex," said Wooton. "Eddy is ultra competitive. He's light-hearted and fun, but in a real competitive situation, he becomes a great competitor. And that's something you don't teach. He has a strong arm and the kids have a lot of confidence in him."
Hall will have plenty of help with receivers Braden Fuller and Famafili Laulu Pututau.
Hall said the coaches have made it possible for him to succeed by preparing him.
"I know I'm stepping into some big shoes," said Hall. "I can do it. I am confident in what my coaches have taught me to do. … I think I can accomplish what they need me to do."
Mountain Crest Mustangs at a glance
Coach: Mark Wooten is in his eighth year as head coach of the Mustangs. During that time, he's compiled a 59-24 overall record, while he has a 132-80 career record in 21 years as a head coach. He graduated from Provo High.
(5 returning starters)
Eddy Hall, last year's running back, will have the daunting task of replacing Alex Kuresa. Hall is athletic and quick, just like his predecessor, and according to coaches possesses a similar competitive nature. Tanner Richardson, fullback and linebacker, Ethan Peterson, tight end, and Keegan Mitton, who has started for two years at running back and linebacker, should be key contributors for the Mustangs. Receiver Braden Fuller is back as leader offensively
(8 returning starters)
Most of the Mustangs will play both ways, but Zac Bitters (defensive tackle), Thomas Ditton (defensive back) and Cody Perkes (safety) will provide a lot of the leadership. Keegan Mitton will play linebacker, as well as running back, and he had 16 tackles in last year's state championship game.
Aug. 19 — at Provo, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — WOODS CROSS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — WEBER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Sky View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — BONNEVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Box Elder, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — LOGAN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Roy, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — NORTHRIDGE, 7 p.m.