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Utah teams call off key football game in pre-playoff collusion

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Mountain Crest (Utah) and Springville (Utah) High Schools were scheduled to play a huge non-league football game on Wednesday night. The matchup never happened, and now coaches for other Utah schools are accusing the two Class 4A powerhouse schools of unsportsmanlike collusion ahead of the state playoffs, where Mountain Crest and Springville could potentially meet in the semifinals.

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"We just felt like with the playoffs getting close, try to get our kids healthy for that," Mountain Crest coach Mark Wootton told the Salt Lake Tribune.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, both schools have already clinched playoff berths, so neither was in dire need of a victory outside region action. As with all school schedules in Utah, non-region games are planned by agreement between the two schools, so they can be canceled at any time without direct penalty. With that in mind, the two schools got together on Monday and decided to call off their game, giving them both a de facto late season bye.

This isn't even the first time that two Utah playoff-bound teams have canceled a late season game, either. In 2005, Hunter (Utah) and Brighton (Utah) High Schools called off their scheduled season finale against one another in anticipation of mutual playoff runs.

Nevertheless, the decision by Mountain Crest and Springville has raised the ire of a number of coaches across the state, all while other top programs around the state, including undefeated Bingham, currently No 15 in the RivalsHigh100, were in action on Wednesday night. No coach is more upset than Highland (Utah) High School's Brody Benson, who raised the possibility of establishing a deadline to cancel games in the future. Based on potential playoff brackets -- Mountain Crest plays in Utah's Region 5 while Springville plays in Region 8 -- it's likely that Benson's team could face either Mountain Crest or Springville in the second round of the playoffs.

"If I had my bye this week I wouldn't play a game, but I wouldn't have scheduled a game either," Benson told the Tribune. "I can understand [canceling the game], but I don't think it's necessarily good. When you look at the end of your season, you know you're going to be banged up,"

Mountain Crest, in particular, is very banged up. The Mustangs were reportedly facing the absence of eight key players this week, which provided more than ample motivation to call off a game that could have left more players hurt heading into the playoffs.

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While the school will lose any proceeds from ticket sales they would have received from the game, Mountain Crest athletic director Jim Crosbie told the Tribune that those earnings would have been less than $5,000, which made money a nearly negligible consideration in the decision.

In the end, the decision to cancel the matchup clearly came down to considerations of mutual future health and a greater chance for playoff success for both teams. No one is questioning that both schools achieve that by calling off the game, but many will continue to question whether it was ethical to make the decision they did less than three days before the game.

"Our seeding doesn't really change for playoffs," Springville coach Scott Mitchell, pictured above, told the Tribune. "It's just not worth it."

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