ST. GEORGE — Coach Kourtnie Judd’s team completed a preseason tripleheader sweep on Saturday, March 14, 2020. Judd and her players knew that competition would already be paused the following Monday for at least two weeks.
What Judd knew and didn’t tell her players was that the looming Monday was a “cutoff:” A day when a decision about the future of spring sports would be decided.
“The UHSAA basically told us, ‘You have until Monday,’” Judd said on March 12, 2021, a full calendar year after the decision to pause. “We made sure we played Friday and Saturday night and that was the end of that.”
On April 14, 2020, that decision became official: there would be no spring sports. Teams had already sat on the sidelines for a month. For Crimson Cliffs, a first-year school sending its athletics programs out into the wild for a full season for the first time, it meant waiting indefinitely for the spring teams to take the field.
Now, as those calendar-year markers start to come and go, the Mustangs have broken out into Region 9 play.
Softball is 1-1 in league play after splitting with juggernaut Canyon View and is 10-3 overall. Soccer is Region 9’s last undefeated team with a 5-0 region record. Baseball, though not benefiting with as much immediate talent infusion as the other two, swept Canyon View in emphatic fashion to move to 2-0. Tennis and girls golf have kicked off their first efforts in Region 9 as well.
“It’s funny, I’ve got two baseballs up in the press box,” baseball head coach Justin Abbott said. “One of them was a combined no-hitter in our school’s first region win and the first pitch of the game against Canyon View was a solo home run by Petey Soto in the leadoff spot. I’m going to hold those baseballs because those are important to us.”
Mustangs baseball routed Canyon View 10-0 on Tuesday in a game that was moved to Washington city after weather made it impossible to play in Cedar City. Brexten Starley struck out five in five innings allowing two walks and no other base runners. Chase Hansen allowed a pair of walks himself in the sixth but allowed no hits to the Falcons.
Crimson Cliffs walked it off on a Logan West single to clinch the 10-run rule.
Baseball then went 11 innings at Canyon View on Thursday before finally taking the 13-12 win.
Softball had an inverse experience on Tuesday, themselves getting routed 10-0 by the Falcons. However, they rebounded by taking Thursday’s road game 14-11. They scored eight runs in the second inning and 10 total in the first two combined. Kya Burningham swatted a pair of home runs and the team collected four doubles.
“We’re young and we’re talented,” Judd said. “We’re learning from the game. We’re learning from our mistakes.”
Neither bat and ball team has matched what soccer has done in their introduction, however. After playing a mostly-offensive game in Hurricane on Friday night, the Mustangs moved to 5-0 in Region 9 and 7-1 overall. They’ve already knocked off still-defending 2019 state champion Desert Hills 2-0 on March 19.
Mustangs soccer was able to get three Region 9 contests under their belts last season before it was called off. They went 2-1, losing to Desert Hills 4-1 in the final game played.
This year, every other team in Southern Utah has at least one Region 9 loss. Crimson allowed only two goals in their first five games in the league.
“When we’re on, we’re really on,” soccer head coach Isaac Klingonsmith said. “I like our chances. When we’re on, we’re unbeatable. We’ve got the talent to win out in region. It’s just a matter of showing up prepared every game.”
Soccer will get its biggest test so far on Tuesday when it plays the 4-1 Dixie Flyers for the first time in program history. It then hosts Snow Canyon on Thursday, which is also 4-1.
The soccer team has nine seniors listed on its MaxPreps roster. Baseball and softball combined have four. Softball had three seniors leave last year and move into collegiate ball. Baseball also graduated two seniors. Those two sports may not have the upper-class-level talent ready quite yet, but have already shown promise.
It also gives Judd and Abbott the chance to mold their teams and identities, not just capitalize on the players they inherited.
“We’ve for sure got the pieces,” Abbott said. “With our first year, we talked about our identity. We sat down in the classroom for some chalk talk stuff at the beginning of the season to talk about our identity. Everybody knows we’re young and we know we’re young, but our ability to throw guys out on the mound and throw strikes and compete, I like our chances.”
Each program at Crimson Cliffs is at a different stage. Klingonsmith called high school sports “cyclical.” But for teams getting on to the field for the first time for a full season, playing is plenty.
“It’s a good feeling,” Judd said. “It gives you that butterfly feeling that we all crave, that intensity we all live for. These kids are passionate. They just want to do what they’re passionate about.”
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