This is pretty big, pretty amazing. I feel so happy right now. I know how bad coach wanted this, how bad we wanted it. It's huge. —Desert Hills freshman Trevin Kidman
ST. GEORGE — It's a youth movement at Desert Hills as freshman Trevin Kidman scored a second-half goal and sophomore goalkeeper Preston Hodges survived a late surge by Dixie and the Thunder won 2-1 in the 4A state semifinals Thursday night at Pine View High School.
The win launches the Thunder into their first-ever chance at a 4A state championship. D-Hills will play Park City Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at RSL Academy for the 4A title.
"This is pretty big, pretty amazing," said Kidman, whose open-net goal with 16:49 left in the match made it a 2-0 Thunder lead. "I feel so happy right now. I know how bad coach wanted this, how bad we wanted it. It's huge."
Desert Hills came into the game as underdogs, finishing in third place in Region 9 behind Snow Canyon and Dixie and having gone 0-1-3 against those two teams. But the Thunder got playoff road wins at Mountain View and at Logan to earn their way to the semifinals.
"We've been playing so much better late in the year," Desert Hills coach Benji Nelson said. "We've really come together as a team. They probably overlooked us a little as a team. They beat us that first time and the second one was a tie. No one's going to beat us three times in a year."
The entire outlook of the game took a D-Hills slant early on as Kelton Holt blasted in a goal with under three minutes off the clock.
"Just two minutes into the game, we had a cross that came in and a hard shot at the keeper. He blocked it, but Kelton Holt got the rebound and just poked it in," Nelson said. "We didn't modify, but just the momentum and giving us that energy was big."
Dixie owned about a 60-40 advantage in possession the rest of the half, but Hodges was money in goal for the Thunder, stopping all Flyer shots, including a hard grounder by Oscar Quintero in the 19th minute and another save on a loose ball in the box in the 21st minute.
With the score 1-0 10 minutes into the second half, Dixie's Tauri Morales fired a left-footed rocket low and hard to Hodges' left. The young keeper made a diving save to preserve the lead.
Kidman scored what he called "the easiest goal of my life" with 16:49 left in the second half. Holt and Dixie defender Jace Bennett converged on a through ball just as Dixie keeper Kieran Atkin got there. All three went down and the ball ricocheted to Kidman, who tapped the open-net goal home for a 2-0 Desert Hills lead.
Dixie pulled to within 2-1 with 6:04 to play when Andy Rich got a foot on a loose ball and poked it past Hodges to give the Dixie faithful some hope.
With the glimmer of light, the Flyers turned up the heat on Hodges. In the last six minutes, Hodges deflected away a half-dozen Dixie shots, including a header off a rebound by Quintero with 3:04 to go. Dixie had one last chance on a corner kick with 25 seconds left, but the kick was not close and the Thunder ran out the last few seconds and began the celebration.
"Dixie wanted it really bad, and I had cotton mouth the whole time," Hodges said. "The only thing I didn't want was they score and it comes down to PKs, cause PKs are all luck."
The Thunder, 12-2-4 on the season, have never won a boys soccer championship but will battle Park City Saturday to try and change that.
Dixie closes the season with a 12-2-3 record.
Andy Griffin is a southern Utah broadcaster and sports writer and has been involved in covering sports in Utah, including professional, college and high school sports, since 1989. Andy is the sports editor at STGNews.com.