STANSBURY PARK — Stansbury is 27-5 over the past three years leading up the quarterfinals, but has faltered in the second-round two straight times despite home-field advantage.
On Friday at 5 p.m., the Stallions are trekking in similar water when it hosts Desert Hills in the 3AA quarterfinals. The Thunder own a 2-1 series advantage, with a 12-0 win in the first-week of the season this year and the other in the 2011 quarterfinals.
“I think it’s crucial for the program. We’ve got to get this monkey off our back. The quarterfinals have kind of been our Achilles heel,” Stansbury coach Clint Christiansen said. “We always seem to match up against such a powerful team in the quarters. Desert Hills speaks for themselves. Defensively, they’re outstanding and offensively they do a great job. It’s going to be huge for the program if we can find a way to beat them.”
Stansbury (7-3) struggled mightily against the Thunder’s top-ranked defensive unit, managing only 98 yards of total offense.
“We changed a little bit on how we’re running our triple-option stuff now,” Christiansen said. “We feel that we’re a lot quicker getting to the hole. We went to the splitback instead of the flexbone. They’re so similar that it was easy for us to make the transition. So, we feel that we can attack a lot faster than we have been in the past. That’ll be key against them because they’re so good on defense.”
Quarterback Chase Christiansen, who committed to play at Utah State early this season, was 4 of 7 for 22 yards with two interceptions, and known for his escape ability, he tallied 24 yards on 12 carries.
“They’re pretty good on defense, obviously, and so are we,” Clint Christiansen said. “Field position is going to be huge. We definitely can’t put them in short field position and they can’t allow us to be in a short field. It’s going to come down to some special teams here and there, and being able to capitalize when you have a chance. The first time we played them we had a kid drop a wide-open touchdown ball going down the sidelines. When we get our chances to make plays we’ve got to make them.”
Chase Christiansen, however, has been hampered with a high-ankle sprain for the majority of the season. He’s expected to be at full-speed Friday.
“He’s 100 percent,” Clint Christiansen said. “He’s been working with his physical therapists and they put him through some amazing, grinding workouts the last two or three weeks. They can’t find any weakness. He’s as fast as he’s ever been — he looks amazing on the field. He feels he’s as good as he’s ever been.
“Him being out has actually made the other kids elevate their game. Now bringing him back he’s such a threat. Now they’ve got to key on all three backs and hopefully we can find a way to get one of them loose.”
Desert Hills (8-2) is back to its winning form after dropping consecutive games at the midpoint in the season, and has won its last two games by a combined score of 72-17. The only team to eclipse the 20-point plateau against the Thunder this season is Dixie (27).
“Our community is excited — there’s no doubt about it,” Clint Christiansen said. “The news that Chase is back in action, so everybody is excited about seeing him back. I wouldn’t call it pressure, but there’s a lot of excitement for us to make it to the next level and get into Rice-Eccles Stadium.”
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Desert Hills statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 22.3 ppg (7th in 3AA)
Scoring defense: 9.5 ppg (1st in 3AA)
Passing leader: Nick Warmsley (92-182, 50.5%, 1,331 yards, 10 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Bridger Cowdin (134 carries, 833 yards, 11 TDs), Nick Warmsley (110 carries, 426 yards, 2 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Jordan Hokanson (32 catches, 535 yards, 6 TDs), Bridger Cowdin (23 catches, 263 yards, 2 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Sil Bundy (92 tackles), Tucker Cowdin (87 tackles)
Sack leaders: Jake Wagner (9 sacks), Tucker Cowdin (6.5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Braden Reber (6 INTs)
Stansbury statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 28.7 ppg (5th in 3AA)
Scoring defense: 19.7 ppg (6th in 3AA)
Passing leader: Gage Manzione (35-81, 43.2%, 592 yards, 4 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Alexander Mackay (99 carries, 958 yards, 14 TDs), Hudson Conrad (38 carries, 437 yards, 8 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Austen Kincaid (9 catches, 293 yards, 3 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Spencer Wihongi (83 tackles), Connor Littlefield (78 tackles)
Sack leaders: Austen Kincaid (6 sacks)
Interception leaders: Hudson Conrad (2 INTs)
Felt’s Facts for Desert Hills High School
All-time record: 40-25 (6 years)
Region championships: 1 (2012 co)
Playoff appearances: 6
All-time playoff record: 6-5
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-1
Felt's Factoid(s): Desert Hills, 5 years old, is one of just three schools to make the playoffs every year of its history.
Felt’s Facts for Stansbury High School
All-time record: 30-22 (5 years)
Region championships: 2 (2011, 2012)
Playoff appearances: 3
All-time playoff record: 2-2
State championships: 0
State championship record: 0-0
Most played rivalry: Four meetings with two schools, Ogden and Tooele, both dating back to 2009. Stansbury leads Ogden 3-1, and Tooele and Stansbury are tied 2-2. Meets Tooele Oct. 4.
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