Note: Morgan finished with a 7-5 overall record in 2012 and was second in Region 11 with a 5-1 record. It lost to Spanish Fork 33-23 in the 3A quarterfinals.
MORGAN — You’d be hard-pressed to find a football program more excited about realignment than the Morgan Trojans.
They were eliminated from the playoffs by Hurricane three straight years from 2008 to 2010, and then eliminated by Spanish Fork in 2011 and 2012.
Hurricane and Spanish Fork were both bumped up in the latest UHSAA realignment, and Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen is indeed grateful.
“I like the fact we’re aligned with schools more our size. I think we’ll be a little more competitive during playoff time, I hope,” said Christiansen.
There’s still plenty of tough teams in the new 3A for the Trojans to contend with, but instead of being a middle-of-the-pack 3A team like in years past, this year they’re a legit state title contender.
Christiansen has called upon some former players to help make that a reality as Morgan seeks its first football state title since 1997.
Many athletes in Morgan play two or three sports, which makes it impossible for them to lift weights as often as Christiansen would like in the summer. This year he’s enlisted the help of Chance Porter and Dayton Smith — players on Morgan’s 2008 semifinal team — to put the Trojans' players through an intensive cross-training program.
“They’re going to play hard 'cause they’re Morgan kids and they have that kind of ingrained in them, but we’d like them to be a little tougher,” said Christiansen.
That’s particularly the case on the offensive line.
Outside of two-year starter Kyle Stapley, the line is riddled with question marks.
“We’re going to spend most of our fall to get our linemen aligned out. In the past we’ve been deep for us as far as linemen goes, but we only have one returning starting lineman,” said Christiansen.
Adding to the uncertainty is a new offensive line coach. Chad Crossley — a 2008 first-team all-stater — takes over for retired coach Mike Matteo.
Returning starting quarterback Ben Saunders should help ease that uncertainty. Even though he’s got competition for the starting job in the form of Northridge junior transfer Tyler Kelsey, Saunders is the clear front-runner for the job.
A year ago Saunders completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,080 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“Having a year of experience will be really good for us,” said Christiansen. “He’s just a competitor. He’s going to bring it. He makes pretty good decision and throws a good ball. He usually doesn’t get us in trouble with his decisions.”
Saunders was a contributor on Morgan’s state championship basketball team earlier this year, and he believes that winning mentality can transfer to football.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings in your life. I think carrying it over to football it will boost our confidence more. I really think that we can do it this year,” said Saunders.
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