ST. GEORGE — While teams around the region were racking up big offensive numbers Friday night, the Desert Hills Thunder were just doing their thing: playing defense.
The D was stout and the Thunder held on for a 20-16 win over Foothill (Nev.) Friday night at Thunder Stadium.
“We really didn’t play well offensively,” DH coach Carl Franke said. “Foothill loaded the box and we didn’t pass the ball very well.”
Braden Reber and Tucker Cowdin know sometimes Desert Hills is going to have to lean on its defense.
“Those guys made plays,” Franke said. “Tucker Cowdin had three sacks. And Reber’s pick-six was absolutely huge.”
It was a nip-and-tuck game all the way, despite many believing the Thunder would run away with it.
“I even misjudged them a little bit,” Franke said of the Falcons. “They’re a tough team. That quarterback is going to San Diego State. He’s a very good player. His passes were pinpoint. A lot of times our DBs were all over the receivers and he would still drop it right in there. He was tough.”
Drew Doxtator was the talented QB Franke spoke of. He had about 200 passing yards against the Thunder, but also turned it over three times on interceptions. One of those was the aforementioned pick by Reber. At the time, early in the third quarter, the game was tied and the Falcons were threatening to take their first lead. Reber anticipated the play and made a spectacular 84-yard return to put Desert Hills ahead 14-7.
Doxtator led the Falcons back up the field on the next possession and tied the game on a 26-yard pass, making it 14-14 with a few minutes left in the third.
Undaunted, the Thunder responded with a long drive of their own, regaining the lead just before the third quarter came to a close on a 12-yard run by Bridger Cowdin. The extra point failed, leaving the score at 20-14 with a whole quarter to play.
That’s when the Desert Hills defense stepped up to the task, bending some, but not breaking. Foothill drove inside the red zone. On fourth and goal from the 4-yard line, Doxtator attempted a game-tying pass. But with heavy pressure in his face, the three-year starter missed his receiver, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Falcons got new life when, on the next play, Desert Hills hiked a bad snap that went through the end zone for a safety, making it 20-16 with plenty of time still on the clock.
After a big return on the safety kickoff, the Falcons again went on a drive and got deep into DH territory. On a second-and-short play, Tucker Cowdin burst through the line and sacked Doxtator, making it third-and-10. Back to back passes were swatted away to give the Thunder the ball back and Desert Hills was able to kill the clock and record the win.
“We had a lot of penalties and we left a lot of points out there,” Franke said. “This was good for us because Foothill runs a lot of what Dixie and Pine View run. We didn’t play that well, but we made one or two more plays than they did and that’s why we won.”
The Thunder, 2-0, visit 4A West next Friday up in Salt Lake City. The Panthers are 1-1, including Friday’s 26-6 win over Copper Hills.
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