Hurricane Tigers: Perennial underdogs always find a way to get it done

The Hurricane Tigers celebrate their semi-final victory over the Desert Hills Thunder, Desert Hills vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football Playoffs, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 14, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Note: This is one of six football previews for the upcoming 3AA South Region season, which begins Thursday and Friday nights.

ST. GEORGE –- It’s going to be a tough act to follow for Hurricane High School football head coach Steve Pearson, who took his team to the 3AA championship game in his first year last year, a 27-19 loss to region rival Dixie.

hurricane-smPearson is looking to end his second season with a win. The season will start out tough, though, with a game at 4A Skyline Thursday night under the lights of KJZZ Television.

This will be the seventh year in a row that the two teams will meet. The series is even 3-3 going into this game. Skyline won last year 24-14 in Hurricane.

Steve Pearson
Steve Pearson

“We’re now in our seventh year in our series against Skyline,” Pearson said. “When we picked up Skyline, we thought we were crazy, our wives thought we were crazy and the community thought we were crazy, because, you know, you talk about Skyline, and they’re synonymous with success in high school football. Over the years, it’s been a great series for us. It’s a good bellwether for us to indicate where we’re at as a team.”

Pearson knows in high school it doesn’t always matter how well the team did the year before, because each season is a fresh start.

“I think that all football programs, regardless of where they finished the year before, whether they were in the penthouse or the outhouse, I think that they try to look and try to find ways to get better at what they do, try to be more efficient, try to be a little bit sharper … to make things just better and to get you a little further than you were the year before,” he said.

Hurricane QB Josh Parker, Dixie vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football State Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Hurricane QB Josh Parker, Dixie vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football State Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

As far as changing offensive schemes, Pearson isn’t ready to abandon the running game. Junior quarterback Josh Parker was “thrown into the fire” last year after Kaden Langston was injured. Parker led the Tigers to three playoff wins in his first three games.

“I know our receiving corps is happy to have Josh; he throws a good ball,” Pearson said. “They’re excited to get some touches from him.”

Langston threw the ball only nine times per game on average last year. Parker threw the ball 30 times in the championship game alone. Pearson insists even with a good passer, the gameplan won’t change from being a run-first offense.

“(That’s) not going to drastically change who we are and what we do, but it certainly gives us some options that we have some faith in,” Pearson said. “So maybe instead of throwing the ball once a game, we might throw it twice.”

Pearson thinks Hurricane generally flies under the radar of the media, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“In this region, I think we’re always the underdog,” he said. “I think that when we do well, the thinking in the region is ‘Well, that was just that last year, flash-in-the-pan. So they’re not going to be able to repeat that.’ Certainly, our region is a great region with some great athletes and some great coaching. We have to work really hard year after year to be successful. I think at the beginning of the year, everybody pretty much counts us out and focuses on some other schools — and we’re OK with that. We like people to be surprised with us by the end of the season because the only thing that matters in polls and people’s predictions is what happens the last two or three weeks of the season in November.”

Hurricane RB Jacob Carr looks for running room, Dixie vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football State Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Hurricane RB Jacob Carr looks for running room, Dixie vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football State Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Hurricane knows all about being in the playoffs, as the Tigers haven’t missed the playoffs since 2004 and have won at least one playoff game every year since then except in 2006.

Losing a couple of studs on defense like college players Jeremiah Ieremia and Charlie Sefita does put some pressure on a team that is constantly facing teams that spread the field.

“Obviously there’s a lot of pressure on me — I’m not Charlie or Jeremiah,” said linebacker Angel Bulloch. “But the thing is, I can bring something different to Hurricane football. I know that being the center of the defense, you’ve got to be pretty smart and pretty big. But I feel pretty blessed to be playing for Hurricane football.”

Along with Parker, HHS has fullback Jake Carr and speedy pitch-man Nick McDaniel back in the backfield. Carr got significant time last season at FB, while McDaniel is a big-play speedster.

Hurricane WR Kyle Williams (85)reaches for a pass and just misses with Dixies Mason Oki defending, Dixie vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football State Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Hurricane WR Kyle Williams (85) reaches for a pass, Dixie vs. Hurricane, 2014 3AA Football State Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 21, 2014 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Kyle Williams is back on both sides of the ball (WR and DB), but that’s it for the offense, which will have to rebuild its offensive line.

But the defense should be strong, with five returnees, and especially the big guys up front in Quando Ieremia and Isaiah Johnson, as well as DB Kurt McDaniel.

Another trip to the title game, a place the Tigers have been a lot, could be in the works if they can get that line in line.

The Hurricane File

Head coach: Steve Pearson (2nd season, 8-6 overall)

Last year: 8-6, lost to Dixie in 3AA championship

Returnees: offense 4, defense 5

2015 Schedule:

Date Game Time/result
Thu. Aug. 20, 2015 at Skyline 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Aug. 28, 2015 Union 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Sept. 4, 2015 Moapa Valley, Nev. 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Sept. 18, 2015 Desert Hills 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Sept. 25, 2015 at Pine View 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 2, 2015 Cedar 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 9, 2015 Dixie 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 23, 2015 at Snow Canyon 7:00 p.m.

2015 Key Players

Offense — Parker at QB and Carr at FB make Hurricane ultra-experienced heading into the season. But Holt Porter is the only lineman with any kind of experience back for HHS. The Tigers could take some lumps early while the new linemen figure things out.

Defense — Quando is huge — and athletic — so that’s a good place to start for the Tigers, along with fellow D-lineman Isaiah Johnson. The DBs are also experienced in Williams and the two McDaniels. So the pressure will be on Carr, Bulloch and the other new linebackers to make plays.

2014 results:

Skyline 24, Hurricane 14 Final
Hurricane 28, Stansbury 7 Final
Moapa Valley, Nev. 28, Hurricane 14 Final
Hurricane 45, Payson 20 Final
Hurricane 13, Cedar 7 Final (OT)
Hurricane 34, Dixie 14 Final
Hurricane 21, Snow Canyon 13 Final
Pine View 29, Hurricane 14 Final
Logan 41, Hurricane 21 Final
Desert Hills 21, Hurricane 3 Final
Hurricane 49, Park City 28 Final
Hurricane 32, Juan Diego 15 Final
Hurricane 17, Desert Hills 14 Final
Dixie 27, Hurricane 19 Final

Last 5 years

2014 — 8-6 (4-2 in 3AA South – 3AA runner-up)
2013 — 2-10 (1-5 in 3AA South – 3AA qtrfinals)
2012 — 9-2 (5-1 in Region 9 – 3A quarterfinals)
2011 — 13-0 (6-0 in Region 9 – 3A Champions)
2010 — 12-2 (5-1 in Region 9 – 3A runner-up)

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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