STANSBURY PARK — Stansbury may want to look for a new formula for playoff success. Playing a southern Utah team at home in the quarterfinals is just not working.
Friday night, Desert Hills eliminated the Stallions from the playoffs with a 31-14 victory, just as they did in 2011 and like Dixie did last season. It was Stansbury’s second loss this season to the Thunder.
A rejuvenated and energized Desert Hills defensive line kept Stansbury from putting together any kind of offensive threat. The Stallions’ lone offensive touchdown came off a 1-yard plunge from Josh Mulivai.
Even with the DH defense hounding and harassing the Stansbury offense, it was a close game in the first half. The Thunder led 7-0 early after Landon Broadhead exploded for a 41-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It was the second time in the last three games Broadhead had busted off a long TD run in the first quarter.
The Thunder advantage swelled to 10-0 after a 37-yard field goal by Hunter Spray, but that’s when the Stallions would make their run.
Mulivai capped Stansbury’s lone long drive in the game with his short score, making it 10-7 midway through the second quarter.
Desert Hills drove down the field in an effort to pad its lead, but QB Nick Warmsley was intercepted on a pass across the field by SHS linebacker Landon Stice. It was his first interception of the year, but the junior knew what to do with it, sprinting 74 yards for the go-ahead score. After a dominant first half, the Thunder found themselves going into the locker room with a 14-10 deficit.
Instead of stewing about it, Desert Hills came out in the second half on a mission. The Thunder took the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field. Bridger Cowdin capped the long drive with a juking 18-yard run for a TD to give the Thunder the lead back — and as it turns out, for good.
A Stallions fumble led to another score for DH as Warmsley kept it for a 12-yard TD run. A two-point conversion run by Cowdin made it 25-14 with the third quarter winding down.
With the defense hitting its stride, Desert Hills managed to ice the game with a Gabe Sewell score midway through the fourth quarter.
The Thunder, 9-2, will return to the state semifinals for the third consecutive year. Last season, the Ty Rutledge-led squad lost to Spanish Fork in the semis. Two years ago, Desert Hills played in the championship game, but lost to state champion Hurricane.
DH will play Friday morning at Rice Eccles Stadium against 3AA South foe Dixie. The Flyers beat the Thunder 27-7 on Oct. 4 at Thunder Stadium. Friday’s winner will play the winner of Pine View and Juan Diego on Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m. for the 3AA state championship.
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