3A football finals: 'Everything is different' as Tigers, Thunder meet again
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
DESERT HILLS (9-3) VS. HURRICANE (12-0)
Friday, 6:30 p.m. Rice-Eccles Stadium (field turf)
Ticket Information: Avoid lines, purchase tickets at uhsaa.org
TV KJZZ. Webcast Live stream at deseretnews.com. Parrys Power Guide Hurricane by 11
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the playoffs, one should never make assumptions based on previous meetings. Desert Hills proved that last week.
Three weeks after Desert Hills was embarrassed 48-20 by region foe Cedar on the final day of the regular season, Desert Hills returned the favor last Friday with a 23-21 win over Cedar in the 3A semifinals.
In Friday night's 3A state championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 6:30 p.m., Desert Hills will try and avenge another loss.
No. 1 Hurricane dominated Desert Hills 35-8 back in Week 9 this year, and many expect a similar lopsided victory. Don't count Hurricane coach Chris Homer among those expecting a blowout.
"I definitely don't expect it to be near as easy as it was the first time. There's no way that's going to happen," said Homer.
Hurricane played nearly flawless the first time around, including 10 of 10 passing and rushing for 288 yards. Conversely, the Tigers' defense held Desert Hills to just 92 yards rushing.
Taylor Parker completed 9-of-9 passes in that game, but he said that game has no bearing on tonight's title tilt.
"We just need to forget about the last game and the score, 'cause it's a different time of year. Everything is different. We just need to come out and focus and execute," said Parker.
Desert Hills certainly needs to focus and execute better than it did in Week 9.
"They didn't make a single mistake in that game, they got us, they kicked our butts pretty well," said Jake Nelson, who's been Desert Hills' head coach in three of the four years since the school opened in 2008.
For Hurricane, this is its fourth straight championship game appearance, but nemesis Juan Diego isn't standing in the way.
"Not playing Juan Diego is almost an odd feeling, but I'm as stressed out and anxious," said Homer.
Juan Diego lost to Spanish Fork in the quarterfinals, which then lost to Hurricane in the semifinals.
In last week's semifinal victory, Hurricane fullback Brian Scott was a beast, rushing for 220 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 36 carries. He's eclipsed 1,500 yards this year with 28 TDs.
Slowing Scott is the key to the game for Desert Hills, but Nelson knows he can't overload the middle of the field defensively. Otherwise, wingbacks Weston Yardley and Adam Thompson could have a field day as the two have combined for 1,445 yards and 22 TDs.
"You have to pick your poison with them," said Nelson.
Desert Hills' defense did a fantastic job stuffing Cedar fullback Hayden Bishop in last week's semifinal win, and it will need a similar effort against Scott.
Desert Hills features a power back of its own in Mike Needham. Even though he's been hobbled in recent weeks with a sprained ankle, it didn't slow him down last week as he rushed for 165 yards on 32 carries. Hurricane can't afford to overload the box to slow Needham either because quarterback Porter Harris is pretty dangerous running and passing.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY