ST. GEORGE – A lot of plays need to go right for a team to win a game and make it into the state playoffs. One play, in particular, went perfectly for Desert Hills Thursday night. Brock Parry took a read-option handoff and sprinted untouched for the game-winning score in the fourth quarter as Desert Hills beat Snow Canyon 28-21 in the regular season finale at Warrior Stadium.
The victory propels the Thunder into the playoffs as the No. 3-seed from Region 9 and ends the season for the Warriors, who were eliminated from the playoffs, losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Cedar Redmen.
“The game plan coming into this game was to run the ball,” Parry said. “We wanted to run to open up the pass, then pass to open up the run.”
Parry finished with a career-high 188 yards on 25 carries, including that game-breaking 53-yard sprint that came with 2:57 left in the game.
“I felt like it was going to be a big night right from the beginning,” Parry said. “That last play was just an inside zone. I just had an open hole from my teammates. The ‘backers were nowhere to be seen, so I just had the safeties to beat. I saw my cousin, Wyatt Parry, to my right, and then it was just off to the races and I was faster.”
Parry said he’d never run harder in his life, knowing what was on the line in the crucial rivalry game.
After his TD, the Desert Hills defense forced the Warriors to turn the ball over on downs near midfield, then ran out the final seconds to secure a spot in the 2017 4A state playoffs.
“It was assignment football this week,” Thunder linebacker Jacob Stokes said. “Late in the game, we just said we’ve got to stop them. Everybody play for each other. We got this.”
Of course, to get to that dramatic ending, there were plenty of big plays. Snow Canyon never did have the lead, but tied it twice (at 7-7 and 21-21). Desert Hills went up late in the first half when Carter Reynolds blocked an SC field goal and Peyton Pace returned it for a touchdown. The Warriors tied it with just seconds to go in the first half on a post pass from Austin Staheli to Andrew Day.
But it felt like the Thunder were taking the game over with back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter. The first one made it 14-7 when Parry capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD with 7:12 to go in the quarter.
After three punts, the Thunder made it 21-7 on another decent drive, covering 38 yards in seven plays with Noah Sewell punching it across from 3-yards out with nine seconds left in the third quarter.
But Snow Canyon answered.
The Warriors went 80 yards in 11 plays with Tosh Wright’s 9-yard power run making it 21-14 with 8:14 left in the game.
After a DH three-and-out, Wyatt Parry set his team up with a short field by returning a Thunder punt 46 yards to the Thunder 27-yard line. Two plays later, Staheli hit Andrew Day for a short pass. But Day made a couple of nifty cuts and turned the short pass into a 22-yard touchdown that tied the game at 21-21 with 5:04 left in the game.
After the touchback on the kickoff, D-Hills moved the ball 27 yards in four plays. That set up a third-and-4 from the DH 47. From the spread formation, Sewell took the third-down snap and handed to Parry, who hit the hole at full speed and outran the defense for the game winner.
“I honestly believe I am the fastest guy in the region and I’ve never run harder,” Parry said. “There wasn’t a lot of pressure, I don’t think. We just needed to come out and execute, and I think we did.”
There were some scary injuries in the game. The contest was halted for more than 20 minutes after Bryson Childs was knocked unconscious trying to tackle Sewell, By the time an ambulance took Childs away, he was alert and was moving all his extremities.
Reynolds missed most of the fourth quarter after hearing something “pop” in his ankle.
“Right now, I can’t even walk on it,” Reynolds said.
The region sacks leader had two more in the game, but his biggest play was that blocked field goal. He got in so quickly on the play that he actually blocked it with his helmet.
“It hit me right on the top of my helmet,” he said. “I thought it went over my head at first.”
The ball popped 40 or more feet in the air before coming down to earth. Pace saw it the whole way and grabbed it on one bounce and went unchallenged 40 yards into the end zone.
“I’m the safe man and so I just stood there and saw it fly high in the air,” Pace said. “I saw it and tried to time it and it just bounced perfectly in my hands. It was ridiculous. It was crazy. The bounce was perfect, like it was meant for me.”
The Thunder run game was on full display in the contest. Along with Parry’s career-best 188 yards, Sewell racked up 100 yards, and that doesn’t count a 38-yard TD run that was called back on a holding penalty. DH finished with 385 total yards, 300 of those on the ground. The Thunder averaged 6.7 yards per rush.
Snow Canyon had 300 total yards, most of those passing yards by Staheli. He finished 11 for 28 for 198 yards and two TD passes. The Warriors had a tough time on third downs, converting just 3 for 14. Day had 83 receiving yards on four catches and Jase Mendenhall had three grabs for 89 yards, including a spectacular over-the-shoulder 75-yard grab in the third quarter.
Desert Hills, 5-4 overall, finishes 4-2 in Region 9 play, tied with Pine View for second place. The Panthers get the No. 2 seed by virtue of their win over the Thunder two weeks ago. As the No. 3 seed, the Thunder will travel to play at Region 11’s No. 2 team, Bonneville, next Friday in the first round of the 4A playoffs. The Lakers are 4-6, but went 3-2 in region play.
Snow Canyon finishes its second season under head coach Mike Esplin with a 6-3 record. Though the Warriors had an identical 3-3 record in region as Cedar, they lose the tiebreaker due to Cedar’s 34-28 triple overtime win at Warrior Stadium back on Sept. 29.
Thursday’s Region 9 results
Desert Hills 28, Snow Canyon 21
Dixie 44, Cedar 26
Pine View 45, Canyon View 0
REGION 9 FINAL STANDINGS
1. Dixie 6-0 (9-1)
2t. Pine View 4-2 (7-3)*
2t. Desert Hills 4-2 (5-4)
4t. Cedar 3-3 (4-5)**
4t. Snow Canyon 3-3 (6-3)
6. Hurricane 1-5 (2-7)
7. Canyon View 0-6 (0-9)
* – Pine View wins tiebreak (head-to-head) with Desert Hills and is No. 2 seed
** – Cedar wins tiebreak (head-to-head) with Snow Canyon and is No. 4 seed
Next Week’s 4A first round playoff games
Park City (R11-4) at Dixie (R9-1)
Tooele (R11-3) at Pine View (R9-2)
Desert Hills (R9-3) at Bonneville (R11-2)
Cedar (R9-4) at Stansbury (R11-1)
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