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Prep football: Defense fuels Stansbury's hot start

Published September 13, 2012 10:59 pm

Prep football • Linebackers have stopped offenses in their tracks.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Stansbury Park • Colton May's teammates aren't afraid of him — not exactly.

But the Stansbury defenders know the senior linebacker has a "crazy switch." Once it goes on, it's hard to guess what he might do.

"In general, our age group is pretty quiet," May said. "I'll get everybody hyped up. We just slap each other, scream at each other. Just go crazy."

The wild scene going on Stansbury's side of the ball tells opposing offenses that they're in for a long night. And so far, that defensive intensity has been key to the Stallions' 4-0 start.

It's true that the triple-option offense has put up some big numbers in the scoring column, but just as impressive has been how opponents have struggled to score. Stansbury has allowed only five touchdowns through four games, and only three of those scores have come in the first half when the game still was within reach.

See? There's a meaning for the madness.

"We just try to show that we're all in," senior linebacker Chandler Staley said. "We play 100 percent for each other."

The linebackers are May, Staley, Jackson Clausing and Chase Christiansen — a group that has played together for years. In the four years since Stansbury opened, these players have helped define the character of a program that basically was a mashup of students from rival schools in Grantsville and Tooele.

They say the defining quality is work ethic. This offseason is the perfect example.

The Stallions made getting faster a priority. They worked on speed drills since the offseason began in November. The least favorite activity by far was running around the track wearing resistance bands, working near to collapse.

But as Stansbury has stormed to an undefeated start, every player will acknowledge the extra work was worth it. They each knocked down their 40-yard dash times several tenths of a second, and the effect was tangible from the moment they took the field against Uintah.

"We're all over the place," said May, who already has 49 tackles this year. "We just find the holes and plug them. Nothing really gets by us."

The Stallions' standard set is the 4-3 defense, with some variations. The linebackers play behind big junior tackles Alan Havili and Iosua Opeta, who they say have done a great job of clogging running lanes this year.

Then the linebackers just come in and clean up the mess. It's a simple plan, but a strict one. The key is that no one drifts from his assignment.

"If the defensive line tried to get greedy, it wouldn't work," Clausing said. "We have a lot of unselfish people in our front seven. We just try to read and fill."

Making defensive stands has been all the more critical because several of the defenders play a critical role on offense as well. Christiansen is the quarterback, Clausing the fullback and Staley a runner and receiver. Less time on defense means more time to score, which is one reason Stansbury is averaging more than a 30-point scoring differential.

For all their success so far, the Stallions still are smarting from a 26-7 second-round loss to Desert Hills last year. It was their first taste of the playoffs, and for them, it ended too soon.

Three of the four are seniors — Christiansen is the only junior. May, Clausing and Staley are well aware this is the last time they'll get a shot at a championship. It will be the last season they can show the state just how crazy they can get.

"We want to see that final game for sure," Staley said. "We learned last year what a tough road it is. Nothing is out of reach for us this time."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Stallions making a stand defensively

Stansbury has allowed 8 points per game through four games.

Six players have at least one sack.

Four players have at least one interception.