STANSBURY PARK — For the second time in the last three years, the Desert Hills Thunder had an away playoff game against the Stansbury Stallions. And for the second time in three years, they were able to advance to the semifinals with a win over the 3AA North runners-up.
Desert Hills absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for all four scores and winning the game, 31-14.
"People are doing their jobs, making big plays, and our line is winning games for us," said Nick Warmsley. "There hasn't been a game all year that we haven't won because of the offensive line."
Landen Broadhead got things rolling early in the first when he scored from 40 yards out and gave the Thunder a 7-0 advantage with 7:54 left in the first quarter.
A 37-yard field goal from Hunter Spray gave the Thunder a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, but Stansbury answered on the following drive.
Josh Mulivai found the end zone from a yard out, and it was 10-7 Thunder with 9:18 left in the half.
A few drives later, Desert Hills was faced with a fourth and 9 from the Stansbury 29, and elected to go for it. Nick Warmsley rolled right, looked back left, and the pass was intercepted by Landon Stice, who took it 74 yards to the house, giving Stansbury a 14-10 lead and all the momentum heading into the half.
Desert Hills drove right down the field on its first drive of the second half, regaining the lead 17-14 after Bridger Cowdin scored from 18 yards out.
Warmsley scored from nine yards out to end the third quarter, and the Thunder took a 25-14 lead into the final quarter after a two-point conversion.
The Thunder defense forced two turnovers on the night, and the No. 1 scoring defense in 3AA (9.5 ppg) only allowed one offensive touchdown all night long.
"Defensively we play really sound, disciplined football," said Thunder head coach Carl Franke. "Without that pick six, some penalties, and a few bad plays on special teams, we probably would've had another shutout."
Gabriel Sewell finished off the scoring with 5:44 remaining to make it 31-14, and the Thunder defense slammed the door.
Four different players scored for Desert Hills, and the Thunder were able to hurt the Stallions in a variety of ways.
"What's nice is that you can't really key on one guy," said Franke. "They're all pretty dangerous, and we can surprise people because our quarterback can really run it. It keeps teams very honest."
"We all open up holes for each other," said Warmsley. "We all carry out fakes, the line blocks perfectly, and we all just execute. I think that our line could block anybody."
With the win, Desert Hills will advance to the semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium for the third straight season and face a very familiar opponent — the Dixie Flyers.
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"We need to do what we did tonight, and that's run the ball," said Franke. "We didn't run the ball well last time we played them, we got out of our game plan a little bit, but we'll do a good job. We know Dixie is one hell of a team. They're the reigning state champs. We just need to put a full game together to win."
Dixie and Desert Hills will play at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
CJ Pronk is a Deseret Digital Media intern and a Stansbury High School graduate. After serving an LDS Mission to the Dominican Republic, CJ will attend Southern Utah University. Follow him on Twitter @BigCeeJ3113.