3AA Championship: Thunder-mania as D-Hills wins it on last play

Desert Hills won the 3AA state championship | File photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY – Who could ask for anything better than the state championship coming down to one play?

Desert Hills scored a touchdown on the last play of the game and Logan Callister added the extra point as the Thunder stunned rival Pine View 28-27 to capture the 2016 3AA state championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

desert-hills-logopine-view-logoQuinn Kiser improvised on a play that was supposed to be a dive run to Marco Jordan, rolling away from trouble and then shot-putting a last-gasp pass to wide receiver Gavin Young as the clock rolled down to 0:00.

“None of that was planned because they blew up the play we were supposed to run,” Kiser said. “I was supposed to give it to Marco, but No. 43 (Pine View’s Paul Vondincklage) came flying down unblocked, untouched. So I just reversed out and I saw Gavin and I just flung it to him. I didn’t even throw it, I flung it.”

Desert Hills' Quinn Kiser (5) makes an improvised jump pass for the game winning touchdown, Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills’ Quinn Kiser (5) makes an improvised jump pass for the game winning touchdown, Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Kiser was being chased by a Panther linebacker, but thought he had the edge to run it into the end zone. That’s when the cornerback, who had been guarding Young, left the wideout and sprinted to Kiser.

“I didn’t even see the kid who hit me,” Kiser said. “I thought I was going to run in. Then he hit me and I just looked to my right … then I just flung it to him and the rest is history.”

Several Thunder players rushed onto the field, but were quickly ushered off after the TD. After all the score was still tied. Then Callister came on for the kick with no time on the clock. The sophomore came out and nailed it right down the middle for the game-winning point.

“This whole week our coach said ‘Leave no doubt,’ and I’m pretty sure throughout my four years and my performances I left no doubt,” Sewell said. “I’m really grateful for my team for fighting throughout the whole game.  I mean we could have easily let them run over us, but we kept fighting.”

The game bore an eerie resemblance to the 2013 championship game, when Desert Hills used all the clock and scored on the last play to win it 27-21.

Desert Hills' Nephi Sewell (2), Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills’ Nephi Sewell (2), Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“This game is the most eerie game because it was so similar to the last one,” DH coach Carl Franke said. “In the last one, we had Bridger Cowden go down with a cramp and couldn’t run that ball in at the end. And this time we wanted to go back to that wildcat. We were going to run a different play off of it because the focus on Nephi, but he had to come out of the game. I’m glad I had that time out left. Because of that cramp, we had to put Quinn back in there and run a different play.”

The situation leading up to the winning score was much different this time, however. For one, Desert Hills had to rally from a 27-14 deficit in the fourth quarter. And in 2013, if DH failed to score on that last play, the game would have gone to overtime. This year, it was all or nothing on that final play.

“It’s two incredibly well-coached, talented teams that know each other so well, playing each other for the second time in the year and it’s so difficult to win,” Franke said. “They had every right to win that game as well today.”

The underdog Panthers had an excellent game plan and took a 20-14 lead at halftime on the strength of running back Jacob Mpungi (115 rushing yards, two TDs) and speedy slotback Lance Mandrigues (53 receiving yards, two TDs). Mandrigues’ 22-yard grab on a post pass from Ryan Javines capped a nine-play, 47-yard drive just before halftime. However, Desert Hills defender Giovanni Viafanua snuck through the Pine View line and blocked the extra point try by Conner Brooksby.

Still, the Thunder looked like they were in big trouble at the start of the second half when Kiser was intercepted by Panther linebacker Zack Spendlove. The turnover quickly turned into a 13-point Pine View lead when Javines and Mandrigues hooked up again, this time from 16-yards out. Pine View elected to kick for one after the TD, making it 27-14 with 9:35 left in the third quarter.

Pine View's Ryan Javines (15), Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Pine View’s Ryan Javines (15), Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Brock Parry, who was beaten on the two TDs to Mandrigues, got a little vengeance when he intercepted Javines late in the third quarter inside the Thunder 20-yard line, keeping it a 13-point game.

In the fourth quarter, the Thunder put star running back Nephi Sewell at quarterback in the wildcat formation and the move impacted the game immediately. Sewell guided D-Hills 70 yards on four plays. Sewell had a 53-yard run on the drive and Kiser came in after Sewell was cramping up to finish the drive with an 8-yard TD run. That made it 27-21 with 10:53 left in the game. The drive took just 55 seconds.

Pine View had several chances to put the game on ice in the fourth, but Desert Hills’ defense stepped up every time.

“It was insane,” said Thunder defensive back Ryan Hoppie. “We had to make the stops. We had to get our keys. We had that stop and we were getting that punt return and then that muffed punt – but we got the chance and stopped them  and marched down the field and got that last second touchdown.”

In what turned out to be the Panthers’ last possession of the game, PV got the ball at midfield after the muffed punt by Young. But the Thunder D forced a three-and-out, giving D-Hills the ball at its own 18-yard line with 7:48 left in the game.

Sewell had a 38-yard run and Kiser hit Braxton Porter on a 16-yard pass as the Thunder began to move the ball and chew clock.

Pine View's Lance Mandrigues (1), Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Pine View’s Lance Mandrigues (1), Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“The biggest thing was we didn’t want to give the ball back to their offense so quickly so we were trying to pound the ball,” Franke said. “But they had so many guys in the box, it was just so difficult running and a couple of times we just got behind the sticks. So in the fourth quarter, I felt like Nephi in the wildcat spreading the field and running around was an advantage to us and a big momentum changer.”

With the clock under two minutes and Sewell in and out of the lineup with dehydration and cramping issues, Desert Hills looked like it was in trouble, facing a fourth-and-9 at the Pine View 16-yard line. Sewell rolled right and was going to try a throwback screen to Parry. But the play was covered well by Pine View and Sewell tried to scramble. On the broken play, Pine View bottled Sewell up. As he reversed field, a Panther raked Sewell across the facemask, keeping the drive alive.

It resulted in a penalty to the 10-yard line, but that foul is not an automatic first down in high school, so DH still faced a fourth-and-3 from the 10. With Sewell collapsed on the sideline, Kiser ran a keeper on the big play and his offensive line created enough room for a first down at the 5.

With the clock rolling, Pine View elected to not use its final timeout and the Thunder ran three plays to get the ball to the 1-yard line. The Thunder used their final timeout with four seconds left, setting up the climactic improvisation by Kiser and Young.

“It’s emotional for me and it couldn’t have been written up any better,” Sewell said. “A year ago, I was just watching throughout the whole season and here we are, we won ourselves a state championship.”

For Sewell, who finished with 243 rushing yards on 24 carries and two TDs, it was the completion of an epic personal journey in which he went from a broken neck 14 1/2 months ago with the possibility of never playing football again to being the MVP of the 3AA championship game.

Desert Hills' Nephi Sewell (2) is overcome with emotion as he hugs the championship trophy, Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills’ Nephi Sewell (2) is overcome with emotion as he hugs the championship trophy, Desert Hills vs. Pine View, 3AA State Championship, Football, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 18, 2016, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Not being able to play with my brothers, it really was a dark place for me,” Sewell said. “And then my mom told me that there was something greater for me. Now I feel like she is my prophet or revelator. My mom has definitely helped me throughout the whole process. My parents and the whole team and everybody coming around me telling me I’ll be okay. It couldn’t be written up any better.”

After the initial Pine View score in the second half, the Thunder dominated the final 21 minutes of game time. Desert Hills outgained Pine View 204-48 after halftime and forced PV into an interception and three punts after intermission.

“Coach said, “Just play how you have been taught, what you have been practicing all week and you can stop them three-and-out,” Hoppie said. “You can’t feel any of the pain now. All the hard work. Ever since you were a kid, you wanted to be a state champ. You grow up and this – it will impact your future, just impacting your character.”

It’s another heartbreak for Pine View, which is 0-6 in state championship games. The Panthers finish the year with a 10-3 record.

Desert Hills, at 10-2, is the state champ for the second time in the past four years.

Stats: pvdh111816

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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