ST. GEORGE – Look, it’s preseason and nobody’s going to cry over spilt milk – in this case, a blown 17-point fourth quarter lead. The big picture looks good for Desert Hills, which found a stud quarterback in Noah Sewell and had 5A Jordan on the ropes before letting them come back.
The Beetdiggers scored 17 unanswered in the fourth quarter, then blocked an extra point in overtime to come away with a 45-44 victory over the Thunder Friday night in Thunder Stadium.
“I thought we got complacent, and we had some issues with personnel, with some injuries,” DH coach Carl Franke said.
His young quarterback took it a step further.
“I thought we got cocky,” said sophomore Noah Sewell.
It was a crazy night all around, starting with the news that stud DH lineman Penei Sewell would be lost for the season with a torn muscle in his shoulder that requires surgery. But Penei petitioned his coach to let him play about 90 minutes before the game and Franke didn’t have the heart to say no.
Penei Sewell, who is the older brother of Noah and the younger brother of last year’s state MVP, Nephi, is being heavily recruited nationwide as a blue chip offensive tackle. Franke said he deserves to decide himself when to pull the plug on the season.
“We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his future as a football player,” Franke said. “He does need surgery, and we are definitely holding him out the next two preseason games. But hopefully he’ll be good to play when region starts.”
For his part, Penei Sewell said he felt fine before, during and after the game.
So with the Sewell brothers leading the way, things got rolling early for D-Hills. After an early TD by Jordan, Noah Sewell found Brock Parry wide open for a 70-yard TD pass to tie the game in the first quarter.
After a Jordan punt, Noah Sewell gave Desert Hills its first lead with a 3-yard scamper four plays into the second quarter to make it 14-7.
After an exchange of punts, all-state quarterback Crew Wakley got the game knotted at 14-14 by taking off on an ankle-breaking 32-yard scramble with 3:36 left in the first half.
“Without Crew, it’s not even a game,” Franke said. “He was their whole team. Give credit to them.”
Noah Sewell showed maturity beyond his sophomore status on the ensuing drive. He led a controlled two-minute drill up the field in the final three minutes, with the drive culminating in a 34-yard field goal by Logan Callister with 13 seconds left in the first half. The kick made it 17-14 heading into intermission.
Jordan got the ball first in the third quarter and Wakley got the ball down inside the DH 30. But on a QB keeper, he had the ball knocked loose and DH recovered at its own 24. Two plays later, Noah Sewell took off on an improvised scramble that ended up being an 82-yard touchdown run. He broke one tackle early in the run, outran most of the defense, then broke one last tackle inside the 5-yard line.
That made it 24-14 and had Thunder fans thinking about an upset.
The next series of events had Desert Hills fans contemplating a blowout. Wakley hit his favorite receiver, Ethan Bolingbroke, over the middle for a decent gain. But Bolingbroke fumble the ball while making a move and DH recovered once again.
A 41-yard Noah Sewell run set up a short dive for the QB and made it 31-14 with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
“I like playing quarterback and I like having the ball in my hands,” Noah Sewell said. “Someone said I looked like my older brother Nephi out there and that’s good. He’s my mentor.”
The Thunder forced another punt and had the ball to start the fourth, but a punt snap out the back of the end zone provided the Diggers just the momentum shift (and glimmer of hope) that they needed.
After the safety, Wakley hit Ben Lisk from 14 yards out to make it a 38-30 game with 4:21 to play. After a DH punt, Wakley found Jake Shaver from 35 yards out to cut the Thunder lead to 38-36 with 1:14 left in the game. Needing a two-point conversion, Wakley faked a handoff and hit Bolingbroke with a flat pass and he jogged untouched into the end zone to tie the game.
DH got the ball first in overtime and it took just two plays to score. After a Parry run of 15 yards, Noah Sewell scrambled up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 44-38. But a Jordan defender got a hand up and blocked the extra point, leaving the margin at six points.
The Diggers OT possession was quick as well. After a short run by Shaver, Wakley hit Bolingbroke with a 24-yard fade pass that tied the game.
Enter Emily Bluemel, Jordan’s female kicker, who is a two-year starter in this predominantly male-dominated game.
She was already 5 for 5 on extra points in the game and her sixth one split the uprights to end the game, much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd.
“We were almost out of hope,” Wakley said. “It was close, but when you think about it, stuff like this happens all the time and I was thinking, ‘Why not us?’ That safety on the punt snap killed the momentum for Desert Hills, but gave us hope and gave us momentum. And then the blocked extra point (in OT), well then we knew we could win it.”
The good news for Desert Hills, despite the loss, is that Penei Sewell looks like he can play through his injury – and his little brother is a flat out stud. Noah Sewell finished the night with more than 200 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, plus a sixth on the pass to Parry.
And he’s not a one-trick pony. Sewell also passed for nearly 200 yards and showed strength and accuracy with his arm.
“We prepared really hard to try and keep things simple for Noah,” Franke said. “But man can he run the ball. He’s a big monster and he’s tough to bring down. You get Noah Sewell out in the middle of the field and it’s tough for the other team. He’s an intelligent football player, but he can only do it if the guys up front block for him and I thought the guys up front played exceedingly well tonight.”
Parry came up just shy of 100 yards rushing in the game and also had 83 receiving for DH.
But the biggest numbers were by Wakley, who rushed for nearly 150 yards and passed for more than 300, including three passing TDs to go with his three rushing TDs.
Desert Hills, 0-1, continues its difficult preseason schedule with a trip to Salem Hills next week. The Skyhawks opened with a win over Ben Lomond Friday night. DH will then travel to California for a game vs. Mission Hills (in San Diego) on Sept. 1.
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