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Tom Smart
Morgan High School plays Stansbury High School in footbal Friday, Sept. 23, 2011, at Stansbury Park, Utah.

Morgan (7-2) at Spanish Fork (7-3)

3A state tournament first round

Friday, 4 p.m.

Parry's Power Guide: Spanish Fork by 5

All-time series: First meeting

Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Morgan's Kovi Christiansen and Spanish Fork's Matt Christensen

Spanish Fork and Morgan may play a slightly different style of football, but both teams have similar personalities.

"Just a bunch of blue collar type kids," is how Spanish Fork head coach Matt Christensen described the 7-3 Dons this season. "They're kind of scrappy, tough-nosed kids."

Morgan head coach Kovi Christiansen describes a similar team for the Trojans.

"I think our kids are going to play tough," said Christiansen of the 7-2 Trojans. "They'll come to play. This team has a lot of stick-to-it-ivness, if that's a word. They keep battling."

The effort of the players may be the same, but the two teams play very different styles of football with Spanish Fork relying on a combination pass and run game and Morgan finding success on the ground.

"We really don't compare with them too much at all," said Christiansen. "They have a lot more experience than we do. They're bigger than we are."

And the second-seeded Dons throw the ball a lot more than the third-seeded Trojans.

Spanish Fork quarter back Hayden Nielsen leads the team's offense for the third straight season. He has an impressive 2,207 yards passing this season with 23 passing touchdowns. What makes his job a lot easier, however, is running back Christian Taele, who has 1,075 yards on the ground and 15 rushing touchdowns.

Christensen said both boys have emerged as leaders this season, along with senior lineman Sosiua Vaitohi and senior linebacker Colin Argyle.

"They're take charge kind of guys," Christensen said of his leaders. "When we need a big play, they seem to rise up and take on the responsibility."

The Dons only loss is to region champion Delta, while the other two losses came to 5A's American Fork and 4A's top team, Logan.

He said his players understand the kind of challenge they're facing in Morgan.

"They look really good on film," said Christensen of the Trojans. "It's a good advantage being at home, but we're playing a very good opponent. They're real disciplined. I don't imagine them to make a lot of mistakes."

The Trojans play a similar style to the other teams that Spanish Fork has played throughout region.

The mindset of the Dons is extremely positive heading into the playoffs.

"The sky is the limit," said Christensen. "They're excited. All four of those (leaders) are seniors. They understand that if you don't get it going, they're done."

For the Trojans two seniors have emerged as leaders this season, said Christiansen. Senior tight end and linebacker Garret Largent and senior tight end and defensive lineman Boston Saunders both lead the team by example.

"It's just how they play," said Christiansen. "They don't ever miss practice. They get in there and battle every day. They shake of bumps and bruises and they always play hard."

Christiansen's squad has just two losses, but both came in region play and that made them a very good No. 3 seed. He said he saw the team's toughness and determination solidify after losing a heart-breaker to Grantsville.

"After we had kind of a let up against Grantsville, they decided they were going to practice harder and play harder," said Christiansen. "They were more mentally prepared. I think they realized that they'd let an opportunity go."

The Trojans have a very effective running game led by Bridger Anderson. Anderson leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. He has 641 yards on 110 carries, and he's averaging nearly six yards per carry. Joseph Kippen and Lantzen Toomer each average more than seven yards per carry, making the Trojans run game tough to stop.

Quarterback Colby Skinner is an effective passer with four passing touchdowns this season.

Christiansen knows that regardless of the offenses they run, both teams will give the game everything they have, as they are better teams than their seeding might indicate.

"We shouldn't be a number three and Spanish Fork shouldn't be a number two," said Christiansen. "It should be a good game."

Morgan statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 34.2 ppg

Scoring defense: 14.1 ppg

Passing leader: Colby Skinner (41-90, 45.6%, 553 yards, 4 TDs, 6 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Bridger Anderson (110 carries, 641 yards, 11 TDs), Lantzen Toomer (75 carries, 553 yards, 6 TDs), Kade Carrigan (73 carries, 663 yards, 5 TDs), Joseph Kippen (45 carries, 345 yards, 7 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Boston Saunders (16 receptions, 210 yards, 2 TDs), Jaran Bennett (9 receptions, 143 yards, 1 TD)

Tackles leaders: Garrett Largent (94 total tackles), Boston Saunders (65 total talckles)

Sacks leaders: Boston Saunders (3 sacks)

Interceptions leader: Garrett Largent (2 interceptions)

Spanish Fork statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 34.3 ppg

Scoring defense: 18.7 ppg

Passing leader: Hayden Nielsen (138-252, 54.8%, 2,207 yards, 23 TDs, 7 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Christian Taele (130 carries, 1,075 yards, 15 TDs), Hayden Nielsen (116 carries, 532 yards, 7 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Andy Perkins (33 receptions, 571 yards, 8 TDs), Luigy Palino (24 receptions, 581 yards, 6 TDs), Colton Olson (25 receptions, 361 yards, 5 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Colin Argyle (84 total tackles), Tanner briggs (50 total tackles)

Sacks leaders: 5 tied at 1.5

Interceptions leader: Cam Money, Jordan Barclay (3 interceptions)

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