Thunder-ous charge

 

Desert Hills erases deficit, ends Hurricane win streak.

by John Renshaw, The Spectrum

The last time Desert Hills and Hurricane met on the football field, they were competing for the 2011 state championship in the elements. The Tigers got the upper hand then, but on Thursday night with similar conditions, the Thunder struck back.

Down by 21 in the third quarter, Desert Hills reeled off three unanswered touchdowns. After going back and forth in the first and second overtime, the Thunder finally got the upper hand. Quarterback Ty Rutledge rolled right, drew the defense too him, and threw cross-field to a wide-open Jordan Hokanson, who was waving his arms like a wild man in the middle of the end zone. His 4-yard touchdown catch — and ensuing two-point conversion — gave Desert Hills an impressive 46-38 triple overtime win over Region 9 rival Hurricane at Tiger Stadium.

The outcome snapped the Tigers 20-game winning streak.

“The key to stopping the Tigers is playing at the same level they are on. They are extremely disciplined and every single player on that team puts forth 110-percent effort each and every play,” said linebacker Travis LaGrone, who finished with six tackles. “We definitely remember last year. Ty Rutledge, Josh Anderson, myself and the rest of the people who were there expressed our emotions from that game to the underclassmen that weren’t there at practice all week long.”

The game was delayed by lightning twice, which combined for about 90 minutes. Overall, the game lasted four hours and 10 minutes.

Although the weather did put a damper on the field, it didn’t take away from the spirit off of it.

Hurricane honored two unique individuals — teacher Mary Janice Richmond, who is battling a debilitating illness — and former football standout Brian Scott, who is battling leukemia. The Tigers had fans dress in orange shirts (Orange Out) and teamed with local businesses to help raise funds for the two honorees and others.

Back on the field, both teams entered the anticipated matchup with plenty at stake.

Tigers coach Chris Homer said this could be the biggest game of the season for both programs, adding the playoff implications are huge, determining playoff matchups and home or road games.

Hurricane (4-1 region, 7-1 overall) could’ve clinched at least a share of the Region 9 title, and increased its winning streak to 21 games, ranking as the 14th longest in state history. Yet it wasn’t meant to be.

On their final drive in triple overtime, backup quarterback Adlai Elison — who replaced an injured Zach Prince in the second half — put his team in position to succeed. However, two drops downfield ultimately halted their drive, and secured the Thunder’s victory.

Ty Rutledge proved to be a dangerous threat after the first half.

The Desert Hills (4-1, 5-3) quarterback made big throws downfield, jet-like runs up-field, and leadership qualities of a veteran. In one of the loudest stadiums in the state, Rutledge led his team on multiple key drives to keep the Thunder’s pursuit of the Tigers in reach. He finished with 218 yards on 14-of-28 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. On top of that, Rutledge tacked on another 89 yards and two touchdowns rushing.

“Ty is a fierce competitor that makes so many things happen for them,” Homer said. “I think it’s amazing how good he has become in less than one year on the varsity level at quarterback. He can beat you on the ground and in the air.”

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