GAME PREVIEW CAPSULE
Desert Hills (8-2, 4-2) at Stansbury (7-3, 5-1), Stallions Stadium, tonight, 5 p.m.
Previous Meeting: Thunder 12, Stallions 0 (Aug. 23, 2013 at DH)
Broadcast: KDXU-Am-890 with Devin Dixon on play by play
Classification: 3AA, South Region
Coach: Carl Franke (2nd year, 16-6 overall)
Offense: Spread, pistol
Last game: Beat Uintah 40-7
Players to watch: Whoa! Who is James Migo? Franke said the American Samoa native has practiced with the team all year, but was just barely cleared to play before last week’s game. So the Thunder, who were already loaded on defense, got even better. Migo had two sacks, caused a fumble and ran another one back for a TD. He and fellow DL Jake Wagner were in the Uintah backfield all game, picking up nine team sacks and forcing four turnovers, plus two blocked kicks, one of which Wagner returned 80 yards for a score. DH also had nearly 300 yards rushing, with RBs Bridger Cowdin, Gabe Sewell and QB Nick Warmsley teaming up for big runs. WR Braden Reber had a quiet game on offense, but was huge in the kick return game.
Trend: Desert Hills has won three straight since those back to back losses to Pine View and Dixie, allowing Snow Canyon, Hurricane and Uintah a combined 20 points. In fact, only Dixie has scored more than 16 points on the Thunder this season. DH’s defense outscored Uintah, grabbing TDs on a blocked field goal and a fumble return. The D also set up the first score of the game by forcing a fumble at the 2-yard line. The Thunder are also starting to run the ball better, with nearly 300 yards last week and about 200 the week before. Adding Sewell as a compliment to Cowdin has helped. Uintah did have some success passing the ball (180 yards).
Classification: 3AA, North Region
Coach: Clint Christiansen (14th year, 77-70 overall)
Offense: Split back triple option
Last game: Beat Mountain View 49-28 (two weeks ago)
Players to watch: Stud QB Chase Christiansen has been out since the end of August, but Franke said he expects him to be in uniform for this game. But the Stallions have done all right without him, compiling a 6-2 record during that time. Gage Manzione took over the reins at QB and passed for 592 yards and rushed for 364 this year. So how will Christiansen fit in if he does return? His strength is on defense, where he has D-1 talent as a corner or safety. RB Alexander Mackay had a big game vs. Mountain View (235 yards, 3 TDs) and is just 42 yards shy of 1,000 on the year. He also has 14 TDs and has rushed for at least 120 yards in each of the last five games. Austen Kincaid leads the team with six sacks and is also tops on the team in receiving yardage with 193 yards and 3 TDs. The Stallions leading tackler is LB Spencer Wihongi, who has 83 takedowns, 5 sacks and 1 INT.
Trend: Stansbury started the year 1-2, including that shutout loss to D-Hills. They then put together a four-game winning streak to set up a showdown with Juan Diego for the 3AA North title. It didn’t go well, with Stansbury falling behind early and never making a game of it in a 37-16 loss. The Stallions have to be able to run the ball to be successful, with Mackay, Jesse Horowitz and Josh Mulivai all capable of carrying the load. In the final two games of the regular season, those three have helped Stansbury rush for more than 350 yards a game.
These are two teams that want to run the ball and pass only when necessary. The Thunder have had more success through the air, but would still rather use Cowdin, Sewell and Warmsley to grind out some long drives. Tossing Christiansen into the mix on the Stansbury side gives this game a mysterious feel to it. But even if the senior returns, will he be 100 percent? Plus, remember that he played and got pretty beat up in the season-opening DH win over the Stallions. Desert Hills has a much better defense, especially against the run. Another wildcard will be the weather, though the forecast today says cold and sunny. Still, cold hands could increase the likelihood of fumbles and dropped passes. This should be the best game of the day.
STGnews (record) PREDICTION
Andy Griffin (43-8) — Desert Hills
Darren Cole (39-12) — Desert Hills
Parry’s spread: DH by 16
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