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HYRUM -- A season opener between Mountain Crest and Highland has become a Utah tradition.
The No. 2 Mustangs and No. 3 Rams will clash this Friday in a week one game for the eighth straight year.
"I'm excited," says Mountain Crest linebacker and tight end Joseph Carley. "I can't even put it into words. It's going to be a lot of fun. We're ready to play them, and they're ready to play us. It's going to be a battle."
These two schools have had plenty of great battles against each other. The Mustangs and Rams met in a classic 4A state championship game in 2005. An 18-yard field goal with 52 seconds left gave the Mustangs a victory in the last 4A title game that didn't feature Timpview.
After Highland won four of the first six meetings between the schools, the Mustangs have won three straight games against the Rams. That is something that will motivate Highland players Friday night.
This is huge," says Rams running back and defensive end Toi Taufa. "We've lost to them the past two years and twice last year. In the playoffs they knocked us out. It's a motivation from last year to carry on to this year and see if we can turn that around."
The Rams have talent. They return several starters from a team that finished 8-4 last season and claimed the Region 6 title. One of those returnees is Toi Taufa, who rushed for 1,291 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago.
Head Coach Brody Benson believes playing a team like Mountain Crest helps his team later in the season, win or lose.
"They're a great program," Benson said of the Mustangs. "They're always well coached and disciplined. It really gives us a taste of where we are going to be sitting once we get into region."
Mountain Crest looks to be a contender once again in 4A. They lost several starters to graduation, but they do return perhaps the best quarterback in the state.
Alex Kuresa begins his fourth year as the starting quarterback for the Mustangs. He needs just 1,668 passing yards to become Utah's all-time passing leader.
Kuresa also hopes this is the year he and his teammates finally break through and win a state title, after seeing their last three seasons end with a semifinal loss to Timpview.
"We're good," Kuresa said. "We're not gonna be cocky. We're not gonna overlook teams, but we definitely are confident in ourselves. We're excited and we're ready to go."
Head Coach Mark Wootton begins his 20th year as a high school football head coach in Utah. He says having someone like Kuresa under center makes his job a lot easier.
"Alex thinks he can win every game, and as a coach that's a great thing to have," Wootton said. "When you have a quarterback that believes we should win all the time, I think that carries over to everyone else."
Mountain Crest vs. Highland series history
2003 Highland 44 Mountain Crest 14
2004 Highland 51 Mountain Crest 35
2005 Mountain Crest 13 Highland 9
2005 4A State Championship Mountain Crest 16 Highland 13
2006 Highland 35 Mountain Crest 7
2007 Highland 27 Mountain Crest 14
2008 Mountain Crest 26 Highland 21
2009 Mountain Crest 48 Highland 27
2009-4A Quarterfinal Mountain Crest 48 Highland 7
5 other games to watch:
- No.2 Alta @ Cottonwood
It will be an emotional night for the Cottonwood Colts as they play their first game after the passing of their head coach Teko Johnson. Opening the season against Alta won't be easy as the Hawks may have the best offensive line in the state.
- No. 1 Timpview @ Pleasant Grove
Last year Pleasant Grove broke Timpview's state record 36 game winning streak. This year the Thunderbirds will be looking for revenge.
- Brighton @ No.3 Davis
Brighton shocked Davis 24-0 in week one last season. The Darts hope to avoid the same fate as they look to get back to the 5A Title game this season.
- No. 5 Lone Peak @ No. 5 Bountiful
Another revenge game as Lone Peak looks for payback after the Braves embarrassed them on their home field 30-9 last season.
- Skyline @ No. 2 Hurricane
Skyline looks to be much improved this season but making the long trip to play a very talented and battle tested Hurricane team will be a tough task.
Preseason KSL Coaches' Poll
- Lone Peak
- Mountain Crest
- Juan Diego
- South Summit
- San Juan