SALT LAKE CITY – It hadn’t been his best day ever, but Desert Hills quarterback Quinn Kiser came through when it mattered most.
Down six points and facing a game-deciding fourth-and-3 at Pine View’s 10-yard line, Desert Hills hoped to turn to the heart and soul of the Thunder, Nephi Sewell, who had 243 yards rushing and had already frequented the end zone twice.
Sewell, however, was forced to sit one mandatory play per UHSAA rules as he had just gone down injured from a vicious facemask which left him staring out his earhole the play before. Kiser, who had struggled, managing only 11 carries for 16 yards alongside 5 of 12 passing for 53 yards, a sack and an interception up to that point, got the call from coach Carl Franke to run right side.
“We had to keep fighting to come back,” Kiser said. “And I know everyone beside me gave everything they had, too. (Sewell’s) helmet came off and he was on the ground so they made him come off. My shoulder pads were all messed up and they weren’t even holding together and I was like, ‘All right, I’ll just run there and hopefully get it. Nephi is the heart and soul of this team and there is no doubt about that.”
Sewell, forced to watch from the sideline, had faith in his teammate.
“They wouldn’t let me come back on,” Sewell said. “It’s all about trust. Trust is developed throughout the year and I trusted my quarterback and everyone to go get that first down, so I wasn’t worried at all. You can’t practice for scenarios like that and it’s just all about effort. Effort can’t be taught.”
Kiser lined up in the shotgun and ran a QB keeper. Pine View’s defense crashed down and nearly caught him in the backfield, but Kiser slipped through up the right side and found just enough running room for a 5-yard gain and a first down. This would set up the game winning play, a play which was never supposed to be a Quinn Kiser pass.
Three plays later, Kiser improvised a play that would go down in state championship football history. The Thunder, down six points, faced fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with four seconds remaining. Sewell motioned out as a decoy as the Thunder tried to set up Marco Jordan with the game-winning dive up the middle. Pine View sold out and blitzing safety Paullevine Vondincklage split DH’s guard and tackle for an unabated shot at Jordan.
Kiser, thinking on his feet, pulled the ball just before the ill-fated play was stuffed by the Panther defense. Kiser rolled backside, heading for the pylon. Wideout Gavin Young’s defender left him alone to prevent Kiser from rushing it in. Kiser would have certainly scored on the ground had the cornerback not left Young. Just as Kiser was hit, he managed to shovel pass the ball to Young, who stood all alone for the game-winning touchdown.
“I saw Quinn roll out and the corner guarding me stepped up,” Young said. “So I just found the open gap and caught the ball. Quinn threw the perfect pass.”
Franke said Kiser’s improvisation won the game.
“They split the guard and tackle,” he said. “Quinn had the right mind, actually, to keep it and instead of hand it off and he was going outside and saw the receiver at the last second and just shoveled it out there. That was just Quinn Kiser making stuff up as he goes because Pine View had it stuffed. That was just making it up as he goes. I may retire today, I don’t know if I can handle this anymore, to be honest with you.”
Sewell thought the play had been stuffed when he looked back from his decoy to see Kiser creating the game-winning TD pass.
“It was crazy and was supposed to be run,” Sewell said. “The whole defense was supposed to follow me as I motioned and it was supposed to go to Marco, but I looked back and Quinn was running the ball, I looked up and the four seconds on the clock was gone and then Quinn was throwing it and it landed in our guy’s hand. Great feeling.”
Kiser’s heroic improvisation won the game and he the Thunder will carry the championship trophy back to St. George.
“It’s everywhere, my emotions,” Kiser said. “I am out of my head right now. It’s like an out-of-body experience. I have dreamed about this since the day I could walk and dreams are finally coming true my senior year. I am just so grateful.”
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