Just as the Great Home Run Derby has come to an end, the record pursuit that hits closer to home is starting to heat up.
Grantsville's Alan Mouritsen and Granger's Fahu Tahi are circumstantially linked together in Utah high school football's version of the thrilling McGwire-Sosa duel.Baseball's sweet-swinging sluggers had their sights set on Roger Maris, and they smashed his famous record. Now for Mouritsen and Tahi, it's "Chasing Chournos" time.
The high school seniors are both within striking distance of Utah's all-time career touchdown-scoring record of 68. Nick Chournos set the mark during his illustrious prep career at Bear River High from 1995-96.
Unfortunately for Chournos, his record-holding days are numbered.
With an incredible seven-touchdown outing during his homecoming game last Friday, Mouritsen moved to within nine of the record. He is currently second on the all-time leader list with 59 TDs for the Cowboys so far. The bulk of them came during his 2A MVP campaign last year, when he led Grantsville to the state title while setting Utah's all-time single-season mark with 42 touch-downs.
"That's one of my individual goals," Mouritsen said of the career TD record. "Really, I think about it and I want it, but I'm not that worried about it.
"If I don't get it and we win a state championship, I'll be a lot happier than if I get it and we don't win a championship."
Those are about the same sentiments Tahi has as he steadily moves up the leader ladder.
The powerful and quick Lancer is currently tied for fourth with 54 career touchdowns. He has scored 11 times in his last three games and has 14 TDs on the season for the third-ranked Lancers.
"I'm trying my hardest. I want to break the record," Tahi said. "But I want to win at the same time. Winning is a lot more important this season.
"I had a goal to make it to the state championship, to have another 2,000-yard year and to try to break the record."
They are both on pace to notch No. 68 sometime in October.
Mouritsen will catch Chournos at home against North Summit on Oct. 15 if he keeps scoring his 1998 average of three TDs a game.
Of course, if he continues on his torrid pace from last Friday, he'll surpass him in the first half of the Cowboys' game in Juab this Friday. Six of Mouritsen's seven TDs against Gunnison came in the first half and five in the second quarter alone. He then touched pay dirt on his only carry in the second half.
At any rate, Mouritsen has at least five games left - four in the regular season and at least one in the playoffs - to set a new career touchdown standard.
"The team wants to help Alan achieve that goal," said Grantsville coach Kevin Butler. "I know the offensive line wants to do it for him really bad."
Granger coach Ray Groth said he'd love to see Tahi break the record, but the Lancers aren't really concerning themselves with it too much. If they were, Tahi would probably touch the ball more than 10-15 times a game, as he does now.
"Maybe if we were smart we would give it to him 40 times or so," Groth joked.
Tahi has still managed to gain about 900 yards in five games. He's averaging 2.8 TDs a game, which would have him tying Chournos in Granger's first playoff game later next month.
"It probably is a goal of his, but I don't think he thinks about it every day," Groth said. "He just wants to go out and play well. He's a team guy. But it would be a great thing for him to achieve."
Mouritsen and Tahi have never met, but they have heard about each other because of the TD race.
"He's got a little speed and a lot of size on me," said the ever-humble Mouritsen, who's rushed for about 650 yards in five games. "I only watched one highlight of him when Granger played Brighton in the semis last year, and I was extremely impressed."
Neither has met Chournos, either, and chances are he hasn't even heard that they're running for his record.
Chournos has been on an LDS mission in Colombia for about eight months. He went to Weber State following his high school career, but he didn't use up any eligibility and could possibly transfer when he returns in the year 2000.
Who knows? By that time, someone else could be trying to shatter the TD mark set by Mouritsen and Tahi.
"That's what records are for," said Chournos' dad, Danny. "To be broken."
That seems to be the theme this year, at least.
Utah's all-time TD leaders
69 Nick Chournos Bear River (1995-96)
59 *Alan Mouritsen Grantsville (1996-98)
57 Darrel Van Amen Jordan (1981-83)
54 *Fahu Tahi Granger (1996-98)
54 Kelly Smith Beaver (1976-79)
52 Jaren Burnham Bear River (1989-91)
51 Morgan Scalley Highland (1996-97)
46 Adam Little Delta (1995-97)
45 Brooksby Stafford Snow Canyon (1995-96)
44 Gene Livingston East (1919-20)
44 Joe Myers Delta (1990-91)
43 Joe DuPaix Skyline (1988-90)
42 Emmett White Ben Lomond (1994-97)
40 Jimmy Jones San Juan (1976-78)
* Currently playing