Mountain Crest quarterback Brady Hall broke toward the sidelines as the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock.

He embraced teammates and coaches, ball still in hand. Mountain Crest was going to to the state championship.

“There’s nothing like it,” Hall said. “I’ve grown up here watching Mountain Crest football, and that’s what it’s been — we always expect to get here. And you can’t really plan for those emotions.”

The Mustangs may have expected to reach the championship every year, but Mountain Crest’s 17-7 win over Stansbury at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday earned the Mustangs their first berth to the state final since 2012. Mountain Crest will take on the winner of Sky View vs. Orem in the Class 4A title game next week.

“These kids have battled and they have fought for the last two years,” Mountain Crest coach Jason Lee said. “They’ve been underdogs the whole way. We’ll be underdogs again next week, and we don’t care. That’s our mentality. We love to play tough games.”

The Mustangs especially were the underdogs last season when Ridgeline High opened, which cut into Mountain Crest’s enrollment. Mountain Crest played in Class 5A, the largest classification, and had to wait another season to hit a UHSAA realignment year. The Mustangs fought through a 4-7 season (2-6 in region) in 2016 with a smaller pool of available players since the school’s enrollment dropped.

“We’ve seen the best players,” wide receiver Nick Nethercott said about playing in Class 5A. “So coming down to this classification, we knew we’ve seen the best. We can play with the best. So it give us a lot of confidence, I think, just mentally that we can do this.”

Nethercott’s 30-yard reception helped the Mustangs strike first. Hall launched a pass downfield, which fell into Nethercott’s hands. The wide receiver turned and sprinted into the end zone to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter.

“That’s a big part of our game,” Hall said. “We like to start fast, get it in the end zone real quick. That gives us a jump start.”

The Mustangs tacked on a 33-yard field goal by Eli Wells. They punched in a second touchdown on a 3-yard carry from Beau Robinson as the first half came to a close.

But after Mountain Crest took a 17-0 lead in the first half, Stansbury began to show life with a scoring drive in the third quarter. The Stallions marched down the field to score on a 5-yard carry by running back Tavita Gagnier. He sprinted to the sideline before diving into the end zone for the final score of the game.