MORGAN — Gaze upon the maroon helmets, the thick green grass and the cool, windy morning as Morgan High’s football team practices.
You’ll see the Trojans, for a relatively smaller school, will have one of the biggest teams in the entire 3A classification. Head coach Kovi Christiansen estimates he has about 60 players on the varsity team.
But that’s not the catch. Around 40 of them are juniors, and they’re not just new kids on the block.
Nearly the entire starting defense last year (leading tackler and standout defensive lineman Chase Trussell was the lone defensive senior) was composed of sophomores, who return this year as juniors.
Several moreplayed here and there, and the rest of them are providing depth as Morgan looks to get back to the state title game this year.
“What excites me about that group is they cheer for each other, they care about each other, they’re just a solid group,” Christiansen said. “They’re as solid as I’ve ever had as far as not caring who gets the credit and wanting to see each other succeed.”
So practices at Morgan High look very close to how they look on the college level. The offense has its own practice and so does the defense.
“We’ve never been able to do that before,” Christiansen said.
The Trojans went 5-0 and won the 3A North region last year, advancing to the 3A state championship game against Juan Diego where they lost 45-20.
Their wait for a first state title since 1997 goes on. While the loss is in the past, it’s being used to fuel players when they need an extra spark and there was a bigger commitment to offseason workouts this summer.
“It made me work twice as hard and every day I’d wake up thinking about Juan Diego and how it’s not going to happen again,” senior defensive end Brenon Sanders (41 tackles and four sacks last year) said. “So I was in the gym every day with my buddies working hard and making sure what happened last year doesn’t happen again.”
While the defense has a year of continuity with each other and can open the playbook wider, the offense is going to feature a lot of new faces, save for senior receiver Tyson Hurd (63 catches, 829 yards, 10 touchdowns) and sophomore lineman Ryker Keele.
Carter Thackeray takes over as quarterback, the running game will have new faces and so will most of the receivers and line. Therein lies one of the biggest challenges the Trojans will face this year.
“We play mainly one side of the ball so we have to stay as a team. We can’t think that we’re our own little team,” Hurd said.
But it is the junior class, Christiansen says, that provided a lot of leadership last year as sophomores and is very good at bringing the team together.
They’re talented, hungry and the pieces are there for the Trojans to make another deep playoff run.
The 3A North region is supposed to be vastly improved this year as Grantsville and Union have strong junior classes, so the region title will go through them and Judge Memorial.
After that? The 3A South is also expected to be good with Juab, Summit Academy and, like every year, Juan Diego.
An unheard of depth for a 3A team that might lead to 22 one-way players (11 defensive starters and 11 different offensive starters).
Key stretch: From mid- to late-September, the Trojans open 3A North play with three straight home games. Win those and a third straight region title is in sight.
Beacon of success: Since Kovi Christiansen’s tenure as head coach of the Trojans began in 2007, Morgan is 85-40 in 11 seasons, including region championships in 2008 and 2016, as well as state runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017.