With six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and after Snow Canyon had finished a 91-yard 10-play touchdown scoring drive to pull within three points of Desert Hills, which included the Warriors converting a two-point play, the Thunder went about their business of attempting a clock-killing drive to put the game out of Snow Canyon’s reach, and to show their power-style ability.
Desert Hills started their 10th offensive possession on the 27-yard line with 6:38 left. They benefited from an offside call, and then a Warriors’ personal foul placed the ball at the 50. After a short Mike Needham run, quarterback Porter Harris found Josh Anderson for an 18-yard strike. Then Needham showed why he is one of the best backs in Region 9 on a 23-yard rush he ended by crushing a cornerback on the seven-yard line.
However, the Thunder faltered and gave the Warriors an open door.
Desert Hills committed a holding foul and it backed them from Snow Canyon’s seven-yard line to the 14. Then Needham fumbled the ball on the next carry and the Warriors recovered the it, and took over on the 14 with 3:24 on the clock. Needham was beside himself on the Desert Hills’ sideline. In what was otherwise a brilliant game by the senior (18 carries, 145 yards and two touchdowns), the mistake was weighing heavy on his mind.
Warriors’ quarterback Brayden Linde (13-of-25 for 183 yards, one td, and five interceptions) made Needham’s mind heavier with thought on the first play by completing a 27-yard pass with tight end Jace Graft. A few plays later though, Desert Hills’ Ty Rutledge eased Needham’s mind by picking off a Linde pass at the Thunder five-yard line.
Desert Hills’ offense took over but nearly opened the door again for Snow Canyon. The snap went over Harris’s reach, but an alert Needham picked up the ball in his own end zone and instead of taking a safety, he made a wise play.
Thunder coach Jake Nelson pointed to Needham’s action as the saving moment of the win.
“I’m screaming ‘just kick it out of the end zone and we’ll take the safety,’” Nelson said. “But Mike shows his intelligence by picking the ball up and throwing the ball to an area where a receiver is and resulting in an incompletion. We got to a second down because his action and quick thinking. It was impressive.”
Needham made up for the fumble minutes earlier.
“The ball just shot over Porter’s head, I didn’t want to kick it out of bounds and get a safety scored against us,” Needham said. “I just grabbed it and hucked it. It just happened quickly.”
It was not just another routine play made by top players.
“That’s what playmakers are supposed to do,” Nelson said. “That play by Mike Needham is probably one of the smartest plays made I’ve ever seen in high school football.
“That play right there pretty much saved the game for us.”
The game was not over at that point though. The Warriors forced a Desert Hills punt and got the ball on the Thunder 40-yard line with 55 seconds remaining. On a fourth down and 10 with 30 seconds left, Thunder defensive back Taryn Lund intercepted a Linde pass on the 16 to seal the game for Desert Hills.
The outcome of the game was not decided until 47 minutes and 37 seconds, and though Desert Hills was viewed as a favorite going into the game by some prognosticators, Coach Nelson was not surprised at the competitive contest that played out.
“I’ve been telling people how good of a football team Snow Canyon is,” Nelson said. “They stepped up their level of play tonight and I give them all the credit in the world. They battled the entire game.
“There’s no quit in them. They kept coming and it’s a credit to their players and their coaches.”
Snow Canyon coach Jay Graft said his team was highly disappointed on homecoming night.
“I quoted Dick Vermeil to the kids after the game,” Graft said. “’If you don’t invest much, winning isn’t very exciting and losing doesn’t hurt.’
“Tonight, it hurt. You could see on the kids faces. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that much hurt. Even though a loss hurts and stings and it should, that’s a step in the right direction for us. It’s a sign of how much the game meant to them.”
“I was proud of the way they handled and responded to some adversity tonight, but we did help to create the adverse situations. If that’s (Desert Hills) one of the best teams in the state, then I think our kids should take some confidence away from how they competed with them.”
Thunder quarterback Harris went 10-of-16 passing for 120 yards and a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries. Ty Rutledge caught five passes for 60 yards on one touchdown. Peter Brown made 11 tackles and Bud Pope, Brock Johnson, and Rutledge each registered an interception while Lund had two for Desert Hills.
Mitchell Phillips rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries for the Warriors and Kallan Webster caught three passes for 70 yards for the Warriors.
Desert Hills 7 – 3 – 14 – 0 < 24
Snow Canyon 3 – 10 – 0 – 8 < 21
DH < Rutledge 13 pass Harris (Alegria kick) 8:15
SC < Benevides 22 FG 0:33
DH < Alegria 29 FG 4:00
SC < Robinson 95 kickoff ret. (Benevides kick) 3:32
SC < Benevides 46 FG 0:45
DH < Needham 6 run (Alegria kick) 9:03
DH < Needham 32 run (Alegria kick) 4:34
SC < Livingston 9 pass Linde (two-point good) 7:37
REGION 9 STANDINGS:
Hurricane 4-0 (7-0 overall)
Desert Hills 4-0 (6-1)
Dixie 3-2 (6-2)
Cedar 2-2 (2-5)
Snow Canyon 1-3 (2-5)
Pine View 1-4 (3-5)
Canyon View 0-4 (2-5)
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