ST. GEORGE – Snow Canyon High School danced its way to victory as it celebrated Homecoming with a 35-13 victory over the visiting Las Vegas Wildcats Friday night at Warrior Stadium.
The Warrior players had a little extra pop in their step and demeanor as they took the field against the Wildcats. Whether that was due to the upcoming dance or the anticipation of playing football, we may never get an answer.
Yet, if it works, it works.
The Snow Canyon players, no matter the side of the ball they played on, proved they are a team to be reckoned with. Hard hit after hard hit led to big chunks of yardage gained on offense or to tackles that could be heard from the grand stands. Snow Canyon wanted this win and it got it.
“We are proud of our guys,” Warrior head coach Mike Esplin said. “I think they did a good job, even after a little let down. We had come out the first drive the last couple weeks even though we won big and we were slow off the bat. We asked them to be ready to go off the first snap and I thought we did that.”
Snow Canyon didn’t even need two minutes to score the first points of the game. Following its first third-down conversion, quarterback Austin Staheli threw a 70-yard strike to wide receiver Zach Nowatzke, giving the Warriors the early 7-0 lead.
After a 37-yard run to start off its first possession of the game, the Wildcats experienced a quick beating from the Warrior defenders as they delivered hard, but fair, blows. It was a constant theme surrounding the Snow Canyon defense throughout the game.
Knowing they had the Wildcats tails between their legs, the Warriors marched right back down the field with hopes of jumping out to a big lead early. The offense constantly shifted and used fake hand-offs to confuse the Las Vegas High defense. Snow Canyon marched the ball all the way down to the goal line, but as it looked to plunge into the end zone, the Wildcat defense stuck its paws in and recovered a forced fumble at the 1-yard line.
But, just as it had all game, the Warrior defense showed no backing down as it forced Las Vegas to punt the ball away.
Following the Wildcat punt, the Warriors didn’t wait long to capitalize. Staheli tossed another deep touchdown pass, this time to wideout Andrew Day. The 31-yard touchdown pass at the 9:47 mark in the second quarter increased the Warrior lead to 14-0.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, so we figured we had to come out right from the get-go,” Staheli said. “Let them know we were coming and we are going to keep coming the whole game.”
As the second quarter progressed, the game seemed to be heavily tilted toward the Warrior sideline. Staheli and his offense continued to move the ball at will. Staheli showed almost Taysom Hill-like maneuvers as he ran by or through the Wildcat defenders.
“I’ve always been a good runner,” Staheli said humbly. “I’m not the fastest, but I would like to think I am a strong runner and get what I need.”
As the play clock clicked closer to halftime, the Wildcats knew they needed to strike or the second half would prove to be that much more difficult if any comeback was going to be mounted.
After several strong and long runs down the field, the Wildcats finally found the end zone on a 3-yard run at the 4:27 mark, cutting the Warrior lead to seven, 14-7.
Moments later, on what appeared to be a big gain for the Warrior offense, Snow Canyon watched in horror as a Wildcat defender ran a forced fumble into the end zone just two minutes after the team’s last score. Staheli had hit Brooks Sampson for a big gainer near midfield. But the ball was wrestled free and Wildcat Jonathan Broadhead picked it up and rumbled 40 yards for the score.
Though the extra-point attempt was blocked, Las Vegas had new life, only trailing by one.
The Warriors responded with an impressive two-minute drill, set up by a 39-yard kickoff return by Austin Anderson. The big return set SC up at the Las Vegas 29-yard line with 2:59 left in the half. A couple of Staheli scrambles and two completions (to Sampson and Nowatzke), moved the ball to the 4-yard line. Staheli took it to the 2 with 20 seconds left and SC used one of its timeouts. The next play, Toshfatafehi Wright, known as “Tosh” to his teammates, plowed into the end zone to give SC a 21-13 advantage at the half.
Just moments into the second half, any life at all for the Wildcats was snuffed out by Snow Canyon as the Warriors forced an interception on the Las Vegas 25-yard line. Two plays later, Wright ran unscathed into the end zone from 18-yards out to push the lead to 28-13.
“Every day in practice my coaches just tell me to keep my shoulder-pad level low and just drive my feet and they won’t be able to stop me,” Wright said.
As time continued to move forward, the Wildcats found themselves moving backward, instead of forward. Penalties continued to mount up as the total number nearly passed the point total on the scoreboard for LVHS.
The Warrior offense gained big yardage after big yardage. No play seemed be less than 10 yards, or so it appeared to the visiting fan base. Teaching moments presented themselves as the game clock grew closer to 0:00. Yet, Snow Canyon produced one final score with 6:26 left in the game, with Staheli taking it in himself from 5-yards out.
The Warriors finished with 426 yards in the game, more than half of those rushing. Staheli led the way with 60 yards on 12 carries. He also passed for 208 yards and had three TDs. Wright finished with 54 yards on eight carries as five different Warriors had at least 20 yards rushing.
Las Vegas, 0-2, finished with 292 yards on the ground, 220 of which came in the rushing game. In fact, Vegas star running back Elijah Hicks had 189 of his team’s 292 yards.
Snow Canyon, 3-0, starts region play next week on the road as it takes on conference heavyweight Dixie High School. The game will take place Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at Walt Brooks Stadium.
Box score: Box Scores for Las Vegas @ Snow Canyon
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