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On his team’s first offensive play Friday, Bountiful’s Jakob Hunt took a handoff and rumbled 13 yards around left end.
Hunt probably figured he would find running room like that all afternoon. That thinking was understandable, based on last week’s experience, and misguided, considering what actually lay ahead for him against Mountain Crest’s defense.
For the rest of this Class 4A quarterfinal game, Hunt discovered only orange jerseys in his line of vision. The Mustangs’ dominant defensive performance keyed their 41-0 victory, sending them to a semifinal game against Highland next Friday.
That’s a rematch of a 2010 championship game, although this meeting will be far less anticipated, coming in the half of the bracket opposite the East-Timpview showdown.
Judging by the scene in the Cache Valley foothills, the Mustangs look like a worthy opponent for East or Timpview. Mountain Crest quarterback Jamison Webb did more than his share of good things, but the defense was the story.
Besides scoring two touchdowns via interception returns, the Mustangs distinguished themselves by holding Hunt to 49 yards on 24 carries. Those numbers only begin to explain Mountain Crest’s relentless effort. In a first-round victory over Skyline, Hunt registered a school-record 291 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries, which leads us to some interesting math.
Mix in that 13-yard run on the first play Friday, and Hunt had gained 304 yards on his last 36 carries. His next 19 runs netted 18 yards. He never had a chance against a Mustang defense designed to stop him.
"I personally expected more, but I think we knew if we just stood our ground … our three linemen, that’s what our goal was — not to get backed up. That’s what we did," said Mountain Crest’s Nick Taylor, who joined Alex Huerta and Kyle Christiansen up front.
Limited by quarterbacking injuries, Bountiful was almost totally reliant on the running game. Mountain Crest defensive coordinator Rob Thomas’ answer was a fairly complex scheme that called for his players to fill various gaps, while committing a bunch of players to the line of scrimmage.
The strategy worked. At times, it looked like the Mustangs had about 15 defenders out there. After that first run, Hunt was stopped for 1 yard, no gain or a loss on eight of his other 15 carries in the first half.
"We were just able to get to him pretty fast," said Mountain Crest coach Mark Wootton. "We’re not big, but the kids are pretty fast and strong, and they were determined. … They’re just really starting to believe in themselves, and they love playing defense."
It helps when those guys get to score touchdowns. With the Mustangs leading 7-0 late in the first quarter, Troy Netzley delivered his fourth defensive TD of the season by reading perfectly a screen pass, intercepting the floating ball on a dead run and going 30 yards to the end zone. In the third quarter, Gaje Fergeson made it 28-0 when he grabbed a deflected pass and went 27 yards for a score.
Offensively, Taylor rushed for two short touchdowns, taking advantage of his opportunity to play both ways with star running back Eddy Hall sidelined by an ankle injury. Webb also ran for two scores, while efficiently executing his team’s short passing game with 182 yards.
Citing the program’s standards, Wootton said, "We’re very hard on our quarterbacks here."
Opposing running backs, too.
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