We just try to keep it exciting. Just find ways to energize the kids. —Mountain Crest head coach Jason Lee
HYRUM — If there is a trend in football that has caught fire in recent years it is accessorizing after a turnover. The Alabama Crimson Tide probably deserve the most credit for the recent explosion of the practice, thanks to their adoption of a championship wrestling belt adorned with a massive A. More recently, the University of Miami (Florida) has turned heads with their ostentatious turnover chain.
The point of the practice is simple: Incentivize defenses to cause more turnovers by rewarding successful players with a moment in the spotlight. The practice has spread throughout the country, even to Hyrum, Utah.
The Mountain Crest Mustangs have their own turnover belt, which they usually hold aloft for their fans, often stirring the Mustang faithful into quite the frenzy.
“That was definitely something the kids wanted to do,” said Mountain Crest head coach Jason Lee. “It’s exciting. The kids have fun with it.”
“People want to get that belt and hold it up for the crowd,” said linebacker Josh Powell.
“We take it overboard sometimes and the kids get penalties every now and again, but it helps them stay focused and disciplined,” added Lee.
The turnover belt has certainly benefited the Mustangs. The team is 13 turnovers in the black this year, having caused 29 turnovers (15 fumbles and 14 interceptions) while only coughing up the ball 16 times (quarterback Brady Hall, interestingly enough, per MaxPreps, is the only Mustang to have turned the ball over this season).
Among the team leaders are defensive backs Cameron Moser and Camden Olsen, who have each hoisted the belt three times. Beau Robinson (two interceptions), Nick Nethercott (two interceptions), Tanner Lofthouse (two fumbles) and Powell (two fumbles) all have made their impact felt as well.
“The team that holds onto the ball the longest usually wins,” said Lee. “It is crucial to get a lot of turnovers from the other team. You can turn that into momentum and points, things that’ll catapult you to a win.”
“Every single game two or three people will say, turnovers win ball games,” added Powell. “We always talk about minimizing our turnovers on offense and causing as many turnovers as we can on defense. I think the turnover belt has really helped with that.”
Incentives have been one of the hallmarks of Lee’s tenure at Mountain Crest.
“Coach Lee has a hard-working attitude,” said Powell. “He takes that quote, ‘If you’re not first you’re last,’ from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby seriously. He makes everything a competition, whether it's in the weight room or on the field. He likes to incentivize things a lot.”
In addition to the turnover belt, Lee has introduced the concept of blackshirts, another concept borrowed from the college football ranks, the University of Nebraska to be exact.
“You come out (on the practice field) and the people that he sees working hard get blackshirts,” said Powell whilst sporting his own.
“They had to earn all of it. They had to earn the blackshirts that they have,’ said Lee. “They didn’t all start with one and there are a lot of them out there with one now.”
Lee has even incentivized the weight room, separating the players into groups to create competitions, as well as rewarding those who, per Powell, are the highest lifters.
“We have given them some incentives with that stuff, the weight room and the groups we’ve put them in, all the lifting that they did, but they are the ones who are excited about the things that we do on the side,” said Lee.
“It’s fun because they’ve worked hard all year long and they’ve are motivated to work,” he added. “That’s what’s changed the most really (in my two years here), just how disciplined and focused they’ve become.”
The results speak for themselves as the Mustangs boast the third-best scoring defense in 4A, having allowed a measly 15.2 point per game. The most points scored against Mountain Crest all year, 21, came in the season opener against the Highland Rams. Since then, the Mustangs haven’t allowed a single opponent to score more than 20.
“We just try to keep it exciting,” said Lee. “Just find ways to energize the kids.”