ST. GEORGE – Like many brothers do, Nephi and Penei Sewell have a bit of an unspoken bond and a wordless understanding about certain things.
So when Nephi gave younger brother Penei one of those looks before Friday’s quarterfinal game against Ridgeline, the two siblings knew it was going to be a big day for their Desert Hills Thunder.
“Right before the game, I looked at him and he looked at me and we both knew we were going to give it our best,” said Nephi Sewell, who is a year older, but 120 pounds lighter than his offensive lineman brother. “I promised my brother that we wouldn’t have what happened last year happen again.”
Nephi fulfilled that promise, rushing for 163 yards behind his brother and the rest of the impressive Thunder O-line as Desert Hills trounced Ridgeline 49-24 Friday at Thunder Stadium. The win surpasses last year’s quarterfinal loss and earns the Thunder a trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium and a semifinal date with Stansbury next Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
“We just tried to work together as a line and own the line of scrimmage,” said DH sophomore center Ryan Warner. “In the second and third quarter, I felt it, because we just started pushing people around a lot.”
Penei Sewell said he and his teammates really wore down the Riverhawks as well.
“We talked about how they have a lot of guys who go both ways,” he said. “We were already winning the battle, then (Ridgeline) started to get really tired and we were able to do pretty much what we wanted in the second half.”
Very true, especially in the third quarter, when DH outgained Ridgeline 178-3 in yardage. The Riverhawks had just five offensive plays in the quarter, gaining just 3 yards and throwing an interception.
“We’re still running and conditioning and so we’re in great shape,” Thunder coach Carl Franke said. “With the warmer weather and them having guys go both ways, by the second half they were gassed. We were able to get what we wanted, for sure.”
It was a game in the first half, with DH taking a 14-0 lead on the strength of a Quinn Kiser 2-yard TD (after a long Nephi Sewell run) and a Kiser-to-Logan Hokanson 16-yard TD after an interception by Tyler Warner (after a tipped ball by Bundy Sewell).
The Riverhawks were in it at 14-7 on a TD pass from Payton Thomas to Sam Weda early in the second quarter. It was 21-7 after a Nephi Sewell 6-yard run capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive with 48 seconds left in the first half.
Ridgeline cut it to 21-10 as the clock ticked down to :00 on a field goal by Hunter Buchanan from 42 yards. But then came that dominant third quarter in which DH pushed the lead to 35-10 on two long drives, with Nephi Sewell running the wildcat formation for most of the quarter.
Kiser and Marco Jordan each scored TD runs in the third to put the game squarely in Desert Hills’ favor.
“The offensive line was great,” Nephi Sewell said. “They definitely don’t get enough credit. I get a lot of credit for making the plays, but you know it all starts up front. I told them before the game that if they make the blocks, I will do everything I can to make big plays happen.”
Sewell ran one in from a yard out to make it 42-10 early in the fourth and the rout was on. DH added a late score from Jarom Hansen while Ridgeline added a couple of mop-up scores to reach the final tally.
The Thunder had 415 yards of offense in the game, 332 of those on the ground, and averaged more than seven yards per play. Kiser scored two TDs and passed for a third, while rushing for 43 yards and passing for 83 more. Brock Parry had 78 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
The DH defense also had a decent game, allowing just 294 yards to the Riverhawks on 49 plays. Ridgeline had three punts and three turnovers in the game.
The Thunder, 8-2, will play Stansbury, 9-2, in the state semifinals after the Stallions trounced region mate Park City 54-0 Friday evening. The Stallions went undefeated in region until the last game of the year, when they lost a 9-6 decision to Bear River. Stansbury had already clinched the No. 1 seed from their region going into the game and rested many starters.
The Thunder-Stallions game will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The two teams last met in the 2013 playoffs, when DH went on the road and beat the Stallions 31-14 in the quarterfinals.
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