Thunder overpower Panthers in blowout

Written by Garrett Faylor For The Spectrum & Daily News

Desert Hills did get it first preseason win, but who knows if it’ll ever be able to get the yellow out of that turf.

Flags by the dozens were thrown Friday night as the Thunder took on the West Panthers.

Two West players were ejected, five touchdowns were called back, and the final two minutes of the first half stretched into nearly 15. There was so much back-and-forth action that at times it was difficult to tell who had the ball and where they were going.

The only way to keep track of what was going on was to pay attention to quarterback Ty Rutledge, who was responsible for four touchdowns in Desert Hills’ 35-3 rout of West.

“I give the credit to our linemen, and the receivers, they kept working,” said Rutledge, the wide receiver turned quarterback.

After a West four-and-out, Rutledge took over on his own 25. The senior quarterback connected with receiver Jordan Hokanson for a 20-yard gain on the first play. After getting into Panther territory, Rutledge connected with Brad Wulfenstein who laid out for a 32-yard catch.

Rutledge capped the drive after he avoided heavy pressure and scrambled before finding Hokanson for the 5-yard touchdown pass.

Flags and fumbles came in droves throughout the remainder of the game, but when Rutledge was under center, he and the Thunder made things happen.

“He’s the best athlete in Region 9. I’ll put him up there with anybody,” said Carl Franke, after winning his first game as Desert Hills’ head coach.

Rutledge went was 7-of-13 passing for 143 yards and two touchdowns. His second passing TD came on the opening drive of the second half — a 51 yarder to Wulfenstein. Rutledge also ran the ball 52 yards and picked up two more scores on the ground.

“Those (West) kids are way bigger than we are, but we worked harder than them,” said Rutledge.

West started out with 10 of its first 12 plays running the ball, which didn’t surprise Franke.

“When their smallest guy up front is 6-foot-2, 280 (pounds), you know they’re going to want to pound the ball on you,” said Franke. “We really focused on being fast and physical. You don’t have to be big to be punishing.”

Desert Hills came hard at the Panthers, causing a handful of fumbles, picking up two and grabbing an interception. The Thunder defense held West to only 32 total yards in the first half and a field goal in the third quarter.

“Last year we worked hard. We’re going to work even harder this year, and hopefully get to that championship game, and we’re not going to lose this time,” said Rutledge.

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