Early in the third quarter of Desert Hills’ 33-21 victory over Cedar, silence filled the stadium. Players knelt on one knee as paramedics ran onto the field.
In a scene that is becoming too common for Desert Hills, a player was wheeled off the field on a stretcher. Senior Zak Fuchs suffered a compound fracture and was taken to straight to the hospital to undergo surgery.
To their credit, the Thunder players — who have already seen Nephi Sewell go down with a season ending neck injury — were able to put the emotions on the back burner, and finish off the win, to finish 4-1 in region play and earn a spot in the 3AA quarterfinals.
“This is probably the most injury prone year we’ve had,” Desert Hill coach Carl Franke said. “Like major injuries. … I think the credit goes to the boys and the next guys steps up and plays hard. And basically where the pieces lay, they lay. Control what we can control and whatever happens, happens.”
The Thunder led 26-14 when Fuchs went down, and needed a late second quarter touchdown, where they scored with less than a second remaining in the half, to get to that point. Cedar quarterback Mason Fakahua was finding ways to make plays with both his arm and legs, and even led Cedar to a 14-12 lead in the first half. But Desert Hills had an answer.
Deseret Hills quarterback Dominick Warmsley hit Garrick Sharp on a deep pass down inside the 5-yard line, at the end of the third quarter, and Marco Jordan ran it into the end zone to extend the lead to 33-14 to begin the fourth, and put the game out of reach.
But there wasn’t much celebrating after the contest. Thunder players huddled together, as Franke explained Fuchs’ condition. Hugs were exchanged and tears filled some of the player’s eyes. The Thunder were celebrating Senior Day, but as the seniors lined up for pictures, Fuchs’ absence weighed heavy.
“Especially with how close our seniors are this year, it hurts all of us, it really does,” Warmsley said. “We are going to miss Zak tremendously. I don’t know what’s up with this year. We had Nephi and that was the hardest thing we had to go through and now Zak…I don’t know, we just have to stay together as a team, and as a family and move on.”
Sewell was on the sidelines, brace around his neck, as Fuchs’ was taken away.
“If I could take it from him, I mean I’m already out for the season, but I would,” Sewell said. “This is Zak’s senior year, I just hope surgery goes well…I’m going to pray for him.”
Desert Hills will now get a week off to prepare for the quarterfinals. The Thunder will play the winner of Stansbury/Snow Canyon on Nov. 6. Cedar will host Judge Memorial in a play-in round next Friday.
With all the bad luck his team has faced this season, Franke is hoping for some good fortune in the playoffs.
“We’re going to have to catch some breaks,” he said. “I like our chances, we are good talented football team. But we are going to have to catch some good luck at least somewhere down the road.”
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter, @millerjryan.