MORGAN — There are a handful of video board signs on State Street in Morgan. One is right in front of the J’s Drive In hamburger shop and the other is in front of the True Value hardware store.
Both display messages of support for Morgan High, whose football team plays at 4 p.m. Friday in the 3A state championship game at Dixie State with a chance to win the school’s first football state title since 1997.
The Trojans will meet Juab High, a team with a 12-1 record, a strong rushing offense and plenty of motivation.
The Wasps’ last two seasons have ended in the playoffs at the hands of Morgan and JHS has never won a state football title.
To beat Juab, Morgan doesn’t have to do anything supremely special and vice versa: win the turnover battle, play smart, etc.
“My heart just about dropped out of my chest when we threw the last pick this last weekend with still two minutes left, but our defense has to keep playing like they’ve played,” Morgan head coach Kovi Christiansen said.
Defense has arguably been the team’s strength. MHS has allowed 110 points in its 12 games this year (11 games technically because of the Judge Memorial forfeit) for an average of 9.2 per game, or 10 per game in actual games played.
Morgan’s offense averages 316.8 yards per game, which may seem low for a team that scores as much as it does, but remember the Trojans have a lot of short fields thanks to the defense.
Christiansen does have a concern with the offense. Recently, he feels like the Trojans have tried to go for too much, too early when they have the ball.
“Our offense has to clean a few things up and be satisfied with 3-4 yards a play. Punting isn’t the worst thing you can do on offense, especially when you have a stout defense and you got a lot of trust in them,” Christiansen said.
And especially when the Trojans have a punter, Mason Morley, who averages 38.9 yards per punt and has had eight of his 21 punts stop inside the 20-yard line — this after missing the first handful of games this season because he went to basic training for the military.
How many maroon-clad fans make the trip to St. George remains to be seen. There were hundreds at the semifinal win over North Sanpete last week in Orem, which was played at 11 a.m. on a Saturday.
Both Morgan and Juab are taking long trips to DSU to play on a Friday afternoon, instead of maybe having the game Saturday, before or after the 2A title game featuring Beaver and Milford, who both have much-shorter driving distances.
Either way, the Trojans will play where and who they’re supposed to.
“They’re always athletic kids, they’re kids that know how to work hard, so they match up really well with us athletically. Their kids are going to play all the way, buzzer to buzzer. It’s going to be a good game,” Christiansen said about Juab.
Snow lingers in some of the shady spots around the city of Morgan, on front yards, roofs and the northeast side of the ‘M’ hill, visible from the MHS football field.
The Trojans will swap that view for red rocks, black basalt bluffs and impossibly angled rock shelves jutting out of the ground in St. George. They also hope they get a view from the top when it’s all over.
BY THE NUMBERS
Morgan is 12-3 against Juab all-time, including 3-0 in the postseason, according to prep football historian George Felt. Morgan has ended Juab’s season in the playoffs the past two years, winning 24-22 (2018) and 34-18 (2017).
Morgan is looking for its first state championship since 1997 (MHS beat Ben Lomond 21-7 in a game played at Weber High) while Juab is looking for its first football state title.
Morgan is 6-6 in state championship games, with wins in 1940, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1993 and 1997, and losses in 1972, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2015 and 2017, according to Felt.
The Trojans score an average of 32.5 points per game (35.3 in actual games played) and allow 9.2 points per game on defense (10 ppg in actual games played). Juab averages 34.8 points per game on offense and gives up 14 per game defensively.
In terms of common opponents, Morgan and Juab have each faced North Sanpete, Manti and Grantsville.
The Trojans beat Manti 33-14 in the quarterfinals, North Sanpete 10-7 in the semis and lost to Grantsville 34-18 in the regular-season finale.
The Wasps beat North Sanpete 28-5 in September, Manti 20-15 and Grantsville 22-20 in the semis.
When: Friday, Nov. 15 at 4 p.m.
Where: Dixie State University football stadium, St. George (600 S. 700 East).
Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students and people 65 or older. Children under the age of 5 are free. The Dixie State ticket office only accepts cash, according to the UHSAA website.