SALT LAKE CITY – Two yards to heaven. Six seconds to ecstasy. One play to a championship.
Landen Broadhead twisted and contorted his way into the end zone as time expired and the Desert Hills Thunder captured the 2013 3AA State Championship with a 27-21 win over region rival Pine View Friday night at Rice Eccles Stadium.
“It was a close one the whole way,” Desert Hills senior Jake Wagner said. “I felt confident that we could pull it out, but hats off to Pine View. They played their hearts out. It came down to the last minute and we were able to come out on top.”
The Thunder, fearful of giving the Panthers any time to come back, milked the clock down to just six seconds to go with the ball at the Pine View 2-yard line. A time out gave Desert Hills coach Carl Franke time to discuss the ultimate play with his offense.
“Coach (Carl) Franke called the play and all I had to do was run it in and follow my linemen,” Broadhead said. “I knew when I got it across the plane it was just a matter of staying (in).”
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Broadhead, a senior running back and safety, then scored his second touchdown of the game on a handoff from quarterback Nick Warmsley. Had Broadhead not gotten in the end zone, the two teams would have had to decide the title in overtime.
“I figured Pine View is so good at coming back, I didn’t want to leave any time on the clock,” Franke said. “I was going to kick it, but I said, ‘You know, we are on the 2-yard line. If we can’t score from here …’ I just didn’t want to put it on our kickers head with the wind and with it being on the hash. So anyway, it worked out. I just went for it.”
The final drive started after a Jordan Hokanson interception at the Pine View 48-yard line with 2:58 left in the game. It was the Thunder defense’s fourth interception of the game.
Desert Hills then marched the 48 yards in seven plays, taking as much clock time as possible between each play. Bridger Cowdin had the big hitter on the drive with a 25-yard run and also ran for seven yards on a key third-and-5 play.
Broadhead was on the sideline for most of the drive, but came in for the game-winner.
“Tonight has just taught me this year that hard work does pay off,” Broadhead said. “With two-a-days and weights, it definitely has all paid off tonight. There is really no way to describe it. There is just no way to describe the feeling that we just became state champs.”
The Thunder had built a 14-0 lead in the first half, though Pine View got on the board late in the second quarter. Pano Tiatia plunged one in from a yard out with 3:30 to go in the first half after a spectacular catch on a streak play by Colton Miller.
The game sat at 14-7 at the break, but Pine View struck quickly to start the second half. Kody Wilstead hit Bladen Hosner on a post play and the speedy slotback did the rest, weaving his way for a 49-yard score.
The Panthers then took their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter. Wilstead and Tiatia made big play after big play to cruise down to the end zone. It was a 78-yard drive that took eight plays. Tiatia rushed for his second score from five yards out to make it 21-14 with 9:57 left in the game.
That’s when the Thunder showed the heart of a champion. Stymied by the Pine View defense most of the second half, Desert Hills put together an impressive game-tying drive.
A shifty return by Braden Reber set DH up at its own 39-yard line. Two plays later, Warmsley hit Reber for an 8-yard gain on third-and-4, moving the ball into Panthers territory. After an incompletion, Cowdin and Warmsley rushed for 12 and 10 yards, respectively, putting the ball at the Pine View 25.
Cowdin rushed for five more, making it third-and-5 at the PV 20-yard line. Then came perhaps the penultimate play of the game. Warmsley dropped back to pass and looked right. Hokanson went deep and drew the Panthers’ attention, but Sewell flared out underneath Hokanson’s pattern and was wide open.
Despite heavy pressure, Warmsley delivered a strike to Sewell, who took it down to the Pine View 2-yard line. On the next play, Warmsley dove over the right side to tie the game with 6:01 left to play.
Pine View tried to go down and retake the lead, moving out to near midfield on consecutive first downs by Miller and Tiatia. But on third-and-10 with under three minutes to go, heavy pressure forced a soft pass near the right sideline that Hokanson raked in for his second pick of the game. The turnover set DH up for the winning score.
“This is one of the best senior classes I have ever coached,” Franke said. “They did everything we ever asked them and there are some great seniors here and holy cow, these guys were unbelievable.”
Desert Hills started the football game with a dominant 15-play, 80-yard drive. Broadhead scored his first TD of the game to cap the drive and the Thunder led 7-0 with 4:47 to play in the first quarter.
“You know what, it’s so weird with sophomore quarterbacks,” Franke said. “They look great in the first quarter and then there is that little lull. And then he kind of all got it back on track. It was great to see Nick get it all back and track and help his team win.”
Pine View outgained Desert Hills 205-146 in the first half, but had three interceptions before the break. Warmsley and Reber hooked up for the second TD of the game after one of those interceptions. Reber caught the pass about 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, but ran over a defender and broke another tackle to make it a 38-yard catch and run for six points.
As for the decision to go for the TD instead of try a winning field goal, Sewell wasn’t on board.
“I said field goal,” Sewell said. “I was just arguing with them and you know they said it’s just two yards. But I’m glad he made the call and that’s why he is the coach.”
Pine View had 399 total yards in the game to DH’s 282. But the time of possession was key as the Thunder kept the Panthers offense off the field much of the night. Desert Hills won that battle 29:33 to 18:27.
“We knew that if we didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback, it would be trouble,” DH’s Gabe Sewell said. “We just had to stick with the receivers and make sure they didn’t get open when Kody was scrambling because they are great at coming back (to the ball).”
Cowdin finished his junior season by rushing for 86 yards on 15 carries. Reber had 45 receiving yards, while Warmsley passed for 110 and rushed for 50 more.
The 11-2 Thunder avenged both of their losses from the regular season with the wins over Dixie in the semifinals and Pine View in the championship.
“It’s unbelievable,” Wagner said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid (to win state). It is just unreal.”
Pine View, which finishes 9-3, got 332 passing yards from Wilstead. The junior passer finished just 53 yards short of setting a single-season passing mark in the state of Utah. Miller had nine catches for 114 yards. Tiatia rushed for 75 yards on 15 carries and Jack Bangerter had five catches for 62 yards, giving him 94 catches in his senior season.
It is the Thunder’s first state championship in football. DH lost on the 3A championship two years ago and was eliminated last year in state semifinals.
Stats via HSGamecenter: DHHS 27, PVHS 21
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