PLEASANT GROVE — In the season opener for both teams, Desert Hills took advantage of five Orem fumbles and ran the ball with authority to notch a 35-13 win over the Tigers on what could technically be considered a neutral field.
Orem’s field is being re-surfaced and wasn’t ready for action, so the game was played in Pleasant Grove under windy and rainy conditions more typical of an October game.
“Bridger (Cowdin), Nephi (Sewell), Nick (Warmsley) — that’s the thing, we got guys,” said Desert Hills coach Carl Franke. “The weather kind of held us in check a little bit. We’d like to throw the ball a little bit more. We don’t want to be a 70-30 run team. We want to be able to be very even. When we have to run the ball, we feel like we can run the ball.”
The Tigers looked like they would surprise the Thunder with a touchdown on their opening drive, but they fumbled on the Desert Hills 2 after driving 73 yards in 12 plays. Neither team ended up scoring in the first quarter.
The Thunder scored first early in the second quarter when Cowdin capped a 63-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. Christian Cottle’s kick gave the Thunder a 7-0 lead with 8:03 remaining in the first half.
On the Thunder’s next possession, Orem forced a punt, which the Tigers fielded inside their own 10. Desert Hills pushed the Tigers back to their own 1 before Sewell forced an Orem fumble, which was recovered by the Thunder’s Braden Bailey in the end zone to give Desert Hills a 14-0 lead with 1:17 left in the half.
The Tigers pulled to within a touchdown at 14-7 midway through the third when Tucker Camp found Kody Codner for a 22-yard touchdown pass that finished a 12-play, three-minute drive.
Just before the third quarter closed, another Orem fumble led to a five-play Desert Hills drive finished by Sewell scoring on the ground from 5 yards out. That pushed the lead back to two TDs at 21-7.
Orem scored one more time when the Tigers recovered a Desert Hills fumble, which led to a 29-yard TD pass from Camp to Codner.
After that it was all Desert Hills, with Cowdin scoring on a run from 1 yard out and Warmsley finding Mason Palmer for a 23-yard touchdown pass with just under five minutes to play after recovering yet another Orem fumble.
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Franke was pleased with his team’s ability to continue to push after several comeback attempts by the Tigers.
“They’re gamers,” said Franke. “They’re going to play all four quarters. It won’t matter. They’re going to continue to play and grind and grind and grind and grind. We’re never going to be out of games. I don’t have to tell them anything.”
Drew Daniels is a Utah County native and has covered local sporting events for several news organizations including the Deseret News since 1988.