Game Preview Capsule: Payson (1-3) at Desert Hills (4-0)

Payson (1-3, 0-1) at Desert Hills (4-0, 1-0)
Previous Meeting: Desert Hills 48, Payson 21 (Oct. 26, 2012 at DH, 1st rd. of 3A playoffs)
Broadcast: KDXU-AM 890, Mike McGary and Devin Dixon on play-by-play

payson-smClassification: 3AA South Region
Coach: Jeremy Chapman (5th year, 16-26 overall)
Offense: I-back
Last game: Lost to Hurricane 32-21
Players to watch: QB Easton Smith kept Payson in the game with some decent passing last week vs. Hurricane. RBs Kyle Moffatt and Phill Perez need to have big games against Desert Hills, though that may be tough with Moffatt nursing an ankle injury. WR Preston Little is a possession guy who has good hands and needs to be used more. LB John Harmon leads the team with 35 tackles and a sack.
PPG: 20.8
PAPG: 26.8
Trend: It’s not time to panic in Payson, but three straight losses after an opening win should have them concerned, especially with undefeated Desert Hills up next. The biggest trend seems to be slow starts. The Lions trailed Provo 8-0, Salem Hills 14-0, 13-0 and Hurricane 17-0. And while they battled back to make a game of three of those (and beat Provo), that’s a habit that must be broken for Payson to succeed.

Desert-Hills-smClassification: 3AA, South Region
Coach: Carl Franke (2nd year, 12-4 overall)
Offense: Spread, pistol
Last game: Beat Cedar 25-0
Players to watch: Cedar basically told Desert Hills, “We’re stopping the run, prove you can pass.” QB Nick Warmsley took the opportunity and threw four TD passes. Exciting WRs Jordan Hokanson, Mason Palmer and Braden Reber made it easy with lots of YAC yardage. RB Bridger Cowdin had just 50 yards last week and has dropped to second in 3AA in rushing yards and TDs.
PPG: 20.8
PAPG: 4.8
Trend: In four games, the Thunder have two shutouts and have allowed a total of 19 points and two touchdowns. The defense is that good. Plus, sophomore QB Warmsley seems to be getting more comfortable despite his youth. It is refreshing to see DH beat Cedar with the passing game, instead of trying to beat the door down with Cowdin, who was the sole focus of the Redmen’s defense last week. The Thunder are developing a ball control/tough defense plan that has worked for years for teams like Juan Diego and Hurricane, both former state champs.

Where, oh where, will Payson go to get points in this game? The Lions are going to have to pass the ball, because DH always stuffs the run. That means the pressure will be on Smith, who is improving, but hasn’t seen a defense like this one. Meanwhile, the Thunder will try and make sure Cowdin is back on top of the rushing leaders list in a game that could get ugly. This may be a season-defining game for the Lions. If they can hang with Desert Hills, maybe they can make some noise this year.

STGnews (record) PREDICTION
Andy Griffin (22-2) — Desert Hills
Darren Cole (17-7) — Desert Hills
Parry’s spread: DH by 34

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