Note: This is one of six football previews for the upcoming 3AA South Region season, which begins Thursday and Friday nights.
ST. GEORGE – Everyone’s talking about Nick Warmsley, and of course they should be.
He’s the three-year starter at quarterback for a team that has made it at least to the state semifinals the past four seasons. He’s the strong-armed senior with tremendous athletic ability. He’s the lynch pin to an offense that is expected to move the ball with ease in 2015.
But he doesn’t play defense.
And in the past few seasons, defense has been the biggest key for a Thunder program that is 29-8 under current head coach Carl Franke.
“We’re very stout and athletic up front on defense,” Franke said. “Yeah, we lost some great players, but the guys we have back are very, very good. And they have a lot of experience, too.”
Franke points to his seniors, lineman Justice Alo, linebacker Badge Morris and defensive backs Zach Fuchs and Quinn Kiser, plus returnees Bundy Sewell, Nephi Sewell and Austin Hansen, as the core of a defense that should have no drop-off from last year’s stellar squad. In 2014, Desert Hills gave up just 10.8 points a games, the lowest by far of any team in 3AA.
“We’re going to be a great defense, just like always,” said Morris, who had more than 100 tackles a year ago. “I love that we’re a stout defense. We don’t give up many points. It gets me excited to know we’re one of the best defenses in the region.”
Only once all year did Desert Hills give up more than 20 points — that was a 35-21 win over Pine View — so scoring a lot of points is not necessary for the Thunder. But they have to score enough. In the semifinal loss to Hurricane, Desert Hills managed just 14 points and were actually scoreless until late in the third quarter.
Warmsley, to his credit, wants to make sure his team puts up better offensive numbers in 2015.
“I feel like the last two years I’ve been more of a game manager, rather than a playmaker,” he said. “This year I’m going to try and make more plays for my team and it’s going to be fun. I can’t wait.”
Running backs Nephi Sewell and newcomer Marco Jordan should help Warmsley in the quest to score more points. Jordan, who Franke calls his “first-down back,” is more of a battering ram to Sewell’s liquid electricity. But with Sewell returning kicks, playing cornerback and probably driving the team bus, Franke said having a second back to help Sewell out will be huge.
The receivers Warmsley will look to include team captain Stetson Wood (other captains are Alo, Warmsley, Fuchs and Morris) in the slot, speedster Garrick Sharp on the outside, Josh Durr and Cody Ricketts.
With Alo, Bundy Sewell and Max Shafer anchoring the line, DH had just a couple of spots to fill and freshman Penei Sewell (all 285-pounds of him) will do nicely, as well as Houston Stapley. John Adams will step in at linebacker with the big shoes of all-stater Tucker Cowdin to fill.
Much of the talk around the DH camp has been the aggressive schedule put together by Franke and his staff. Along with the nasty region slate, the Thunder will face two 5A teams (Jordan and Roy) and one former 4A powerhouse (Logan).
“The senior group this year is incredible and there’s excitement in the air,” Franke said. “I feel like if we’re going to be mentioned with the best teams in utah — the Timpviews and the Binghams — then we have to start playing those teams. Just because we’re 3AA doesn’t mean can’t competewith those teams. We may not win, but we will compete. We’re going to see what we’re about this year. It’s going to be a gauntlet and it’s going to be fun.”
Desert Hills File
Returnees: offense 6, defense 7
|Fri. Aug. 21, 2015||Jordan||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri. Aug. 28, 2015||Foothill, Nev.||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri. Sept. 4, 2015||at Roy||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri. Sept. 18, 2015||at Hurricane||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri. Sept. 25, 2015||Dixie||7:00 p.m.|
|Fri. Oct. 2, 2015||at Pine View||7:00 p.m.|
|Thu. Oct. 8, 2015||at Snow Canyon||7:00 p.m.|
|Wed. Oct. 14, 2015||Logan||5:00 p.m.|
|Fri. Oct. 23, 2015||Cedar||7:00 p.m.|
2015 key players
Offense — Warmsley and Sewell make up a potent backfield and they are proven commodities. The line should be good as well. So how good are the receivers? That may be the key. Wood can be a playmaker, but the most intriguing piece of the puzzle may be Sharp, who is one of the fastest sprinters in Region 9 track.
Defense — Replacing all-staters Boogie Sewell, Gabe Sewell and Tucker Cowdin will not be easy, but Morris, Alo and Fuchs are guys that have been there as well. With seven starters back (including Kiser, Nephi Sewell, Bundy Sewell and Hansen), no one should plan on scoring a;lot of points on these guys.
|Desert Hills 35, Orem 13 Final|
|Desert Hills 41, Foothill, Nev. 0 Final|
|Desert Hills 29, Legacy, Nev. 14 Final|
|Desert Hills 45, Cedar 7 Final|
|Desert Hills 54, Payson 7 Final|
|Desert Hills 35, Pine View 21 Final|
|Dixie 17, Desert Hills 16 Final|
|Desert Hills 48, Tooele 14 Final|
|Desert Hills 7, Snow Canyon 3 Final|
|Desert Hills 21, Hurricane 3 Final|
|Desert Hills 56, Bear River 13 Final|
|Hurricane 17, Desert Hills 14 Final|
Last 5 years
2014 — 10-2 (5-1 in 3AA South – 3AA Semis)
2013 — 11-2 (4-2 in 3AA South – 3AA champs)
2012 — 8-4 (5-1 in Region 9 – 3A Semifinals)
2011 — 9-4 (4-2 in Region 9 – 3A Runner-up)
2010 — 7-4 (3-3 in Region 9 – 3A Quarterfinals)
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