3A high school football playoffs: Late-blooming Delta handles Desert Hills
DELTA — The long strange season for Delta will continue at least one more week as the Rabbits downed Desert Hills 27-7 Saturday afternoon in the 3A state quarterfinals.
Delta has reeled off eight straight after an 0-4 start and has earned a trip to the turf of Rice-Eccles Stadium and next Thursday's semifinal game against Hurricane.
"We had a tough preseason and I'll tell you, things looked pretty bleak," Delta coach Russ Henrie said. "We thought we had a pretty good team, but we just couldn't do anything right."
"We have improved so much since the beginning of the year and no one has improved as much as Colin Christensen," Henrie said. "He made a couple of plays in this game that were just amazing, special plays."
The first came midway through the first quarter of a scoreless game. It was third and long for the Rabbits at their own 16-yard line when Christensen went back to pass.
"I saw their linebacker shift outside just before the snap and went in there untouched," Henrie said. "Colin never saw him and it should have been a sack, but he kind of shoveled to Hadley Myers while he was getting hit."
The would-be sack turned into a short completion, which turned into a long run as Myers found open field and used his speed to outrun the Thunder defense 84 yards for the score.
After a Desert Hills fumble set up Delta at midfield, the Rabbits wasted no time doubling their lead.
Myers capped the four-minute drive with an eight-yard run on third and goal on an off-tackle play, making it 14-0 with 9:29 to go until halftime.
The Thunder moved the ball at times, but turnovers squelched any Desert Hills thoughts of a comeback.
Delta lineman Kyle Anderson picked off a Porter Harris pass that set up Delta's third TD early in the third quarter. Inside the Delta 30-yard line, the play looked to be set up perfectly for a touchdown that would have made it 14-7, but Anderson showed tremendous athleticism in leaping up to catch a screen pass. He rumbled back to the Desert Hills 30-yard line.
Five plays later Christensen dove in from the one to make it 21-0 with 6:41 to go in the third quarter.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Thunder late in the third quarter. A blocked punt set up a one-yard Mike Needham TD run that made it 21-7 with 2:15 to go in the third.
A defensive stop for Desert Hills led to an impressive drive that got the Thunder all the way to the nine-yard line. But Delta's Jace Johnson picked off a pass in the end zone to stop the threat and Delta's offense used most of the rest of the clock.
Myers had a 20-yard run in the game's final minute to ice the game.
"Like Colin, this team is pretty special," Henrie said. "It just took a little while to peel back the layers and find it."
Desert Hills, which got 170 passing yards from Harris, finishes its third season with a 7-4 record.
The Rabbits, at 8-4, get a rematch with Hurricane, which beat them 20-8 in Delta during that 0-4 preseason.