The kids didn’t back down. They battled through adversity. They went through the fire and now they are chiseled pieces of steel. —Mountain Crest coach Jason Lee
HYRUM — On Friday, Nov. 17 the Mountain Crest Mustangs will take the field at Rice-Eccles stadium opposite the Orem Tigers in the 4A state championship game. It’ll mark the first state title game appearance for Mountain Crest since 2012, when the Mustangs fell to Timpview 38-31. It’ll also provide the Mustangs a chance to end a twelve-year championship drought.
Needless to say, the 2017 season has been one of success after success for Mountain Crest. It started with victories over teams like Highland and Box Elder and continued with playoff wins over the likes of Salem Hills and Dixie.
The only negative to this season was the defeat at the hands of rival Sky View and even that was barely a negative. After all, the Mustangs were a last-ditch touchdown drive away from defeating the Bobcats.
And yet the story of the 2017 Mustangs really starts a year earlier with a new school, a new coach and a new mindset.
When Ridgeline High School opened in 2016 the RiverHawks claimed more than a few Mountain Crest students, as well as their share of Mustang football players.
“We had 830 kids, sophomore to senior, in the entire school last year,” said Mountain Crest head coach Jason Lee.
Of course, one of the quirks of high school sports meant the Mustangs, who prior to the split competed in the 5A classification, would continue to compete in 5A for another season.
Added to that was the fact that Lee was starting his first year as head coach at Mountain Crest, an adjustment in and of itself.
The result was less than pretty.
Mountain Crest struggled for the vast majority of the season, winning just three games. The losses weren’t exactly competitive either, as the Mustangs fell by multiple digits to Fremont, Roy, Weber and Sky View, to name a few.
The fall was grace was a drastic one. In 2015 the Mustangs had made it as far as the state quarterfinals, before falling to the Bingham Miners.
“It was a bad year, a rebuilding year,” said Mountain Crest quarterback Brady Hall.
“It was definitely hard,” added wide receiver Nick Nethercott. “We struggled.”
As far as Lee was concerned, the season provided a wealth of learning opportunities.
“We told them life is tough, but you have to play the hand you're dealt,” said Lee.
“We grew together,” said Hall. “Closer, not only as football players but as friends and good people in general. We learned life was going to come at you with hard things. You have to take what you get and deal with it. We did that last year and we made the best of it.”
For running back Beau Robinson the lesson learned was rather simple, “we learned to keep our heads up,” said Robinson. “At times we would get down on each other, we really tried not to, but when you’re getting your butts kicked a lot it's hard not to.”
Linebacker Joshua “Josh” Powell came away with a similar lesson learned, noting “we learned to have a winning attitude, even if you are going to be behind. You have to have the attitude that you are going to work and do all that you can to win, even if it doesn’t happen.”
As for Nethercott, it was “we knew we had seen the best and could play with the best. Last season taught us to fight.”
Fight they did, all the way to a 12-1 record and a championship-game berth.
“The kids didn’t back down,” said Lee. “They battled through adversity. They went through the fire and now they are chiseled pieces of steel.”
For many of the Mustangs, there is just one battle remaining, the one against the Tigers.
“We have what it takes (to win the title),” said Hall. “We didn’t last year, but it’s crazy what a year can do.”