Football

High school football: Defense led Crimson Cliffs to its first 4A state championship

Five years ago, Crimson Cliffs played its first football season and ended its inaugural season with only a single win.

Five years later, Crimson Cliffs had its most dominant season in program history with only a single loss on the season, and on Friday the Mustangs won their first ever 4A state championship with a 33-0 win over Green Canyon.

“It’s always hard. Year 1 we won one game, Year 2 we won four, Year 3 we lost in the semifinals to Ridgeline, last year we lost in the state championship to Desert Hills, and this year being able to cap it off,” said Crimson Cliffs head coach Wayne Alofipo. “I think we’ve seen our community really buy into what we’re trying to do, and Crimson Cliffs is finally on the map.”

“It’s surreal, I’m just proud of these boys. In Year 5 of our program, to be where we’re at, every year we’ve made some progress and to finally cap it off and get it, it’s a great feeling. I’m just proud for these young men, they deserve this. They’ve earned it. They’ve been working for a long time to get this.”

Green Canyon’s season has been headlined by its defense, which had only given up 11.6 points per game before Friday’s championship game.

So, Crimson Cliffs knew it was important to get ahead early. In its first offensive play of the game, Crimson Cliffs’ Steele Barben threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Tyler West.

“We planned that right away, that was a Sunday night planning,” said Alofipo. “Coach (Andy) Stokes knew right away, he said, ‘Hey, they’re a good run-stopping defense. They’re fast, the best way to help soften them up is attack them early.’ So, all credit goes to coach Stokes and the boys for executing that.”

Then on the following Green Canyon drive, the Mustangs’ defense forced a fumble. McCord Christiansen ran it in the end zone for a 14-0 Crimson Cliffs lead in the opening five minutes.

The Green Canyon defense didn’t give up a score in the second quarter, but the Crimson Cliffs defense forced a safety for a 16-0 halftime lead.

Crimson Cliffs’ defense didn’t hold back in the second half and shut out Green Canyon, which was only its second shutout in the season. The Mustangs’ nearly gave up a touchdown when Green Canyon got down to Crimson Cliffs’ 3-yard line.

But, the defense held on and kept the shutout intact.

“We’re senior-led in defense,” said Alofipo. “We got 10 seniors that start on defense. So, to have 10 seniors, you would expect that type of performance. We knew it was going to be a defensive battle.

So, just super proud of these young men, these leaders. We have 42 seniors in this class, and I think it speaks volumes to their leadership and what they’ve done as a team.”

The Crimson Cliffs offense piled on 17 more points in the second half, and 401 total offensive yards for the 33-0 4A championship victory.

Mustangs’ Tyler West had 138 reception yards on 10 catches, while Barben led the offense with 295 passing yards on 27 attempts and 22 completions. However, Barben wanted to give credit to his defense.

“Our defense, give a lot of props to them,” said Barben. “They’re amazing and we have their back, and they have our backs. Our community is amazing. They have such great support, so we love them very much.”

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Crimson Cliffs players celebrate their championship win over Green Canyon for the 4A football state championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.

Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

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