Payson (4-6) at Desert Hills (6-3)
3A state tournament first round
Friday, 6 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: Desert Hills by 48
All-time series: First meeting
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Payson’s Jeremy Chapman and Desert Hills’ Carl Franke
After graduating the majority of its starters from last year’s 3A runner-up team, not much was expected of Desert Hills this season as it was pegged to finish fourth in Region 9. A very strong October altered those expectations dramatically.
Following late-September losses to Dixie and Stansbury, Desert Hills regrouped with victories over Snow Canyon, Hurricane and Cedar the final three weeks of the season to earn a share of the Region 9 title.
Desert Hills is a big favorite against Payson in the opening round of the playoffs this Friday, and the team is confident about making another run through the postseason.
“We’re pretty healthy, and executing on both sides of the ball and not making mistakes and stupid penalties,” Franke said.
Desert Hills has been an efficient offensive and defensive team when healthy this season, and Franke believes his team’s strength and athleticism in the trenches will be a big advantage against Payson — particularly on defense.
“Our front seven should dictate the game for sure for us,” Franke said.
Payson had hoped to avoid such a difficult first round matchup this year with a second-place finish in Region 12. It achieved that goal with a 3-2 record, but so did Delta and North Sanpete and Payson lost the three-way coin flip to finish as the No. 4 seed.
Payson has won four of its last six games after starting the season 0-4, and coach Jeremy Chapman feels confident about the way his team is playing.
“Kids are playing well. Obviously making the playoffs is a big deal for us,” he said. “We finished the season strong, we won four out of our last six games, so that was a big deal.”
The Lions had a chance to earn a share of the Region 12 title with a victory over Spanish Fork last week, but turnovers doomed them as they were blown out 45-14.
Chapman liked the way his kids competed despite the loss and isn’t concerned about their mentality this Friday.
To have a chance against Desert Hills, third-year starting quarterback Devan Judd needs to be much more efficient than he was against Spanish Fork. Judd threw three interceptions and only completed 5-of-26 passes for 113 yards. Most of those yards came on his 83-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
“We need him at his best to compete because around him are a lot of young kids,” Chapman said.
Desert Hills’ quarterback Ty Rutledge is just as important and he’s been dynamite lately. In the past three weeks the senior has passed for six touchdowns and rushed for three more. For the season he’s accounted for 27 touchdowns.
Rutledge has been playing with a torn MCL since the Dixie loss on Sept. 21, but Franke said it’s not slowing his star down at all.
Desert Hills could be a little shorthanded defensively as leading tackler Travis LaGrone has a Grade 2 tear of the AC joint in his shoulder. He likely won’t play this week against Payson, but the Region 9 champs have more than enough athletic options to take his place.
Payson statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 18.8 ppg
Scoring defense: 31.7 ppg
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