The path was set for Morgan last year. The Trojans, coming off a state runner-up finish in 2015, headed into the state semifinals to play a team they already had beaten in the regular season.
And Morgan held a lead in that game too, before Delta came back to win the contest.
So the Trojans, looking for the school’s first championship in 20 years, will have to wait.
How long might be dependent upon how quickly a group of young players can develop.
“We have to have our younger kids play at a higher level,” Morgan coach Kovi Christiansen said. “They’re going to be thrown in the fire a little bit. That’s going to be critical.”
The offensive lineup might need some introduction to some Morgan fans because many of the skill players have moved on. The Trojans will debut a new quarterback, running backs and most of their wide receivers.
“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill,” Christiansen said. “There’s only a couple of kids who had significant time coming back. But the younger guys are ready to start.”
Coach • Kovi Christiansen, 11th year
Last season • 9-4, 5-0 in 3A North; advanced to Class 3A state semifinals
State championships • 1977, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1997
Other state title game appearances • 1972, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2015
Aug. 18 • Park City, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 • at South Summit, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 • Ben Lomond, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 • Bear River, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 • at Grantsville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 • at Judge Memorial, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 • at Emery, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 • Carbon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 • Union, 7 p.m.
Behind center • Jake Stephens (6 foot 2, 180 pounds) occasionally saw some action at quarterback during his junior season, but that was mostly when starter Tucker Skinner was sidelined with injury. For running back options, Christiansen will turn to a quartet of players who saw time offensively on the junior varsity a year ago. Talon Polad (6-0, 170), Jake Rounkles (5-10, 150), Bridger Miller (5-9, 160) and Bronson Neuenschwander (5-11, 160) are all seniors. “Hopefully they can fill in those spots,” Christiansen said.
Ball hawks • The candidates for running back also will spread out among the wide receiver slots, which does have limited returning experience (one catch) in junior Tyson Hurd (6-2, 190). Junior Hunter Thomas (5-10, 170) is expected to line up wide, while the best ball-catching option might be senior tight end Chase Trussel (6-2, 210). He has been starting on defense since his sophomore year and is called a “do-everything kid” by Christiansen. On defense, Neuenschwander has shown a knack for getting to the ball from the free safety position.
In the trenches • Defensively, Trussel has been a tackle on the line and he might remain there. But Trussel’s 49 tackles in 2016 might go up if he’s moved back to linebacker, an idea Morgan is kicking around. The rest of the up-front positions are unsettled defensively. The O-line is a little bit more stable. Returning starter Dillon Petty (5-11, 215) is back at guard, and senior newcomer Hunter Hardy (6-0, 185) is anticipated to be a regular at offensive tackle.
Hit men • Junior Colton Hansen (6-1, 205) played on special teams last season, but “kind of has a nose for the ball,” according to Christiansen, who may put him at linebacker. Trussel also may move there to lend experience to newcomers like sophomore Porter Giles (5-11, 160). Another player who can help bring down ball carriers is sophomore Trevor Jarrett, who might get an early nod to play safety.
Key returners • Chase Trussel, Sr. (LB/TE); Dillon Petty, Sr. (OG/DT); Tyson Hurd, Jr. (WR); Hunter Hardy, Sr. (OT)
Key losses • Tucker Skinner, QB; Austin Francis, RB; Conley Breshears, RB; Owen Pentz, LB.
The next wave • Bronson Neuenschwander, Sr. (RB/FS); Colton Hansen, Jr. (LB); Porter Giles, Soph. (LB); Jameson Burraston, Soph. (OL/DL)