MORGAN By the time the high school football playoffs rolled around last October, the Morgan Trojans were deceptively playing some of the best football in 3A. No one really noticed though because the Trojans had a brutal preseason which included four straight losses at one point.
Those early struggles went away once Region 11 play started as Morgan finished second to Logan and losing a first-round heartbreaker to eventual 3A runner-up Judge in overtime.
For a traditionally strong program, Morgan's two-faced season was perhaps predictable with a new coach who opted to alter the offense pretty significantly in his first year.
With a year under everyone's belt, that shouldn't be a problem any more.
"I expect to be better. We'll have a system in place. We won't have to learn a whole bunch of new things, although we're tweaking the offense a little," said Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen. "I think they'll be more comfortable. They know my expectations and I know a little better what to expect out of them. So we'll be a little more comfortable with each other, and I hope it will lead to a few more wins in the preseason."
Morgan's five preseason games are exactly the same as last year, and it begins on Aug. 22 at Juab.
The Trojans return six starters on both sides of the ball this year, including junior starting quarterback Matt Largeant. His emergence at quarterback last fall had as much to do with Morgan's turnaround as anything else.
"He came in there and he didn't make any huge mistakes. He was even keel, and for a sophomore he was really poised," said Christiansen. "That's what I was most impressed with. He just read our offense and played within himself."
He started Morgan's last six games and finished with a 4-2 record as a sophomore. He's poised to have an even better season this fall running Morgan's modified option offense.
Christiansen acknowledges that running the football will once again be his team's strength, but he doesn't want to become predictable. He said like most coaches, he'd like to have a 50-50 ratio with his play calling.
Largeant has a fantastic core of running backs behind him, including seniors Ben VanCampen and Dayton Smith, along with junior Jake Kinsey.
Without a single returning starter on the offensive line, the Trojans may still struggle a bit in the preseason. He's hoping extra attention in the weight room will pay off.
"This group of seniors is a good group," he said. "We've had more people in the weight room than we've ever had, which for us because that is kind of where we got beat a few games last year."
Junior lineman Chase Davis is one of those players who may benefit from the extra work in the weight room. A towering lineman, he represents what could be Morgan's biggest collection of lineman in quite some time, but they lack any varsity experience.If Davis matures quickly, something Christiansen is confident in, Morgan's running and passing game could be pretty impressive this year.
MORGAN TROJANS PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW
COACH: Kovi Christiansen went 5-6 in first year last year as Morgan's head coach after many years as an assistant. It took his team a while to figure things out last year, but once they did the Trojans were tough to beat.
KEY PLAYERS: Assuming the line does its job, returning starting running backs Jake Kinsey, Ben VanCampen and Dayton Smith should have big years. Junior quarterback Matt Largeant, who started half of last season, should have a big year as well. Defensively, Jordan Wamsley and Blake Haddock are back from a group that held state champion Logan to just 66 yards of total offense in a region game last year a game Logan won anyway 17-3.
QUESTION MARK: Morgan doesn't return a single starter on the offensive and defensive line. In a region with Logan and Bear River, traditionally strong in the trenches, that inexperience could be a problem if no solid starters emerge. Another concern is at wide receiver. Coach Christiansen says he wants to throw the ball more this year, but he has no returning experience at that position either.
LAST YEAR: 5-6, lost in first round of playoffs
PREDICTED REGION 11 FINISH: Second
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: The Trojans finished last year off very strong, and with several starters back they should be able to pick up where they left. Dethroning Logan for the region title might be too much to ask, but a quarterfinal or even semifinal appearance in the 3A playoffs is a realistic possibility.
Aug. 22 at Juab, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 WASATCH, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 PARK CITY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Roy, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 NORTH SANPETE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at OGDEN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Logan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 BEAR RIVER, 7 p.m.Oct. 24 GRANTSVILLE, 7 p.m.