Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Note: Mountain Crest finished with an 11-3 overall record in 2012 and went 5-0 to win the Region 5 title. The Mustangs lost to Timpview 38-31 in double-overtime in the 4A state championship game.
HYRUM — Over the last nine months, Mark Wootton has probably replayed the final few frantic, intense moments of last year's 4A state championship game a million times in his mind.
The Mountain Crest head football coach saw his team drop a heartbreaking double-overtime decision to Timpview in the 2012 4A finale, the second time in three years that the Mustangs suffered a double-OT defeat in the state title game.
"If there's such a thing as football gods, they don't like me very much to do that twice," he said of his team's devastating championship-game defeats in 2010 and 2012. "I must've done something to make ’em mad at me. We've got to learn how to finish it."
He realizes those painfully frustrating replays that keep running through his mind are a foolish waste of time and something that, like those two losses, are in the past and should stay there from now on.
"More than I'd like," Wootton said when asked how many times he's thought about last November's 38-31 loss to Timpview at Rice-Eccles Stadium, "but there's nothing I can do about it now. You don't change the outcome by feeling sorry for yourself, thinking if we'd have done this or that, had we scored one more touchdown and stopped them again. But we didn't, so we have to move on.
"We had some studs on that team, and we lost some studs off that team," he said of last year's graduating class. "Every one of those kids truly thought they were the best player on the field — they thought they were, and that's half the battle. It doesn't mean they are, but in their minds, that's how they played. They didn't play scared or unsure of themselves. You'd never know we were quite undersized and some people underestimated those kids.
"Now you just kinda hope that the tradition here keeps our kids playing at a high level. Our expectations for the kids is real high, we're pushing them very hard, and we coach our kids up to win.
"When you lose great players and have to fill a lot of spots, you just hope that when kids get that opportunity they can play real hard and get after it," said Wootton, whose teams have advanced at least as far as the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs in five of the last six seasons and have won or shared the region title in five of the last six seasons as well.
This year, senior Luke Smith, who Wootton says is "pretty fast and pretty athletic," is battling for the starting quarterback job with sophomore Tanner Schwab, who could wind up earning the starting job.
"He's not very big," Wootton said of Schwab, "but he's very intelligent and he throws pretty well and is very, very competitive."
At running back, the Mustangs will rely on experienced senior Gaje Fergusen along with senior Jordan Wengreen, senior Josh Jacker, who's a move-in from Michigan, and veteran Nick Taylor, a three-year starter on defense who also shines at fullback.
Their top pass-receiving threats will be Smith, their top returning receiver from next year who will be catching a lot of balls if he's not the one throwing them from the QB position; senior Nick Watterson, and senior tight end Kaden Neimann, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound target.
The offensive line is anchored by senior tackle Kyle Christiansen, a 3-year starter who stands 6-foot-4, weighs in at 315 pounds, is very athletic for his size and has committed to play at the University of Utah. He'll be joined on the O-line by rugged senior tackle Justin Tolbert, who goes around 230 pounds; good-sized senior guards Jake Swanton (270) and Viliami Taukiuvea (260), and either senior Kaden Hardman or junior Levi Law at center.