Region 9 football: DH D rules the night as Thunder top Redmen

Desert Hills vs. Cedar, Football, Cedar City, UT, Sept. 15, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – There were a lot of questions answered Friday night at Redmen Stadium. How many tacklers does it take to bring down Noah Sewell? (four, usually) What makes a winning coach unhappy? (too many penalties) And does stacking the box and forcing Desert Hills to pass work? (um, no).

Sewell passed for 204 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 141 yards and another score as the Thunder overcame 20 penalties to defeat Cedar 37-13 on the second Friday of Region 9 play.

“It’s frustrating and we have to play better,” D-Hills head coach Carl Franke said. “Do other teams get calls like this? It seems like we just couldn’t do anything right. We are very talented, but so inexperienced and young. We are learning. But our defense was excellent all night.”

Indeed. Even with Sewell’s heroics, this win was really about the impressive defense by Desert Hills. The Thunder gave up a net of just 1 yard in the first half and finished the game with a total allowed yardage of 99 yards to the Redmen.

Desert Hills’ Peyton Pace (24) and Cedar’s Luke Maggio (8), Desert Hills vs. Cedar, Football, Cedar City, UT, Sept. 15, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“Ninety-nine yards? Yeah, that makes me feel real good,” said DH defensive end Cole Bailey. “We’ve been working very hard at coming together as a defensive unit. We gave up a lot of points early in the year, but we played some very good teams. And I feel like we’re a lot better now, especially as a cohesive unit.”

Poor Cedar just couldn’t move the ball most of the night against Desert Hills. The Redmen had no first downs in the first half as D-Hills built a 23-0 lead. In fact, the Cedar offense actually set up scores for the Thunder. Ahead 3-0 late in the first quarter, Desert Hills came up with a huge interception by cornerback Gio Vaifanua. The Thunder senior ran the INT 25 yards to the Cedar 5-yard line. Two plays later, Sewell hit Gage Baird with a TD strike to make it 10-0 in the closing seconds of the first quarter.

But Cedar’s defense came into the game with a plan to make Sewell beat them with the pass. It worked early on as Desert Hills was forced to punt or threw an interception on four of its first six drives. But after Vaifanua got his second interception of the first half, Sewell and his receivers started to get in a rhythm.

Desert Hills’ Gio Viafanua (14) returns an interception, Desert Hills vs. Cedar, Football, Cedar City, UT, Sept. 15, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Starting at the Cedar 40, Sewell hit Hayden Henrie for 20 yards, then (after a penalty) rushed for 19 more. Another pass to Henrie moved the ball to the Cedar 7. After two more penalties (sense a theme developing?), Sewell found Bo Barben at the 4-yard line, then the sophomore quarterback ran the next play into the end zone for a 17-0 lead with 3:41 left in the half.

It looked like the half might end that way, but Cedar again went three-and-out, setting the Thunder up with another chance with just over two minutes left until intermission.

Sewell didn’t squander the opportunity, completing two of the next three passes to move the ball into Cedar territory. After the second, Cedar was called for a personal foul, which moved the ball 15 yards to the CHS 34. Sewell then lofted a pass deep down the right side. The lob pass was caught by both Barben and the Cedar cornerback at the 1-yard line and in football, tie goes to the receiver. The 33-yard gain set up a shovel pass on the next play from Sewell to Brock Parry to make it 23-0 with under a minute to play in the half.

“My best thing is running the ball, but I felt like I passed it all right tonight,” Sewell said. “We knew they were trying to stop the run, but we didn’t want to abandon it. There was more room to run in the second half.”

The only first down Cedar got in the first half was called back on a holding penalty and things didn’t look much better to start the third quarter as the Redmen got one first down and then had to punt on their first second half possession.

But a Sewell fumble early in the third quarter seemed to fire up the Cedar players. Their second drive of the third quarter started with an 8 yard Jaxon Garrett run and continued on a D-Hills pass interference penalty. It would have ended three plays later on an interception, but Desert Hills roughed Garrett to negate the turnover.

Cedar’s Trent Maurer (32), Desert Hills vs. Cedar, Football, Cedar City, UT, Sept. 15, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

After the 15-yard walk off, Trenton Maurer got free on a sweep around the left side and busted the shutout with a 39-yard TD run. That made it 23-6 with 4:52 left in the third.

After forcing a turnover on downs, Cedar began to make things interesting by scoring again. Drake Fakahua took a pitch from Garrett and then threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tayvien Brown to make it 23-13 with 11.6 seconds left in the third quarter.

“I kept telling the guys that Cedar was going to try some of those type of trick plays,” Franke said. “I felt like that was the only way they were going to be able to move the ball. But we have some young guys and they got burned.”

The Thunder needed an answer, and they got one almost immediately. Brock Parry, who had been bottled up the whole game, finally found a crease in the defense and exploited it for a 63-yard touchdown run that made it 30-13 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Baird got his second TD catch of the game later in the fourth to ice the cake for the Thunder.

One of the big distractions in the three-hour long game was the number – and yardage – of the penalties. Several big plays were wiped away and the game never did have a flow to it. Desert Hills was flagged for 20 penalties and a whopping 179 yards. Cedar was not innocent either, incurring eight penalties for 67 yards.

Desert Hills vs. Cedar, Football, Cedar City, UT, Sept. 15, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“We’ve got to clean that up if we’re going to have a chance against the best teams in the region,” Franke said.

Desert Hills, 3-2 overall and in first place at 2-0 in Region 9, finished with 453 yards and 22 first downs in the game. Sewell led the way with 141 rushing yards, but Parry added 79 of his own. Tate Denos caught four passes for 66 yards.

Cedar’s top rusher was Maurer, who had 53 yards on 11 carries. The Redmen averaged less than two yards per play in the game.

D-Hills is home for Canyon View next Friday night, while Cedar (2-3, 1-1) will try and get its second win of the region season with a road game at Hurricane.

Box score: Desert Hills 17 vs. Cedar 2017, 9_15_17

Friday’s results
Snow Canyon 27, Pine View 20
Desert Hills 37, Cedar 13
Hurricane 16, Canyon View 3
Madison (Calif.) 24, Dixie 14

Next Week’s Games
Canyon View @ Desert Hills
Cedar @ Hurricane
Dixie @ Pine View
Snow Canyon (bye)

Region 9 Standings (Region, overall)
Desert Hills 2-0, 3-2
Dixie 1-0, 4-0
Snow Canyon 1-1, 4-1
Cedar 1-1, 2-3
Hurricane 1-1, 2-3
Pine View 0-1, 3-2
Canyon View 0-2, 0-5

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