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Prep football: 4 players rush for touchdowns as Morgan runs past new-look Bear River

By Patrick Carr - Prep Sports Reporter | Aug 12, 2022
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Morgan High's Gavin Turner, left, and Josh Criddle, right, celebrate a Morgan touchdown during a prep football game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 at Bear River High School in Garland.
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Bear River quarterback Ryker Jeppsen, left, is tackled by Morgan's Ty Wheeler during a prep football game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 at Bear River High School in Garland.
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Morgan's Jett Salmon (24) is chased and tackled by Bear River defenders including Gavyn Haws (14) during a prep football game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 at Bear River High School in Garland.
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Morgan's Gunnar Lish (22) celebrates a touchdown during a prep football game at Bear River High School in Garland on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.
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Morgan's Gunnar Lish powers over the goal line during a prep football game at Bear River High School in Garland on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.
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Bear River's Tyson Braeggar (25) celebrates a big play during a prep football game against Morgan at Bear River High School on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

GARLAND — Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, was the earliest Friday-night start date of high school football in Utah history.

Morgan High didn’t look like a team in early-season form, at least on the surface.

Though the coaches will likely pick apart the film from Friday’s game, the Trojans can take a lot of confidence in the fact they started fast against Bear River and kept the pressure on in a 37-14, season-opening win.

Four different Morgan players rushed for a touchdown — Gunnar Lish, Ty Wheeler, Jett Salmon and Austin Aven — as the Trojans built a 37-0 lead going to the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Nick Despain linked up with Gavin Turner for a touchdown pass on Morgan’s first drive of the game. The much-bigger Josh Criddle knocked Turner over in the end zone when they chest bumped for a celebration.

“We had a lot of focus and energy this week in practice and we came out and showed them, first drive went down and had a perfect drive. Probably the best drive from last year, too. I really thought it was good for us,” Despain said.

Morgan coach Jared Barlow said he was impressed with how the team started the game and how prepared the Trojans were. The first drive told Barlow that his offensive line likes to play physically.

The Trojans didn’t return any starting running backs in 2022 and Friday’s showing indicates it’ll be a running back by committee situation for Morgan this year, Barlow said.

After Lish and Wheeler found the end zone in the first half, Morgan’s Jimmy Savage blocked a punt and it was recovered by the Bears for a safety, which kept the Trojans lead at 23-0 instead of 28-0.

By that time, the lead was academic.

“Our O-line stepped up really big tonight,” Despain said. “We had a lot of big runs and that’s what opened up our pass game to be able to throw little quick stuff, so that’s what did it for us.”

It’s a new era at Bear River, with new coaches, uniforms, slogans, all of that. As expected, it’ll take a bit for things to get going.

The Bears were called for a false start penalty on their first offensive play because they weren’t correctly aligned at the line of scrimmage.

They had a few bright spots on offense but were mostly in the mud with penalties and Morgan’s constant quarterback pressure. Neither team turned the ball over.

Early in the fourth, quarterback Ryker Jeppsen lofted a touchdown pass to Talon Marble behind the defense. Jeppsen later found Owen Olsen for another touchdown late in the game for Bear River.

“It just takes time to trust in what we’re doing and that’s what I told them at halftime, we just have to trust what we do because in practice they do, and I think it was just the game atmosphere, they kind of panicked a little bit and it took us a little while to kind of calm down,” Bear River coach Trampis Waite said.

On defense, BR linebacker Tyson Braeggar made a huge first-half sack on Despain and came in for a big stop on a Trojans fourth down in the red zone. Bear River also made a couple fourth-down stops in the first half, but Morgan’s defense was resolute and gave the Trojans the ball back each time.

Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.

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