Late in the fourth quarter, Desert Hills quarterback Quinn Kiser took the snap and ran down the left side. He broke one tackle. He broke another.
It took another two Salem Hills defenders to finally bring Kiser down out of bounds. Kiser jumped up and his teammates on the sideline were shouting. That bulldozing run had slammed the door on the Thunder’s 28-7 win over the visiting Skyhawks on Friday night.
“We’re just so well-conditioned this year, I feel like they got tired and we were just trying to take advantage of that,” Kiser said.
Head Coach Carl Franke said that the goal for his team this year was to be the most conditioned team that they could. He thought the Thunder were more conditioned than Jordan, and he thought Desert Hills was especially more conditioned than Salem Hills. So did running back Brock Parry, who pounded the Skyhawks defense in the second half along with Kiser and Marco Jordan.
Desert Hills scored on the first drive when Parry ran in from nine yards out. Parry rushed for 74 yards and two scores. Kiser rushed for 78 yards on 12 carries to go with a stellar 227-yard passing night.
After the first drive, the Thunder offense had trouble moving the ball. Kiser more often than not found himself scrambling and under pressure. Desert Hills’s defense held firm against Salem Hills, whose star running back and linebacker Vili-Manuela Wolfgramm was neutralized all night.
The Skyhawks passed the ball at will against the Thunder defense in the first half, but Desert Hills came up with stops when things looked dire. Then the second half arrived and the Thunder turned on the run game. They ended up with 24 first downs and a 176-7 advantage in rushing yards.
“We got a really good push off the O-line, always, we’d always have a few yards for me to work, so I guess that really helps,” Parry said.
As for the defense, it never let Wolfgramm get more than a few yards at a time. Penei Sewell rotated in every few plays and provided pressure on the line with Carter Reynolds and Bundy Sewell, which forced Skyhawks quarterback James Nelson out of the pocket several times.
Logan Hokanson led the Desert Hills receivers with five catches for 106 yards. Hokanson, often undersized against the Skyhawks defensive backs, twice leaped up between double coverage and came down with the ball for 30-plus yard catches.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete, you saw him tip-toeing down the sideline and making people miss and is a competitor,” Franke said. “He’ll be making more plays.”
Kiser found Braxton Porter in the third quarter for a 25-yard touchdown that was waved off due to offensive pass interference. Porter wasn’t about to be denied, and he broke away from his defender on the next drive and Kiser found him for a 59-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Final: Desert Hills 28-7 Salem Hills. Impressive win by the Thunder, improve to 1-1 pic.twitter.com/h6IpZgK2yF— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) August 27, 2016
Freshman linebacker Noah Sewell forced a fumble on the next drive. The Thunder recovered and scored with Parry’s one-yard touchdown run to make the score 21-0 and essentially put the game out of reach.
Salem Hills grabbed a touchdown on a drive that saw the Thunder whistled for three straight penalties, but Desert Hills ran out the clock in the fourth quarter with an impressive 10 play, 64-yard drive that ended with Kiser’s 25 yard run followed by a five-yard score.
If last week’s close loss at Jordan showed anything, it was that Desert Hills could compete with anybody. Friday’s win might show that the Thunder will expect to win games against higher enrollment schools in the future.
“My biggest thing is just getting through these games healthy for one, and two, getting better each week and I thought we got better from last week to this week,” Franke said.
Friday’s win was Desert Hills’ third in as many games against Salem Hills, but it was the most lopsided. The two teams met in 2008, Desert Hills’ first year in competition, with the Thunder winning 33-26 after scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter. The next year, Merrick Reynolds returned a kickoff 99 yards for the go-ahead and eventually game-winning score in an 18-12 win.
Follow Patrick Carr on Twitter @patrickcarr_ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/patrickjosephcarr1/ or call him at (435) 231-3834.