Friday , August 15, 2014 - 9:06 PM
MORGAN – The Morgan High football team advanced all the way to the 3-A state playoffs on the strength of a bevy of seniors in 2013.
One season-ending injury was all it took to mess it all up.
After winning all but two games in the regular season, Morgan found itself paired up against Richfield in the state quarterfinals. The Trojans won 32-13 to advance, but the victory wasn’t without its consequences. Running back Matt Murdock suffered a hip injury.
“He was a huge leader and we could sense a change in the kids (after his injury),” Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen said. “(He was) kind of our outspoken captain. When they go down, it’s kind of hard on some kids to step up and get over that.”
Murdock was Morgan’s second-leading rusher in 2013, carrying the ball 93 times for 652 yards and nine touchdowns. His 7.0 yards per carry were the highest on the team among players with at least 20 carries, and without him, Morgan fell to Manti 36-28 in the semifinals. Manti then lost to Judge Memorial in the championship.
“For all but one team, the year doesn’t end the way you want it to,” Christiansen said. “I’m sure Manti feels the same thing. Every team that didn’t win the state championship probably feels the same way, so we’re going to put our hats on and go give it our best shot again this year. We’re not going to dwell too much on chances or opportunities missed – just go see what we can do this year.”
Christiansen will be going at it with almost an entirely new team in 2014. With the exception of running back Jake Peterson and defensive end/wide receiver Bridger Streadbeck, the Trojans will be comprised of an entirely new group of starters.
“We only have two returning starters on the whole team, so we’re going to be building like crazy, but we have some talent,” Christiansen said. “We just have to see if we can fit it all together.”
Peterson, who carried the ball 34 times for 216 yards and three touchdowns in 2013, won’t just have to help replace Murdock’s production, but also running back Kade Carrigan’s. Carrigan carried the ball 146 times for 1,010 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Ben Holland also proved to be a threat, rushing 82 times for 564 yards and five touchdowns. With Murdock, Carrigan and Holland leading the way offensively, Morgan averaged 34.5 points per game, the most in Christiansen’s seven years as head coach.
While seemingly a daunting challenge, Christiansen likes the tools that Peterson brings.
“Jake’s extremely fast and heady – quite shifty,” Christiansen said. “We look for him to be able to make some quick plays and outrun people that maybe we wouldn’t have been able to outrun in the past.”
According to Christiansen, the speed that Peterson brings will be a change of pace from the power that Morgan had a season ago.
“Hopefully that will work out in our favor – change from power to speed a little bit,” Christiansen said.
Streadbeck played a little bit of wide receiver in 2013, catching three passes for 67 yards, but did most of his damage at defensive end, recording three sacks. In part because of what Streadbeck was able to do, Morgan allowed just 12.4 points per game in 2013 – the fewest since Christiansen took over.
“Bridger’s just always around the ball,” Christiansen said. “You see it in basketball, too. He anticipates better than just about any kid I’ve ever coached.”
Because of Morgan’s rushing attack, departing quarterback Ben Saunders wasn’t relied on as much as some of the other quarterbacks in the area in 2013 – throwing for just 1,405 yards and 13 touchdowns. Still, he was a two-year starter who proved to be successful, throwing just five interceptions all year.
Senior Tyler Kelsey and junior Nick Porter have both been battling for the job throughout the summer, and Christiansen thinks both might see some time on the field in 2014 because of their unique skill sets.
“They both do different things well, so we might be able to use both a little bit,” Christiansen said.
According to Christiansen, Kelsey throws the ball well while Porter runs it well.
Running back Chez Stout, wide receiver Ryan Milburn and running back/cornerback Spencer Larsen are also players Christiansen highlighted as potential playmakers in 2014.
Despite the turnover, Christiansen is eager and confident.
“I’m excited about this season because there’s so many unknowns, so many what-ifs, and usually (with) Morgan kids, if you put a challenge in front of them, they’ll rise to the occasion,” Christiansen said. “I’ve seen it every year, so I expect nothing less than these guys to step up and fill holes that we have, and I expect them to compete for a state championship again.”
Morgan opens the season at Delta Aug. 22 at 7 p.m.
Contact reporter Ryan Comer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanComerSe and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RyanComerSe
MORGAN 2014 SCHEDULE
Friday, Aug. 22 – at Delta – 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 29 – South Summit – 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 5 – Ben Lomond – 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 12 – at Granger – 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 19 – Emery – 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 26 – at Carbon – 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 3 – at Union – 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 9 – Grantsville – 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 15 – at North Sanpete – 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 24 – Judge Memorial – 7 p.m. (KJZZ)
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