Note: Stansbury finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2013 and was second in 3AA North with a 5-1 record. It lost to Desert Hills 31-14 in the 3AA quarterfinals.
TOOELE — Injuries derailed Stansbury’s hopes of ever really competing for the 3AA state championship last year.
Coach Clint Christiansen estimates injuries forced eight starters to miss the quarterfinal loss to eventual champ Desert Hills, but ironically enough his son Chase wasn’t among those eight. It was one of the few games the Utah State commit actually played in after missing seven regular-season games because of a sprained and re-sprained ankle.
As devastating as losing the explosive triple-option quarterback was for those seven weeks, a year later there’s a silver lining. Junior Gage Manzione started in Christiansen’s place, and returns this year with a wealth of experience.
“Not that you ever want that to happen. It was a bad thing for us then, but now it’s a good thing that it happened because Gage had become the quarterback of this team and got so many reps. By the end he was doing such a good job for us,” said Coach Christiansen.
Manzione isn’t as fast as his predecessor, but the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder runs the option offense very well and has a very strong arm. During the baseball season his fastball was clocked at 89 mph.
“He’s got a rocket on him. It’s been fun to watch him,” said Christiansen.
During his brief time as a starter, Manzione rushed for 352 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 605 yards and four scores. Those numbers will certainly improve this season, but it doesn’t need to be an astronomical improvement.
Under three-year starting QB Chase Christiansen, Stansbury at times became too reliant on his athleticism and ability to make plays. Because Manzione isn’t quite the same athlete, the workload will be distributed among the wing backs and fullbacks and that’s a great thing.
Senior wing backs Hudson Conrad and Zayne Anderson could be the two fastest players in 3AA. Conrad ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at a Utah elite camp this summer, while Anderson ran an 11.21 in the 100 meters at the state track meet in May.
They’re among seven returning starters that has everyone in Stansbury excited about the season.
“This is a good bunch of kids. We had a great camp at Utah State. I’ve been looking forward to this group for a long time. There’s a lot of talent,” said Coach Christiansen.
Unfortunately for Conrad and Anderson, they couldn’t avoid the injury bug either last year. Anderson only had 167 rushing yards in 2013 as he dealt with a hip flexor injury and a broken arm. Conrad, meanwhile, missed the last two games with a broken collarbone. Prior to that he’d rushed for 437 yards and eight touchdowns.
If they can stay healthy in 2014, Stansbury is a very dangerous offensive team with three returning starters on the offensive line.
“We have such tremendous speed on the edges, and we have two really good fullbacks. If we can get the ball on the edges with any blocking at all Hudson and Zayne are dangerous. They’ve got a chance to go to the house every time they touch it,” Christiansen.
Josh Griffeth, who contributed occasionally last season, and Grantsville move-in Clay Matthews will share time at linebacker.
The continuity of the offense this summer has everyone excited about a strong campaign.