SALT LAKE CITY – The Desert Hills Thunder are in their fourth year of existence and are already in the state championship game. The Thunder will take on the Hurricane Tigers tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the campus of the University of Utah.
The Thunder have to put a 35-8 week 9 loss to the Tigers behind them. They were able to do that last week, beating the Cedar Redman 23-12 in the semi-finals after losing to the Redman in the last week of the season.
The Thunder started the season with a 14-12 loss to 5A Syracuse before beating Moapa Valley 24-0 in the home opener. The Thunder continued their great defense beating North Sanpete 46-14.
The Thunder started Region play with a 39-2 win over Canyon View and a close 21-14 win over Pine View. At that point of the season, the Thunder defense had not giving up more than 14 points in a game.
The Thunder game against cross-town rival Dixie was their first come-from-behind victory. The Thunder scored four straight touchdowns coming from behind to beat Dixie 41-38.
The next week the Thunder traveled to Snow Canyon High School to play the Snow Canyon Warriors. The Thunder had to come from behind for the second week in a row to beat the Warriors 24-21.
The win against the Warriors set up a Region championship game against the Tigers. The Tigers ran over the Thunder 35-8 earlier in the season and had their starters on the bench most of the second half.
The Thunder went from a Region championship game to a game that was being played for second, third or fourth. A Thunder win in the last game of the season over the Cedar Redman would have given the Thunder the two seed in the state playoffs, a loss and a coin flip would decide what place the Thunder would finish.
Missing a handful of starters, the Thunder lost that last game to the Redman 48-20, setting up the coin flip. The Thunder lost the game but won the flip, taking the second seed in the state tournament and were able to host their first round game.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Thunder had their whole team back. The Thunder beat Park City 34-14.
In the second round, the Thunder had to travel north to take on Stansbury. The Thunder won the game but starting quarterback Porter Harris broke a finger on his throwing hand.
The state semi-finals were moved to Dixie College. The Thunder took on Cedar who beat them just four weeks before. Harris started the game but could not finish because of his finger. Backup Nate Brinker came in and threw two touchdowns to beat the Redman 23-21.
Players to Watch
Quarterbacks Porter Harris and Nate Brinker. Harris has thrown for 1,386 yards and 12 touchdowns. Harris also ran for seven rushing touchdowns. Brinker has thrown for four touchdowns on the season – two came last week.
Running back Mike Needham is going to be key in this game because of the weather. The running game and turnovers will be the keys in this one. Needham has 13 touchdowns this season and averages 96.4 yards per game.
Wide receiver Ty Rutledge got hurt in the first meeting against the Tigers and missed a few weeks after that. Rutledge has eight touchdowns on the season.
On defense the Thunder are led by what some say are the two best defensive players in 3A: Peter Brown and Bud Pope. Brown leads the team in tackles with 100 and Pope leads the team in interceptions with five. Brinker also plays on defense and he leads the team with 8.5 sacks
Blake’s Take: The Thunder don’t have enough firepower. Hurricane wins their first state championship.
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