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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Thunder make statement with blowout of Snow Canyon

Written by: Andy Griffen,

It was supposed to be a nail-biter between two teams hoping to contend for a region title. It was supposed to be a close game with playoff ramifications. It was supposed to be a lot of things. What it was, was a statement game by a determined Desert Hills Thunder squad.

DH whipped Snow Canyon 42-0 Friday night in front of an appreciative Homecoming crowd and staked a claim as one of the best teams in the region and perhaps the state.

“We played Thunder football,” quarterback Ty Rutledge said. “We played hard, hit hard and and didn’t give up. And we finally put together four quarters.”

In all truthfulness, the Thunder only needed two quarters to turn this one into a rout. With Snow Canyon’s offense being dominated by the Thunder front, Rutledge and sophomore stud running back Bridger Cowdin had plenty of opportunities to make things happen.

The pair combined for a huge night behind a spirited Desert Hills offensive line. But even without their help, the DH defense was plenty good. In fact, the Thunder D scored two touchdowns of its own.

With the score 7-0 early in the second quarter, Sil Bundy and Gabe Sewell went hard after Snow Canyon quarterback Mason Smith. Smith launched a pass, but it was stuffed by Bundy at the line. Bundy tipped the airborne ball another time before it landed in Sewell’s hands. The big sophomore cradled it and danced untouched the 25 yards into the end zone with Bundy as his escort.

It’s certainly a good night when the head coach doesn’t know who to give the game ball to.

“The offensive line,” Carl Franke said. “But the defense got the shutout. And Ty made some great decisions tonight. Bridger ran hard. It was just a great team win.”

The defense set up another score just before halftime. On one of Snow Canyon’s deepest penetrations of the game, the Warriors got to the Thunder 38-yard line with 45 seconds left in the half. With Desert Hills already ahead 21-0, the Warriors were desperately trying to get on the board before halftime. But Smith pass sailed high and Rutledge, playing free safety, easily picked off the errant throw. The senior then criss-crossed the field in an exhilarating return that covered 72 yards and ended when he was forced out of bounds at the Snow Canyon 8-yard line. On the next play, Rutledge found Josh Anderson in the corner of the end zone for an easy six points. That made it 28-0 with just seconds left in the second quarter.

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Rutledge carries DH over Panthers

Written by: Paul Delos Santos, The Spectrum

It became awfully apparent early that Desert Hills had a little more offensive flexibility than its crosstown rival.

The Thunder used a healthy balance of running and passing to their advantage, racking up 420 yards of total offense (196 passing, 224 rushing) as part of a 28-7 victory over Pine View on Friday at Thunder Stadium.

“We have the athletes and we play as a team,” Desert Hills coach Carl Franke said. “We wore them down with the passing game a little bit, and ran them out of the gym so to speak.

“When they’re believing in what they’re doing, they do amazing things.”

The win improves Desert Hills to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 9 play. The Panthers dropped to 2-3 and 0-2 in region play.

Quarterback Ty Rutledge, once again, was a complete package. He went 9-for-18 passing for 196 yards with two touchdowns. He also beat the Panthers with his legs, rushing for 156 yards on 16 carries, including an 80-yard scamper to cap his 352-yard day.

“I’ve been saying it all year, and nobody believes me when I’m saying it, ‘Ty Rutlege is the best athlete in Region 9,’” Franke said. “He could be one of the best athletes in the state. Nobody believes me until they see him play.”

Rutledge, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Friday, admitted he couldn’t sleep the night before, adding that the game against Pine View always brings out the best in his team.

“We match up OK with them. They’re bigger than us, but we use our speed to the best of our abilities,” Rutledge said. “The win feels great.”

While Rutledge’s numbers are impressive on paper, it was two big plays that contributed to his big night.

In the second quarter, Rutledge found Brad Wulfenstein (three catches, 100 yards) for a 77-yard touchdown, which was his second passing touchdown of the night.

Then with the Thunder firmly in control late in the fourth with a 21-7 lead, Rutledge ran to the left side of the field, got a great block from Keenan Wittwer, setting him free for an 80-yard score.

“That last run was all on the line, and Keenan Wittwer made two huge blocks to spring me free,” Rutledge said. “It was fun.”

Pine View’s workhorse back Prentiss Miller played the role again against the Thunder. He carried the ball 29 times for 142 yards with a touchdown. But outside of his 46-yard scoring scamper, Miller had to work for all of his yardage against a stout effort from the Desert Hills

“We had to shut him down,” Rutledge said of Miller. “We focused on our keys. We were told to stop by our d-coordinator, and that’s what we did.”

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Thunder Rain on Canyon View’s parade

Written by: Andy Griffin,

You can make a list of the best players in Region 9 that would include Pine View’s Prentiss Miller, Dixie’s Blake Barney and Hurricane’s Adam Thompson.

But however short the list is, Desert Hills quarterback Ty Rutledge had better be on it.

The senior signal-caller had a transcendent night Friday night, passing for three touchdowns and rushing for three more in the Thunder’s 56-7 victory over Canyon View in Cedar City.

Desert Hills, 2-1, got the party started early with a 59-yard TD run by sophomore Bridger Cowdin. Rutledge had two of his TD runs, scores of 58 and 3 yards, in the first quarter as the Thunder amassed a ton of yardage and 27 points before the first 12 minutes had ticked off the clock.

The second quarter featured more of the same as the Thunder scored 22 more before halftime. Rutledge spread the ball around well, connecting on TD passes to Josh Anderson (42 yards), Brad Wulfenstein (23) and Jordan Hokanson (10).

Rutledge’s last TD came on a run of 28 yards.

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Rutledge runs wild in Thunder rout

Written by: Rick Gillespie, The Spectrum

Being last year’s 3A state runner-up, you wouldn’t think people would have a hard time recognizing the Desert Hills football team.

But the Thunder came into Cedar City on Friday on a mission to introduce themselves to Region 9.

“The kids set a goal this week that they wanted to tell everyone who we really were,” Thunder coach Carl Franke said. “They want to prove to everyone that they’re as good as they really are.”

Any doubters were quickly silenced as Desert Hills exploded in its region opener against Canyon View by crushing the Falcons 56-7.

Ty Rutledge threw touchdowns of 10, 23 and 42 yards and ran for three more as the Thunder scored on their first eight possessions and put the game away before the first quarter had ended.

“We worked hard this week,” Rutledge said while refusing to take any credit for the win, instead giving all the praise to his line. “It was all linemen in this game. They worked really hard (tonight). They put up those 56 points, not us skill guys.”

Desert Hills’ offensive line made itself known on the game’s first play, opening a hole for running back Bridger Cowdin, who ran 60 yards to paydirt to give the Thunder a quick lead and quiet the previously rowdy Falcon home crowd.

Desert Hills then proceeded to put on a clinic in efficiency, gaining yardage in large chunks and moving the ball at will against an outsized Canyon View defense.

Three drives totaling 11 plays that saw Rutledge run for three scores widened the Thunder’s lead to 27-0 before the first quarter was over.

The highlight of the scoring blitz was a 58-yard scamper with 4:38 to go that showed just how mobile Rutledge can be.

“It was supposed to be a pass, but it ended up a blown play,” Rutledge said. “The outside (linebacker) came off the edge and I had to try and make him miss. Luckily I got into the end zone.”

Canyon View finally got on the board in the second quarter when Koy Huxford hit Keaton Kringlen over the middle and Kringlen outran the Thunder’s defense in a 56-yard foot race to the end zone.

But touchdown passes on the Thunder’s next three possessions blew the game wide open and gave Desert Hills a 49-7 halftime lead.

Rutledge finished the game with 139 yards on 5-of-7 passing and sat the second half out as the replacements took the field.

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Thunder stays cool, clobbers visiting West

Written by Jeff Ames on August 31, 2012

“Football is an emotional game,” Thunder coach Carl Franke said. “It was emotional for both sides. The key is to have discipline and play under control. I thought our guys did that tonight.”

Desert Hills started out with a bang, scoring off its first drive in less than three minutes. Quarterback Ty Rutledge, who made his home debut in the role, escaped two tackles near the end zone and tossed a short pass to Jordan Hokanson for the quick score.

The Thunder took less than two minutes to score on the ensuing possession. Rutledge found Josh Anderson cruising down midfield and hit him with a perfectly thrown 30-yard pass that set up the Thunder quarterback’s first rushing touchdown of the game. After Andrew Yergensen’s extra point, Desert Hills led 14-0.

And that was just the first quarter.

“We came out prepared for 300 (pounds) all across the line,” Brad Wulfenstein said. “We used our quickness to beat their size.”

With less than two minutes to go in the second quarter, West started getting physical. A total of 30 minutes passed before the first half ended due to various penalties thrown at the visiting team. A total of seven penalties were called during that span, including an ejection and a personal foul on each team.

“It hurts to get hit,” Wulfenstein said. “You don’t like it and you say a few words. We did well, though, and kept our cool.”

That “cool” was evident in the second half. Desert Hills stormed onto the field and scored on its first possession, courtesy of a few more penalties called against the visiting team. Rutledge finished off the drive with another beautiful 50-yard pass to Wulfenstein, who burned his defender and strolled into the end zone.

West then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Stephen Heo recovered on the Panthers 34-yard line. Rutledge then carried the ball to the 17-yard line, then found Wulfenstein near the six. Bridger Cowdin finished the drive by carrying the ball through West’s tattered defense for the score.

After the extra point, Desert Hills held a commanding 28-0 lead.

The Panthers managed a field goal, but Rutledge answered with his second rushing touchdown of the night to cap the score off at 35-3.

“Ty is the best athlete in Region 9,” Franke said. “I know he’s my boy, but he’s the best athlete, bar-none. He’s mobile and does a great job getting out of the pocket and watching for plays downfield. He did a great job tonight.”

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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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