MORGAN — In late February, the Morgan High boys basketball was in the midst of its playoff run that would end in a state championship.
But before the Trojans could face Richfield at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23, they needed to kill a whole day in Ephraim.
So Kovi Christiansen devised a scavenger hunt in a Walmart that kept the team occupied for about an hour.
“You just gotta find things to keep their mind off the game,” Christiansen said.
Friday, the Morgan High football team will play in the 3A football state championship game in St. George against Juab High.
Like the basketball team, the Trojans will have plenty of time to kill between waking up at the hotel, having breakfast there and getting onto the field at 2:30 p.m. to start pregame warmups.
That, said Christiansen, the team’s head coach, might be the hardest part of the whole experience.
“Anticipation. Friday will be kind of a long day to get to 2:30,” Christiansen said after Wednesday’s practice. “Over my career, you have to think of different things, then if you don’t win that game you’re like, ‘I’m never doing that again,’ so you start running out of different options that you try to keep them occupied and keep enough activity in them that they’re not just sitting in the hotel room playing video games or napping the whole day.”
Morgan’s plan Friday is to have breakfast at the hotel, then go on a “non-arduous” hike — of which there are hundreds in St. George — then eat a light lunch. That’s still going to leave a couple hours between the lunch and when the Trojans can take the field.
There is a Walmart in St. George near the Utah-Arizona border if Christiansen gets a little superstitious, but that might not be the best solution for an entire football team.
“It’s a little different having 14 guys chasing things around a Walmart than 60,” he said.
All that time before a game is hard to navigate because coaches want to make sure the players — 60 teenage boys, mind you — don’t get too excited too early.
There’s the long bus ride to St. George on Thursday, then Thursday night at a hotel and the several hours between waking up Friday morning and playing the game.
“I want to try to avoid the highs and lows, you know, and just keep hitting peaks and valleys until we get there. I want to gradually get to where when that kickoff happens, we’re ready to play,” Christiansen said.
Once the ball is kicked, he says he’s not worried about the team at all.
This is Morgan’s third state championship game appearance in the last five years. MHS lost the previous two in 2015 and 2017, both against Juan Diego.
“I’ve analyzed everything that we did leading up to those other two and we’d done quite a few different things that I think were unnecessary. We kinda cut those out, we’ve kinda just been more business-like out here,” Christiansen said.
Two years ago, MHS had some ‘minute to win it’ games at practice to take its mind off the game. All week, the Trojans have practiced for a normal game week with the coaches stressing mental preparation.
At the end of Wednesday’s practice, the team assembled in a semi-circle and Christiansen told the players, among several other things, that this was a business trip.