PREVIEW: Can Warriors Stay Hot against Dixie?
By Rustyn Burnside, ESPN 977
Statement. Declaration. Assertion. Announcement. A revelation.
All these words would be fitting to use for the Snow Canyon Warriors after they defeated the Desert Hills Thunder 42-20. Before the victory, the Warriors had been a good team without a win that really jumped off the schedule. When people discussed Snow Canyon football this year, the talks were centered around potential, talent, and when would they breakthrough? Wins against Northridge, Cedar and Hurricane were nice for sure. But when the big games rolled around the Warriors always found themselves on the wrong side. Tough losses to Arbor View and a 2-point defeat at the hands of Region 10 leading Crimson Cliffs with their backup QB showed that this team had what it took to compete. Regardless, there was no statement, season defining win from this group. Until last Friday.
The Thunder were coming off one of their most impressive, and satisfying wins of the year. Not only had they spoiled Dixie’s homecoming with a 56-21 drubbing, but they had gotten star QB Noah Fuailetolo back in the lineup after a 4-game absence. He looked particularly sharp against Dixie tossing three scores, and it seemed as if Desert Hills had reasserted themselves as a solid championship selection. For Snow Canyon however, none of that seemed to matter. The Warriors were due for their breakout game, and it happened on one of the biggest stages of the year. Snow Canyon marched down the field on the opening drive and capped it with a 4-yard dart from Hunter Johnson to Will Warner to get things started. Desert Hills would answer with a Fui 39-yard pass to Tayven Mortensen to know things up at 7 a piece come the second quarter. An evenly matched game between two talented teams is what shone through on the scoreboard when halftime rolled around. 14-13, Snow Canyon had the slight edge. The second half would be an entirely different story.
Snow Canyon would play arguably their most complete half of football after the break. 21 unanswered points, courtesy of a Warrior defense that wrecked absolute chaos. Brooks Esplin started the first Thunder drive of the third with an Interception that turned into a Carson Nowatzke 3-yard Touchdown plunge. The defense was not done making an impact as Kolter Stuart took a wandering pass the other direction for six more on an Interception return Touchdown. With the lead now a 28-13 advantage, Snow Canyon would put a bow on the third quarter with a pretty 12-yard pass from Johnson to Brooks Esplin to make it 35-13 headed into the third. Tyden Morris would score for Desert Hills early in the 4th to give the Thunder signs of life. With Desert Hills driving down 35-20 and an opportunity to potentially make it a one score game, the Warriors defense once again delivered a crushing blow, this one proving to be the final nail in a Desert Hills defeat. Makaio Swensen stripped the ball from Thunder tailback, Kona Crowell, whereafter the ball was plucked from the air by Will Warner who took the fumble all the way for the Warriors second defensive score of the game. This would cement a 42-20 win for the home team at Snow Canyon High School.
3 Interceptions (Esplin, Stuart, Gough), 2 forced fumbles, both recovered (Warner, Gubler) and two defensive touchdowns will certainly get it done. The Warrior’s defense was a whole other animal in this win, and have yet to allow an opponent more than 30 points in single game this year. Rockwell Jones was credited with a whopping 13 total tackles, and it is not hard to see why Snow Canyon could be a threat down the line for anyone hoping to get their hands on a state title. The offense was polished as well with Hunter Johnson once again leading the team in rushing. Johnson now has three straight games with a rushing score. He also has thrown 5 touchdowns to 0 interceptions in the last two games. Johnson seems to playing his best ball of the season at this point and no doubt his talented group of wide receivers will benefit. 8 different Warriors caught a ball on Johnsons 13 completions, with Esplin having 3 grabs, 45 yards to go with his touchdown. Warner had 4 receptions,3 36 yards and the other receiving score of the night.
The Warriors have long since turned their attention to Dixie for this Friday night. The Flyers currently sit #3 in the RPI at 4-2 on the season. Desert Hills still remains at #2, so victories over #2, and #3 would go a long way for current #5 Snow Canyon. With half of that battle completed, Dixie will be no easy task. The Flyers regained momentum lost to Desert Hills with a physical, tough come from behind clutch victory over Cedar last week. Iron County is no easy place to play football. Ask the Warriors themselves who escaped with a narrow 20-17 victory in their first region game of the year. Coach Monkres and the Flyers made the bold decision to go for two after tying the game up with under a minute remaining and it paid off in a 25-24 win.
Jalen Schultz had his best game as the Flyer signal caller. Three touchdowns on 27/44 passing, with 302 yards and no interceptions. He had a long of 44, and his yardage through the air and touchdowns thrown were both career highs and the first time he eclipsed 300 passing yards. Not to mention the clutch Quarterbacking to pull out the most difficult win of the year, and Jalen Schultz has some confidence going into this region tilt.
Blake Watson was the main man with 8 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while utility man Jaxon Barben had 6 catches for 60 yards and a score himself. Jeffrey Christian had 54 rush yards next to 6 receptions for 31 yards. David Bartschi and Mason Kesterson were also both heavily involved combining for 100 plus yards themselves.
Dixie has had a slew of injuries to prominent players so they have had to come together as a team and all contribute where they can. This was certainly the case on defense as Treven Alldredge led the Flyers with 14 total tackles. Jake Dombrowski did what he does best by piling in 8 total tackles of his own including 4 for loss. Blake Watson hounded Cedar’s receivers just like he did their defensive backs with 2 interceptions.
This game is as tight as it gets, and who the precise favorite is, can be difficult to tell. Both teams feel like they have something to prove, and are desperately trying to establish superiority in a whacky, chaotic Region 10. You can catch all the action on ESPN 97.7 or watch on sportsradio977.com for our Ideal Home and Paint game of the week.