HURRICANE — Sometimes, football is a matter of inches.
For Hurricane those inches were the difference between losing a triple-overtime game to Desert Hills last year instead of winning it. The trickle-down effect from that region loss was very significant.
Instead of heading into the playoffs with a perfect record and a clear path to Rice-Eccles Stadium, Hurricane went in as a No. 2 seed from Region 9 and was forced to travel in the quarterfinals. That ended very badly as nemesis Juan Diego destroyed the Tigers 38-0.
Coach Chris Homer thought his team was fine heading into the Juan Diego game after a great week of practice, but that obviously wasn’t the case.
“Juan Diego has our number,” said Homer.
It was a devastating loss for a team with state championship aspirations, but now it’s time for some fresh blood to take over the program.
“We’re going to be young, and maybe that’s a good thing starting fresh and young. We definitely feel like we’re in a rebuilding phase. If we can find a few linemen we feel like we’re going to be good again,” said Homer.
Like any team in 3A, Hurricane’s gotta stay healthy.
Ironically enough, a late-season injury to starting quarterback Zach Prince — his leadership was sorely missed in the Tigers' playoff ouster — will benefit Hurricane a year later.
Adlai Elison was thrust into the starting quarterback position the last three games in 2012, and the big-game experience he gained in a pair of playoff games gives him plenty of confidence heading into his senior season.
He’s not a big quarterback by any means, but his athleticism is very good.
“I think he’s a scary quarterback. He throws well. He does a lot of really good things that we’re really excited about,” said Homer.
Another player Hurricane is very excited about is junior fullback Jeremiah Ieremia.
Jared Edwards was a great fullback for the Tigers last year, but by the end of the season the shifty fullback was down from 180 pounds to 165 and was beat up after the Region 9 grind. At 6 foot 2, 220 pounds, Ieremia is more in the mold of a Brian Scott-type bruiser, and Hurricane is at its best with a dominant fullback.
“This Ieremia kid is big legs and someone who can run people over,” said Homer.
That could be important down the road somewhere in a big game if Hurricane is faced with fourth-and-inches. During the program’s four-year run of 3A championship game appearances, a subtle stat Homer said was a reflection of the program’s dominance was a 90-percent conversion rate on fourth-and-1.
Last year that percent dipped to around 50 percent, and Homer said that proved costly — in particular in the Desert Hills triple-overtime loss. Leading 28-7 in the third quarter and out of field-goal range, Hurricane went for it on fourth-and-1 but was stuffed. Desert Hills quickly marched down and scored to make a game of it.
If Hurricane converted that play, Desert Hills might’ve never seized momentum.
“Those are things we like the big backs for,” said Homer.
Over the past five years, Hurricane has a combined 57-10 record, and from year to year there have been carryover star players that kept the tradition alive. Guys like Ryan Butler, Ian Gates, Taylor Parker, Daniel Nielson, Brian Scott and Adam Thompson were great players their junior years who provided excellent leadership the following years.
This year, however, there’s not a holdover all-stater on offense or defense for Hurricane, which is an awkward reality after some dominant years.
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