3AA South football: Desert Hills Thunder return key pieces to repeat as champs

ST. GEORGE – The Desert Hills Thunder football program has drawn a line in the sand and dared any team to knock the battery off its shoulder. Coach Carl Franke and his squad walk with the deserved quiet confidence of defending state champions that return several players on both sides of the ball.

dhfootLast November, the Thunder avenged its season loss to region foe Pine View with a 27-21 victory in the 3AA State Championship.Franke comes into this season with even higher expectations.

“Last year we had complete faith in our defense,” said Franke, “But on the offensive side of the ball, we had a young quarterback with no varsity experience. Our approach was control the ball and make as few mistakes as possible. This year we return the same dominant defense and an offense that has now both talent and experience.”

Desert Hills players pose with media members during the 2014 3AA South Media Day.
Desert Hills players pose with media members during the 2014 3AA South Media Day.

Junior quarterback Nick Warmsley completed 50 percent of his passes last year for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ran for 613 yards and four more touchdowns.

“Our skill players have had tremendous success in our summer programs, particularly in our 7 on 7 competitions,” said Franke. “It will be a mistake for defenses to load the box like they did against us last year.”

Senior running back Bridger Cowdin should also benefit from Warmsley’s increased experience. He returns after rushing for 1,107 yards and 13 touchdowns last year against defenses designed specifically to stop him. Cowdin will share rushing responsibilities with brothers Nephi and Gabe Sewell.

At receiver, Franke will rely on seniors Brady Kiser and Mason Palmer as well as juniors Zak Fuchs and Stetson Wood.

The Thunder offensive line will bring size, speed and experience. The line is anchored by junior center Justice Alo. He will be flanked by brothers Boogie and Bundy Sewell at guards. Ethan Del Toro and Jake Nisson will start at tackle.

Gabe Sewell
Gabe Sewell

On defense, the Thunder return arguably the best defensive player in the state, Gabe Sewell. He was key to stanching the Pine View passing attack in the championship game and has had standout performances in various summer camps during the off-season. He will move to safety this year, but Franke plans to use him as a rover, much like Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu. Leading tackler Tucker Cowdin returns at linebacker.

The line will be anchored by returning starters Boogie Sewell and Alo.

The Thunder open the season with two road games, first at Orem and then against Foothill in Henderson, Nev.

“Both of those teams run the spread offense,” said Franke. “I felt that they would be good teams to prepare us for region play this year.”

Desert Hills will then host Legacy High School from Las Vegas before beginning 3AA South play against Cedar at home Sept. 12.

“Our team goals this year are to win region, which is always tough,” said Franke. “And of course we expect to return and win the state championship this year.”

Lofty goals, but definitely not unrealistic.


media pollcoachesFans can watch the entire archived version of the 3AA Football Media Day by clicking HERE.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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