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STANSBURY PARK — The Stansbury Stallions and the Desert Hills Thunder met Friday night in a game that had huge implications for both sides.
For Stansbury, a win would prove the Stallians can indeed hang with the big boys in 3A.
That's what they showed.
Stansbury beat the Thunder 12-7 on homecoming night Friday, moving to 7-0 on the season. Darius Johnson knocked in two field goals for the Stallions, and Chase Christiansen scored Stansbury’s only touchdown of the night. Ty Rutledge threw a touchdown to Brad Wulfenstein for the Thunder’s lone score.
“We have a lot of respect for Desert Hills,” said Stansbury head coach Clint Christiansen. “We knew that if we could play with these guys, we might have a shot to make a rumble in the playoffs, and tonight we were good enough to play with them.”
In what was a defensive battle all night long, neither team was able to get the ball in the end zone during the first quarter. Desert Hills had a 4th-and-3 at the Stansbury 22-yard line midway through the period and elected to go for it. However, quarterback Ty Rutledge was stopped short by a swarm of Stallions, including senior linebacker Colton May, and the Stallions were able to get the ball back. May finished with 11 tackles on the night.
Stansbury drew first blood early in the second quarter when Johnson, who before Friday had only made two field goals all season, knocked in a 43-yard field goal to give the Stallions the 3-0 lead.
After Jackson Clausing forced a fumble and Dacota Case recovered, the Stallions were able to get another Johnson field goal, this time from 36 yards out, to give the Stallions a 6-0 lead.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Johnson. “We don’t kick field goals very often, but when the moment comes I’m ready to go.”
Just before halftime, Desert Hills was able to put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive to give the Thunder a 7-6 advantage heading into the locker room.
After having a touchdown wiped off the board because of a holding penalty just a few plays earlier, the Thunder was forced into a 4th-and-20 from the Stansbury 36-yard line. Rutledge took the snap and was able to find a wide open Brad Wulfenstein for the touchdown.
The Stallions went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, and Desert Hills did the same on its ensuing possession. The Stallions looked to be punting again midway through the third quarter, but rolled the dice and faked it.
The ball was snapped straight to Colton May, who took the ball straight up the middle for 24 yards and a first down. Two plays later, Chase Christiansen found the end zone from 10 yards out and gave the Stallions a 12-7 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
Now it was up to the Stansbury defense to hold the Thunder for the rest of the night. After a stop by the defense with 4:43 remaining, all the Stallions seemingly had to do was run the clock out. On the fourth play of the drive, momentum shifted drastically, however. The Stallions fumbled, giving the Thunder the ball at its own 44-yard line with just under four minutes remaining.
The Thunder converted on a 4th-and-inches with 1:56 remaining to keep a drive alive, but after that first down, the Stallion defense turned up the heat. On another fourth-down play four plays later, the Thunder was down to its last chance. Rutledge took the snap, threw towards the middle of the field, but his pass was incomplete, giving the Stallions arguably their biggest win in school history.
“This really goes back to what our team motto has been all year: ‘All in’,” said May. “There is a quote by Walter Payton that says he wants to be remembered as the guy who gives his all every time he’s on the field, and we stuck true to that quote.”
The Stallions move to 7-0 on the year, tying last year’s school record for most consecutive wins. The Stallions will face Ogden at home next week. Meanwhile, Desert Hills drops to 3-3 on the year and will travel back home face Snow Canyon next Friday.
“We wanted to win this game really bad,” said Chase Christiansen. “We knew that to prove ourselves as a contender we needed to beat someone from down there (Region 9), and we were able to get the win against a great Desert Hills team.”
CJ Pronk is a Deseret Digital Media intern and a senior at Stansbury High School.