HURRICANE — It was a long and strange night at Tiger Stadium, but for Desert Hills, it was all worth it.
Jordan Hokanson caught the winning touchdown pass from Ty Rutledge and the Thunder survived two lightning delays and a determined Hurricane squad to win a 46-38 triple-overtime thriller Thursday night.
"I'm exhausted. I don't even know what to say," Rutledge said. "When you put everything you have into something, give until you can't give anymore, and you beat a great team like Hurricane, well it's the best feeling in the world."
The game had more storylines than a daytime soap and didn't conclude until well after 11 p.m. At one point, after a 45-minute halftime delay due to dangerously close lightning, Hurricane and Desert Hills administrators considered postponing the rest of the game. But after a time, Hurricane principal Jody Rich announced the second half would be played "even if it takes all night." It nearly did.
Up 21-7 during the elongated intermission, the Tigers came out in the second half and seemed to put the game away with an 85-yard touchdown drive. Jared Edwards had most of the yardage on the drive, which took eight plays and nearly four minutes. Edwards' 3-yard dive made it 28-7 with 8:13 to go in the third quarter.
"We told the boys (at that point) that they could either be men and show some pride and rise to the challenge or just roll over," Thunder assistant coach Buck Cowdin said. "We felt embarrassed we hadn't competed better."
From that point on, including the three overtimes, Desert Hills outscored the defending state champions 39-10.
"That first drive after they scored in the third quarter was huge," Rutledge said. "I'm not going to lie, I doubted us before that. But that drive showed us we could do it."
Indeed, the Thunder went 58 yards on nine plays, converting on a third-and-19 on a pass from Rutledge to Jordan Hokanson of 21 yards, as well as a fourth-and-1 conversion from the 6-yard line on a TD run by Rutledge.
The score made it 28-14 with 3:51 left in the third and gave the Desert Hills crowd some hope.
After a Hurricane punt, Dallin Bristol snagged a Rutledge pass away from a defender to make it 28-21 with still a minute left in the third quarter. Five minutes and another Hurricane punt later, Rutledge and Bristol teamed up again — in a bizarre way. Rutledge lunged for the end zone on a scramble, but the ball popped out and rolled into the end zone, where Bristol snatched it up for six points, tying the score at 28 with 7:40 left in regulation. Both teams had chances to win before the extra periods, but couldn't get it done.
Hurricane and Desert Hills both scored TDs in the first overtime and the Tigers' Ethan Baer hit a 37-yard field goal to put Hurricane ahead at 38-35 in the second OT. Desert Hill's Andrew Yergensen matched Baer's 3-pointer with a 27-yarder to force the third OT.
The Thunder had the ball first in the third extra period. Rutledge ran it down to the 3-yard line. Three plays later, the Thunder faced fourth down at the 4-yard line.
Rutledge, under pressure, rolled to the right, then spotted Hokanson back to the left and threw across his body to get the wide receiver the ball for the go-ahead score.
"I was under pressure and was thinking I would have to break a tackle and try to score," Rutledge said. "Then I saw Jordan doing jumping jacks over there all alone."
The TD and a two-pointer gave Desert Hills its winning margin as Hurricane stalled out at the 22-yard line in its possession.
The win puts Desert Hills in a position to capture the No. 1 seed from Region 9 with a win next week against Cedar. It also hands Hurricane its first loss since 2010, a streak of 20 straight victories.
The Tigers (7-1, 4-1) will likely at least tie for a fifth straight region title as they play winless (region play) Canyon View next week.
For Desert Hills (5-3, 4-1) it is a small measure of revenge for a championship game loss last November.