ST. GEORGE — Last year as the Crimson Cliffs Mustangs got ready to embark on their first season as a football program, they hit some rough patches.
The completion of their football field was delayed, and no one knew then that they would not play a single football game at their high school for the 2019 season.
Now as the season is approaching, the Mustangs are preparing to open their 2020 campaign with a game against Manti at home. Prior to this year, their home was Dixie State, Hurricane or the Crimson Cliffs middle school field. Now when the Mustangs refer to their home, they mean it.
“It’s so nice to have a field because now it’s our home, it’s our place to be,” senior Malachi Kaonohi said. “It’s so much nicer than being on old grass. We’re able to move faster, quicker and there are less injuries. It’s been nice to have.”
Another big plus to their field being completed is the markings that come with it. When the mustangs practice with their field goal unit, their offense or their defense, the markings come in handy.
Senior Jaylen Walker added that last season there were a number of first-time players for the Mustangs. Without the markings, it was hard to run an exact 10-yard route or line up correctly on defense.
“It’s been great to be able to use the markings on the field, the uprights, and to know where we’re at as far as field goals go,” head coach Jaron Tate said. “Just really focus on those little things that we couldn’t last year.”
For Tate and his team, the focus for them is growth. They want to grow and improve on what they did last year, taking things a step further.
When the preseason coaches poll came out at 97.7 ESPN’s Region 9 media day on Monday, the Mustangs were slotted to finish in sixth place. When asked if that fuels them at all, Tate simply said it is not a surprise.
“We still have a lot to prove and a long way to go to grow to be the team we want to be,” Tate said. “It’s not necessarily something that we focus on, we’re not worried about what other people think of us, we’re not worried about where other people see us finishing. We know what we’re capable of and we’re excited to show what we can do.”
With their first season under their belt, the Mustangs should be poised to take those next steps in one of the toughest regions in the state.
After playing together for one season, Walker added that now their team can zoom in a little bit and tweak the minor changes that need to be made to win games.
“Instead of focusing more on the big, base part of the defense, we can focus more on fine-tuning it and adding more new things,” Walker said.
Tate and the Mustangs are looking forward to their season opener on Friday with hopes to show the growth he has preached. The community has rallied around the new school and Tate believes the stands will be as full as they can be given the guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last season, Crimson Cliffs lost to Manti by 13, but Tate is excited for the opportunity to show improvement.
“What we did last year isn’t who we are. We’re on the rise, we’re getting better and we’re going to compete each and every week,” Tate said.
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