ST. GEORGE — At Crimson Cliffs on Friday night, there were a lot of firsts.
The announcer continued to mention them throughout the game: “First home game on our field,” “first called-back touchdown,” “first fumble” and “first touchdown,” were all things heard from the stands.
When the game ended, the Mustangs walked away with their first-ever win on their home field.
“We’re still a young team,” head coach Jaron Tate said. “We need to figure out how to play in these big games or to play in any game, overcome adversity and take care of the little things. There were a lot of mental mistakes that turned into big mistakes for us, giving Manti an opportunity to capitalize.”
The Mustangs looked energized from the minute they stepped out of the locker room, charging onto the field with a purpose. While both teams were showing the effort, the game was sloppy overall with plenty of penalties and turnovers.
After those turnovers and penalties, Crimson Cliffs went into the fourth quarter holding onto a seven-point lead. That’s when the game got interesting.
Manti had a long possession that ended in a touchdown with just 1:48 left on the clock. Being down one, the Templars decided on going for the two-point conversion to put them up by one. Crimson Cliffs got the big stop but there was a penalty on the play. Manti would get one more chance and they made it count.
The Templars were up by one, and in a game where scoring was hard to come by it looked like the momentum had shifted.
Crimson Cliffs took over with the ball with a long way to go for a touchdown. They needed to make a big play if they wanted to win the game. Insert Tyler Brown and his 76-yard touchdown pass to Packer Butler.
The Mustangs crowd went wild.
“Well I don’t know that we make that play last season, I don’t know that we could come back from that kind of adversity last season,” Tate said about the play. “We knew there was a lot of time on the clock and we still had an opportunity, we wanted to make make sure that we took advantage of that opportunity.”
After the big touchdown, Crimson Cliffs held Manti off and got the defensive stop to win the game.
Despite all of the mistakes, penalties and turnovers, the Mustangs got the win on their home field.
For senior running back Creed Leonard, one of those mistakes hit home. As he was trying to muscle out some yards towards the end of a carry, the ball got poked away and Manti was able to recover it. Leonard is a major part of the Mustangs’ offense and they continued to pound the ball into him, regardless of the mistake.
“That’s the biggest thing for me,” Leonard said about continuing to get the ball after the fumble. “I’m pretty conscious about stuff like that but the fact that our coaches were able to pound the ball and trust us, that was so big for me. This is my first year as a full-time running back and it’s just been awesome.”
In pounding the ball on the ground through Leonard and others, the passing game for quarterback Tyler Brown opened up. He accounted for all three of the Crimson Cliffs touchdowns with Chase Hansen catching two of them and Packer Butler catching the winning touchdown.
While it may be easier to take the penalties and mental mistakes when you win the game, Tate said the Mustangs would still be paying for those mistakes in the form of sprints come practice.
“Of course,” Tate jokingly said when asked if his team would be running for their mistakes. “We call them gassers.”
The Mustangs follow up their home game with another one against Lehi next week. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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