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Thunder clinch Region 9 crown in rout

Written by Jeff Ames, The Spectrum

No one expected Desert Hills to hoist the Region 9 trophy at season’s end. Instead, all eyes focused on defending state champion Hurricane and flashy, speedy offensive-minded Dixie.

Yet after routing Cedar 42-14 Wednesday night, the Thunder stood at midfield holding the coveted region crown.

The win gave Desert Hills a 5-1 record on the season, which put them in a tie with Hurricane. Thanks to last week’s 46-38 triple-overtime victory over the Tigers, however, the Thunder claimed the top spot.

“I’ve said it from the get-go,” Thunder coach Carl Franke said. “Most people expected us to finish fourth at best. But I knew the type of kids I had. They believe in each other and believe in this family.”

Desert Hills will host its first ever home playoff game next week against either Payson or Delta. Quarterback Ty Rutledge has played a large role in making this so.

The senior, who was reintroduced to the quarterback position following a prolonged absence from under center, completed 8-of-13 passes for two touchdowns and 222 yards. He also had two turnovers, including a red zone interception, but managed to overcome those obstacles en route to the win.

“He’s MVP of the region,” Franke said. “I don’t care what anybody says. He wants others to succeed. Sometimes he gets down on himself if he doesn’t produce and I have to tell him to settle down. But he wants his team to succeed. He doesn’t care about himself.”

The game looked like it might provide some genuine excitement in the first quarter. Cedar tore through the Thunder defense and capped off a six-minute drive with a touchdown that gave the Redmen an early 7-0 lead.

“Cedar came out in a double tight,” Franke said. “They kind of surprised us with that. We had to make some adjustments, and (defensive coordinator) Nick Hansen did a good job making those changes.”

With the home crowd slightly aghast, Desert Hills took the field looking to make some noise. Right on cue, sophomore Bridger Cowdin collected the ensuing kickoff and burned Cedar’s defense with a 90-yard touchdown return that shifted the momentum back to the home team.

“Since Monday I said I wanted a kickoff return,” Cowdin said. “I even wrote it down five times. Tonight, I saw a hole and my blockers gave me some room. I couldn’t have done anything without them.”

From that point on, the Thunder maintained control on both sides of the ball. After Sil Bundy recovered a fumble — his first of two recoveries on the night — Rutledge and Cowdin took over Desert Hills’ run game and scored with 5:27 to go in the half off a quarterback sneak on the 1.

Later, with the half winding down, Rutledge scrambled to evade Cedar’s defense, and managed to hurl a long pass to the end zone into the waiting arms of Keenan Wittwer.

The Thunder entered halftime leading 28-7.

The onslaught didn’t abate in the second half. Rutledge single-handedly drove the length of the field and dished off to Jordan Hokanson for an easy 11-yard touchdown.

Desert Hills’ defense also wanted a peace of the pie and rushed Cedar quarterback Morgan Garrett, forcing him to fumble the snap. Defensive end Gabriel Sewell collected the loose ball and rumbled 40 yards to make it 42-7.

Garrett collected himself enough to throw a 65-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mike Hourigan, but it was too little too late for the Redmen, who exit the season with just one victory.

“They have a great program,” Franke said of Cedar. “I have a lot of respect for them.”

When the final horn sounded, Desert Hills’ student body stormed the field and celebrated with the Region 9 champions.

“No one expected us to win,” Rutledge said. “Those same people will probably say we won’t win our next game too. We’re the underdogs the rest of the way.”


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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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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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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 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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Thunder in the Night

by David Cordero, The Spectrum 11/12/11

“Against Hurricane, Rutledge sustained a mulit-faceted injury in which he strained his groin muscle, tore a hip muscle in multiple places and ripped a tendon in his leg. The fallout from the malady: He missed a grand total of one game. Rutledge, whose pain tolerance makes his teammates marvel, leaped into the St. George night and corralled Brinker’s pass for a 33-yard score as Desert Hills regained the lead 17-14 with 11:52 to go. ‘I was supposed to be a lot more open than I was, but you have to fight for the ball,’ said Rutledge, who is amazed at how fast he healed. ‘I just ended up catching it and I was right in the end zone.’ “

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Thunder revel in first home playoff win in program’s history

by Paul Delos Santos, The Specturm 10/29/11

“Two weeks ago Desert Hills junior Ty Rutledge suffered what appeared to be a season ending injury against Hurricane. He tore a hip and groin muscle, which included an avulsion, meaning the tendon took a piece of bone with it. The doctors initially told Rutledge that he would be out for 12 weeks, but the number didn’t sit well with the junior wide reciever. So instead of 12 weeks, Rutledge miraculously returned to action in 12 days. He was cleared to play on Thursday, and on Friday he paid major dividends, helping the Thunder secure a spot in the 3A state quarter finals with a 34-14 hammering of Park City at Thunder Stadium.

‘I didn’t really believe that (I would be out 12 weeks). I was always feeling good since it happened,’ said Rutledge, who snagged four catches for 93 yards with two touchdowns. ‘I just trained, got tested and did phyiscal therapy. A lot of credit has to go to (the training staff and doctors). I owe them a lot.’ Rutledge was held out of contact drills during the week, wearing a red jersey signaling he couldn’t be hit during practice. If there were any ill effects from the injury, Rutledge didn’t show any and wasn’t slowed down. His impeccable progress served as inspiration to many of the Thunder players. ‘He came out and wanted to work,” senior Bud Pope said. ‘He was working the whole practice. He’s a tough (kid).’

The Thunder will play Stansbury…in the next round. But focusing on the next game will have to wait as the Thunder will cherish the school’s first ever home playoff victory, and more importantly, it allowed the senior class to experience victory on their home field….Rutledge, ‘Our seniors deserved it. The only thing was a home-field win last time they played. It was huge to get a win. I’m sure the home crowd loved it also.’

Senior (QB) Porter Harris…continually looked for Rutledge downfield, connecting with the junior on a 54-yard bomb to set up a Rutledge 9-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. The duo hooked up again with less than four minutes to play, when Harris, after a brief scramble, found a wide-open Rutledge waiting in the end zone. ‘It felt like 15 seconds before the ball got to me. Thankfully, I caught it and we scored,’ Rutledge said. Added Harris: ‘First we went out and grind the clock down. (After a timeout,) Ty comes into the huddle and says, ‘We can run this play.’ We trusted him and ran the play.’ “

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