ST. GEORGE — After finishing at 5-5 last season and allowing 30 or more points to be scored in those 10 games, the Desert Hills Thunder and head coach Mark Murdoch are looking to come back in 2020 with a bigger focus on their defense.
Murdoch said his team has been excited about that defense all summer long. This includes their experience returning on that side of the ball.
“It was pretty evident on Friday that our defense has improved quite a bit from last year when we struggled against everything,” Murdoch said about their win against Murray last week. “We gave up a ton of points and a ton of yards (last season). We’re super excited for the strides that our defense has made.”
While that defense might be a major focus for the Thunder, one thing they were not lacking last season was offense. While giving up more than 30 points in six games throughout the year, the Thunder also put up 30 or more points in six games.
Murdoch added that the defensive success will only aid the offense when it comes to trust, mentioning that sometimes last season their offense had to score on every possession to win games. That trust on both sides of the ball is a good sign for the Thunder.
If the offense does not score the ball, they still know they can put faith in their defense.
After losing some key seniors last season, another big question for the Thunder is their leadership this season. Senior Chance Richins said he thinks their leadership is better than it was last year.
“Last year was great, and we had a really good chemistry, but there’s something different about this team,” Richins said. “I’ve played with most of these kids since I was in third grade, we’re really good friends. With the leadership I think there’s something different about how close we are with everyone on the team.”
On the offensive side of things there had been an ongoing quarterback battle, but after Noah Fuailetolo had a break out performance against Murray with three touchdowns and 234 yards, Murdoch was impressed.
“I think more than anything, Noah has some natural leadership qualities to him in the way that he carries himself and his confidence,” Murdoch said. “That’s really what put him over the edge, and those are things you can’t really coach. I think he’s going to have a really good career here at Desert Hills.”
While the team has some pieces coming back on defense, they have some new faces stepping into bigger roles. With that came a fifth place ranking in the Region 9 preseason poll according to the other coaches. Murdoch said he does not buy to much into the preseason rankings but mentioned that his players were pretty upset about it.
“Definitely we felt disrespected,” Braxton Turnbow said about the preseason ranking.
Murdoch believes the ranking added a “chip” to his team’s shoulder.
“Underdogs are dangerous, so watch out,” Richins added.
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