ST. GEORGE – It took three straight years of banging their heads against the Olympic torch at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but they finally did it. The Desert Hills football team won the state championship.
And with a plethora of impact players returning to the 2014 squad, the Thunder are poised to defend their title. However, they know just how hard it is to win a state championship, so the players enter this season with nothing else on their minds.
“We’re definitely hungry this year,” senior linebacker Gabe Sewell said. “We’re not looking in the past. Winning that state championship, that’s last year.”
Senior running back Bridger Cowdin said his mindset is to have the Thunder repeat as state champions.
“I don’t care how it happens, as long as we get it done,” Cowdin said. “Our senior class and all of our captains, we all want the same thing — win region and win state. We just want to dominate this year.”
Bridger’s brother, Tucker, said he wants to mimic the way the Desert Hills seniors played last year with how he approaches this season. He said he wants everything to be perfect, so the Thunder are in a position to repeat as champions.
Gabe Sewell’s cousin, senior lineman Boogie Sewell, who earlier this week announced his decision to play college football at the University of Colorado, said he hopes to pick up where he left off last year and build on that.
Boogie also said a big reason why the Thunder were able to rally as the No. 3 seed and win the state tournament was thanks to seeing the heartbreak of losing in the state semifinals to Spanish Fork in 2012. After experiencing that loss, he said he was determined to make sure the seniors just in front of him didn’t have to experience that heartbreak.
Desert Hills brings in a new offensive coordinator this year as former NFL player Jay Schroeder will be the one calling plays. Head coach Carl Franke and Schroeder coached together at both Snow Canyon and Dixie High as assistants, and are now reunited with the Thunder.
“Jay is great,” Franke said. “The kids love him, and he’s great with kids.”
Along with all the talent returning, Desert Hills has some newcomers to keep an eye on as the season approaches. Franke pointed out Gabe Sewell’s younger brother, sophomore defensive back Nephi Sewell.
“He’s very quick with great ball skills,” Franke said. “He’s very tough at that position.”
Franke said he expects others to step up as well.
“We have kids that might not have played a ton of reps against Dixie and Pine View at the end of the season last year,” Franke said, “but they played a ton against the Stansburys, the Hurricanes and the Cedars. We’ve got a lot of guys on both sides of the ball that have a lot of experience. If we shore a couple spots up, I think we’ll be OK.”
Junior quarterback Nick Warmsley returns this season after he and Bridger Cowdin combined to rush for 1,720 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013. Warmsley also threw for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns.
However, as it’s been for years, the Thunder will look to out-grind their opponents with tough defense. The Thunder gave up just 11.1 points per game in 2013, which was the best in 3AA. They have seven starters returning on the defensive side of the ball.
They play against Pine View and Dixie in consecutive weeks this year, hosting Pine View on Sept. 26 and visiting Dixie on Oct. 3. They lost to both teams in the regular season to finish third in the region, but they won both rematches in consecutive weeks during the playoffs to win the state championship.
The Thunder kick off the season Friday, Aug. 22 at Orem.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich.
Cedar Redmen 2014 Schedule
• Aug. 22: at Orem, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 29: at Foothill, Nevada, 8 p.m.
• Sept. 5: vs. Legacy, Nevada, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 12: vs. Cedar, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 19: at Payson, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 26: vs. Pine View, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 3: at Dixie, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 9: at Tooele, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 15: vs. Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 24: at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
Fall Sports Previews
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