SALT LAKE CITY – For a split second, it looked like Desert Hills — the defending 3AA champion — would make a miraculous comeback with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
With the ball on the on the 7-yard line, Thunder quarterback Nick Warmsley sprinted toward the end zone only to get smacked by Hurricane defender Charlie Sefita. Before anyone knew what happened, the ball popped 10 feet in the air and looked as though the ball was in slow motion, as the crowd gasped at what they had just witnessed.
Luckily for the Tigers, Tyson Yardley was there to recover the fumble to give the third-seeded Tigers a hard-fought 17-14 victory over Desert Hills on a cold and rainy evening at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“Nobody believed in us,” said Jeremiah Ieremia, Hurricane linebacker and BYU commit. “Everyone doubted us, but we stayed together and played like brothers. Our coaches told us at halftime that this was our day and we believed in them and came out with the victory.”
Ieremia, who plays both offense and defense for the Tigers, scored the game-winning touchdown and gave the Tigers all the points they needed to hold onto the win.
“I wanted to do it for my guys,” he said. “I love my guys and I did it for them.”
Hurricane kept feeding the ball to Ieremia who at one time, was given the ball on six straight possessions, even though Desert Hills continued to stack the box in order to stop the run.
“We knew Ieremia was going to get the ball and they knew he was getting the ball,” Hurricane head coach Steve Pearson said. “We played old school football and everyone played their hearts out tonight. I’m so proud of our guys and the effort they gave tonight.”
After a 21-3 to Desert Hills at the end of the regular season, the Tigers knew coming into the game that it was going to be a defensive battle. After all, the Thunder were allowing opponents to score less than 11 points a game.
“We knew it was going to be a real defensive battle,” Pearson said. “I believe our linebackers are second to none thanks to our great defensive line who are able to keep guys off of our linebackers.”
Wide receiver and defensive back Jason Stanworth continued to do it all for the Tigers. Stanworth, literally scored the games first 10 points with a nifty 2-yard touchdown run, the extra point as well as a 35-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
“The win was not the prettiest, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else,” he said. “After the coaches took me out to put in some lineman to help stuff the run, I was praying my heart out on the sidelines. When I saw the ball pop up in the air, I was completely speechless. Tears of joy just came over me. It was crazy.”
After Hurricane recovered the fumble near the goal line to seal the win, coach Pearson and his staff literally jumped out of their seats.
“I was up in the box calling the plays and I know the emotions up in the box were pretty happy,” he said. “The coaches and I jumped out of our seats, it was pretty intense.”
After coming up short in the quarterfinals last year, the Hurricane Tigers vowed to come back hungrier than ever and left no doubt that they belong in the 3AA championship game next week against the Dixie Flyers. The championship game is set to take place Friday, 11 a.m., at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Follow Justin Giles on Twitter @Justingiles22.