Three times the Snow Canyon offense had the ball on offense in the fourth quarter in a close ball game.
And all three times, Desert Hills forced a turnover.
It was a classic ‘bend, but don’t break,’ performance by the Thunder defense, as it forced five turnovers in a 28-14 win over Snow Canyon at home Friday night.
The turnovers were a welcome relief for an offense that had trouble moving the ball in the second half until the final drive of the game.
“(The defense) kind of bailed us out, they played outstanding. It was nice,” wide receiver Logan Hokanson said.
The game didn’t start well for Hokanson, who fumbled a handoff on the Thunder’s first play from scrimmage. But he rebounded well and finished with seven catches for 81 yards, some of which were very acrobatic.
“It’s just one of those things where you’re like ‘OK, next play,'” head coach Carl Franke said. “He’s a kid that’s going to keep battling and he hates to let his team down, so I knew for a fact that he’d come back and make some big plays for us.”
Snow Canyon took over in the red zone and Matt Kitchen threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Zach Nowatzke a few plays later. Nowatzke led the Warriors with four catches and 39 yards.
On fourth and two later in the first quarter, Nephi Sewell took a handoff up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
Desert Hills forced two turnovers of its own on the next two Snow Canyon possessions: an interception by Hunter Holt and a fumble recovery by Laisene Sewell.
A few plays after the fumble recovery, Thunder quarterback Quinn Kiser threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Hokanson for a 14-7 lead.
Highlights: Quinn Kiser throws a short touchdown to Marco Jordan for Desert Hills pic.twitter.com/gT7R9hpzyB— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) October 22, 2016
The Warriors then put together an 80-yard drive, spurred by a 22-yard completion from Kitchen to Tyson Deland and a 14-yard toss to Brooks Sampson.
Kitchen snagged a high and ran into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown to tie the score 14-14.
Desert Hills grounded out an even longer drive just before halftime, going 92 yards in eight plays to score on a five-yard pass from Kiser to Marco Jordan.
Sewell got 64 of his 163 rushing yards on that drive on a big run down the left sideline.
Then it was the defense’s turn.
Snow Canyon drove down inside the red zone, trailing 21-14, when Kitchen threw his second interception of the game to Hunter Holt.
Video highlights: Snow Canyon QB Matt Kitchen runs in for a 2-yard TD pic.twitter.com/KEAsPIJkJr— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) October 22, 2016
The Warriors defense forced a three-and-out, then SCHS drove back into Desert Hills territory, where Thunder linebacker Masan Tuileta recovered a fumble from a botched handoff.
“Our defensive line helped a lot, they put pressure on the quarterback, give credit to the D-line,” he said.
This time the Desert Hills offense found its footing, running Brock Parry and a 24-yard reception by Hokanson on third-and-20. Parry scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to put the game to bed.
For good measure, Tuileta snagged the Thunder’s third interception on the ensuing drive.
Snow Canyon finished 1-4 in 3AA South, in a three-way tie for fourth place. A coin flip for the fourth seed was conducted when all the games were done, and the Warriors are heading as the No. 6 seed to take on Ridgeline, the north’s No. 3 seed next week.
Desert Hills is the south’s No. 2 seed and has a bye next week.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr on Twitter @PatrickCarr_ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/PatrickJosephCarr1/ or call him at (435) 231-3834.