ST. GEORGE – The rubber pellets embedded beneath the artificial turf at the Desert Hills High School football stadium heated up, giving off a distinct rubber smell as the boys’ soccer team concluded its practice.
The players concluded their post-practice stretching and shook the hands of each member of the coaching staff and then walked off the field. This ritual has become customary during the Thunder’s undefeated season, and it was necessary to continue with Bear River High School coming to town the next day to begin the Utah State 3A Playoffs.
Desert Hills coach Logan Fielding said the post-practice handshake is a sign of respect toward the players.
“I want to let the boys know we appreciate each and every one of them,” Fielding said. “We’ll look them in the eye and let them know we care.”
The Thunder have won 14 games on the season and have one tie. However, Fielding said the pressure of being undefeated hasn’t really gotten to the players too much.
“There’s a little bit of pressure,” he said. “But I think on the flip side the boys have really bought into it instead of being the team that has to deal with handling all the pressure. We’ve tried to take [being undefeated] and run with it. It’s actually been really good for us.”
Bear River comes into the game against the Thunder as the No. 4 seed out of Region 11. The Bears have a 7-7 record on the season.
Fielding said he hopes to use speed against the Bears to win the game, but he also hopes the heat of St. George will do its part to wear down the Bears.
“I know they’re going to be a physical team,” he said. “They’ve got some big, strong kids. The ball rolls a lot faster on [turf]. That can be advantage for us. It’s always nice to have that home field the first couple games. It’s going to be hot, and I think that’s going to be an advantage too.”
Fielding said the reason the team has been so dominant is that he can’t think of one player who has done everything for the team.
“As a team we’ve all stepped up,” he said. “I don’t think I can single any player out.”
The boys’ soccer game takes place at Desert Hills High School on Thursday, May 5, at 4 p.m. The winner of this game will face the winner of the game between Richfield High School and Park City High School on Saturday. If the Thunder win, then they will host that game on Saturday.
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