Written by Jeff Ames, August 16, 2012, StGeorgeUtah.com
Desert Hills electrified Region 9 last year with its tenacity and grit. Riding the coattails of quarterback Porter Harris, running back Mike Needham and receiver Ty Rutledge, the Thunder rode a wave of success to the 3A State Championship, where they fell to Hurricane 21-0.
With Harris and Needham gone, and head coach Jake Nelson stepping down, new head coach Carl Franke must trust in his younger guys to step up and get the job done.
“I think every year it’s a different hump,” Franke said. “There are many humps in the road. Last year we overcame a ton of obstacles just to get to the state game. This year we’re a lot younger, so we’re just going to have to take things one game at a time.”
Even so, Franke feels optimistic the rebuilding process won’t be as problematic as initially expected.
“I think we’re in good shape,” he said. “We don’t have as many seniors as last year when we had over 24. This year we have 14. But the seniors we do have are good quality kids who set the standards for our younger guys.”
One of those seniors is returning star Ty Rutledge, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound versatile receiver who made crucial plays in big games last season. Except this year, Rutledge will play a very different role – quarterback.
“It’ll be nice to have the ball in my hand, read the plays and lead the team,” Rutledge said.
His teammates and coach agree.
“I like him better at quarterback more than anything else,” said running back Bridger Cowdin. “He’s a great passer, athletic and accurate.”
Added Coach Franke: “Ty‘s biggest strengths are in his physicality, his strength and his leadership. The things he does on the field are unmatched by any kid in Region 9. He’s one of the most athletic kids I’ve ever seen.
“He’s a competitor who hates to lose. He wills his team to win. He helped carry us throughout the season (last year). He’s a kid that the others kids will look toward for leadership.”
As for all the talk about Desert Hills lacking experience, running back Brock Johnson simply shrugged it off.
“I’m excited to be out here with the young lineman,” he said. “A lot of people keep saying we’re not going to be very good because we have a lot of young guys. But we’re going to take it to them. We’re young and fast. It’s going to be fun.”
For now, Franke wants to take each game as they come. His goal this season is to simply push his team to work hard and not get caught up in all of the hype.
“Those young guys are going to have to carry us this year,” he said. “We need those young guys to come out and step up and help us out a lot.”
Johnson put it more delicately.
“We just want to come out and hit you in the face and go for the win. Physicality – that’s our goal.”
Quarterback – Ty Rutledge will start at quarterback this year. “Ty is just a great overall athlete,” said Franke. “He has a very strong arm and knows the game really well and has great leadership qualities. The kids should be able to rally behind him.”