ST. GEORGE – Two backups helped rally the Desert Hills Thunder past the Cedar Redman 23-21 Friday night at the sold-out Hansen Stadium on the campus of Dixie St. College.
Thunder backup quarterback Nate Brinker came in midway thru the third quarter to replace starting quarterback Porter Harris who has a broken finger on his throwing hand. Brinker was very efficient going 3-4 for 65 yards and two touchdowns.
Thunder backup wide reviver Cole Kiser came into the game with only four receptions, 44 yards and one touchdown all season long. Kiser had a career night with five catches and two touchdowns.
The Thunder also had their star players step up as well. Running back Mike Needham had 165 yards rushing and wide receiver Ty Rutledge had 96 yards receiving and a touchdown.
When talking about the Thunder defense two names always come to mind: linebacker Peter Brown and defensive back Bud Pope. Brown led the team with five tackles and a fumble recovery, and Pope had four tackles and three interceptions.
Redman quarterback John Ursua was brilliant on the ground – breaking tackles, eluding defenders looking like a running back on a video game with 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries. Ursua scored runs on 44 and 68 yards. The problem for Ursua was not the running game, it was the passing game. Ursua only threw for nine yards two interceptions
Cedar jumped out to an early lead on an Ursua 44-yard touchdown run. Thunder starting quarterback Harris found Kiser on a six yard pass to tie the game up at seven. The Thunder added a field goal before the half and the Thunder took a 10-7 half time lead.
The third quarter was much like the first; the only touchdown was an Ursua touchdown run from 68-yards away to put the Redman up 14-10
Thunder backup Brinker threw his first of two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Brinker found Rutledge on a 33-yard pass to give the Thunder the lead for good 17-14. Brinker would later hit Kiser on a 10-yard strike to put the Thunder up 23-14 after the Redman blocked the extra point.
The Redman took over with just under five minutes remaining, but on the third play Ursua threw another interception and the Thunder were able to run some more time off the clock.
The Thunder were not able to run much time off the clock as the Redman defense stepped up and not only held the Thunder to a three and out, but sacked the Thunder quarterback for the fifth time in the game knocking the Thunder out of field-goal range.
The Redman took over with the ball at their 14-yard line. On first down Ursua dodged and dipped his way around tacklers gaining 38 yards getting the ball to midfield, a 15-yard personal foul moved the ball into Thunder territory. Two plays later, the Redman pulled more trickery out of the hat scoring a touchdown on a wide receiver reverse pass to pull the Redman within two.
With one timeout and the score 23-21 and only 2:30 left on the game clock, the Redman had to stop the Thunder right away. Thunder running back Needham ran the clock out on five consecutive runs getting two first downs and running the clock out.
The Thunder will take on the Hurricane Tigers in the State Championship game Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 6:30 p.m. There has been talk about moving the game back to Hansen Stadium but a television contract is holding that up.
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