ST. GEORGE – The Bear River Bears saw their five-game win streak come to an end at the hands of the Desert Hills Thunder, losing convincingly 56-13. The Thunder, coming off an opening round bye in the playoffs, ended any suspense early by putting up 28 points in the first quarter.
On the second play from scrimmage, Desert Hills running back Gabe Sewell broke a 55-yard run off tackle to put the Thunder up 7-0. After a three-and-out by the Bears, Thunder quarterback Nick Warmsley would capitalize quickly on a 3-yard burst up the middle to put Desert Hills up 14-0 at the 7:48 mark.
Things could have digressed much quicker for the Bears. After forcing another punt the Thunder was back in Bear River’s red zone. However Warmsley’s pass was intercepted by cornerback Jordan Sanchez in the end zone after wide receiver Mason Palmer lost his footing. “I saw Mason stumble just as I threw it,” said Warmsley. “There’s not much you can do when that happens.”
The Thunder was able to hold the Bears once again to a three-and-out. On Desert Hills’ next possession, Sewell would get his second touchdown, this time from 19 yards.
The Bears offense would continue its frustration, failing to reach a first down on its next possession. After a punt, Warmsley found Bridger Cowdin on a perfectly executed screen pass. With four blockers in front of him Cowdin raced 61 yards to the end zone, putting Desert Hills up 28-0 in the first quarter.
After another three-and-out by the Bears, Warmsley took little time to get the Thunder in scoring position. He connected with Brady Kiser for a 46-yard pass to the Bears 5-yard line. Two plays later, the junior QB was flushed from the pocket and rolled to his right. “I saw Mason open again,” Warmsley said. “But he fell down. Again! I tucked the ball and started to run, but his man came off towards me and Mason got up. I was able to get the ball to him.”
The 5-yard touchdown catch put Desert Hills up 35-0 before Bear River would even get a first down. That would change on the next Bear possession. Bear River quarterback Walker Riley finally put together strikes to his receivers and drove his team down the field. He found wide receiver Cole Fronk from 15 yards out to get the Bears on the scoreboard. They trailed 35-7 with 6:48 left in the first half.
The Thunder had its second turnover on the next possession when Nephi Sewell took a pass from Warmsley in the flats, turned and took a direct shot from the Bear defender. The ball popped loose and Bear River recovered inside its own 20-yard line to prevent the hot Desert Hills attack from scoring. “I didn’t think I ever had possession of the ball,” said Sewell. “But regardless, it was a good defensive play.”
The Thunder defense would again force a quick punt by the Bear offense. Cowdin would get his second touchdown, this time on the ground from 19 yards out to put the Thunder up 42-7. Nephi Sewell intercepted Riley on the Bears next possession to close out the half.
On the Thunder’s first possession after halftime, Cowdin mishandled a pitch from Warmsley and the Thunder had its third turnover, putting the Bear offense in great field position at the Desert Hills 27-yard line. Riley found wide receiver Bridger Beus on the next play on a fade to the corner. The PAT snap was faulty and the Bears deficit narrowed to 42-13.
The ensuing onside kick was unsuccessful. On the Thunder’s next set of downs, they faced a fourth-and-inches at the 43-yard line. Coach Carl Franke put in his “Jumbo” formation, featuring big defensive lineman Boogie Sewell in the backfield. Warmsley took the shotgun snap and followed Boogie Sewell and Gabe Sewell on an inside run. Warmsley burst through and raced the distance to paydirt. The lead had grown to 49-13.
The Bears turned the ball over on their next possession. The last play of the third quarter saw Thunder linebacker Badge Morris burst through the line and recover a faulty pitch to give Desert Hills possession. Cowdin capitalized quickly, finding the end zone with 10:07 left on a 25-yard run.
With a 56-13 lead, Franke substituted liberally. The fourth quarter became a back-and-forth on field position for the two teams, with neither scoring again. Thunder safety Travis Austin would end the game by intercepting Riley in the end zone on the last play of the game.
Cowdin led all rushers with 174 yards. He also had 61 yards receiving. Warmsley completed 6 of 11 passes for 134 yards. Desert Hills had 529 total offensive yards, 395 on the ground.
Riley completed 16 of 37 passes for 177 yards. The Bear offense was held to 229 total yards.
Bear River falls to 5-7 with the loss, completing their season. Desert Hills jumps to 10-1 on the season. They will face Hurricane in the semifinals on Friday. The Thunder defeated Hurricane 21-3 on Oct. 24.
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