Snow Canyon hosts Hurricane on Homecoming Weekend
By Keric Seegmiller
(ST. GEORGE, Utah – Sept. 15, 2022) After opening Region 10 play with two consecutive road games, Snow Canyon football returns to the comfy confines of Warrior Stadium on Friday for a Homecoming date with Hurricane. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., as both teams look to shake off week-five defeats.
Live coverage is scheduled on radio (890 KDXU) with live video streaming available on SportsRadio977.com. Andy Griffin will provide play-by-play with Keric Seegmiller offering analysis and color commentary.
ROAD WARRIORS (AND TIGERS): While Snow Canyon has played its last two games on the road, the Tigers have played just one of five games in Hurricane. The Tigers, who are in the midst of three consecutive region road contests, hosted what was supposed to be their home opener at Desert Hills on Aug. 12, due to their new field still being installed. Hurricane’s lone true-home game of the year saw the Tigers earn a 28-19 win over Pine View.
SERIES HISTORY: Friday’s matchup marks the 29th meeting between the Warriors and Tigers on the gridiron. Snow Canyon opened its door in Aug. 1994, and the first meeting between the schools came a few weeks later on Sept, 23, 1994. Hurricane claimed a 22-7 win in that first battle, but the teams have been fairly evenly matched over the years. Snow Canyon holds a 16-12 overall series lead and a 6-4 edge over the last 10 seasons, although Hurricane has won three out of five games at Snow Canyon over that same 10-year stretch.
SCOUTING SNOW CANYON: Snow Canyon enters the game with a 2-3 overall record and a 1-1 mark in Region 10 play. The Warriors opened the year with a 41-7 throttling of Northridge at home, followed by losses at Arbor View, Nevada, and a home date against Ridgeline. Snow Canyon bounced back with a region-opening road win at Cedar before falling just short in its upset bid at Crimson Cliffs last week.
Through five games, the Warriors are averaging 20.2 points (No. 5 in Region 10) and 289.6 yards (176.6 pass/112.6 rush) of total offense per game. Senior quarterback Hunter Johnson is ranked in the top half of the region in rushing (No. 3) and passing (No. 5) yards. Johnson missed last week’s road tilt at Crimson Cliffs, but has still completed 66-of-104 passes for 607 yards and seven touchdowns, while rushing for another 387 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries. Talan “Tank” Kelly stepped up in Johnson’s absence, completing 22-of-39 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another touchdown to prove the Warrior offense is effective with either quarterback at the helm.
Senior receiver Jake Hill has been the main target for the Snow Canyon quarterbacks, and has snagged 22 passes for 368 yards and five touchdowns. Seniors Brooks Esplin (18 REC, 192 YDS, 2 TD) and Teagan Hugh (17 REC, 122 YDS) have also recorded double-digit receptions, while Hugh is second on the team with 87 yards rushing on 24 carries.
The Warriors lead Region 10 in scoring defense, allowing just 16.4 points per game. Additionally, Snow Canyon has held three of its five opponents under 20 points, while allowing 330.0 yards (200.2 pass/129.8 rush) of total offense per contest. Senior Rockwell Jones leads the Warrior defense with 47 tackles, including 30 solo stops. Junior Tegun Whitehead is a close second with 42 tackles and a team-high five tackles for loss. Senior Rio Ochoa leads the team with 2.5 sacks, while six different players have recorded an interception, led two apiece by seniors Will Warner and Brandon Gough.
On special teams, senior Corbin Christian has connected on 10-of-13 point-after attempts, while the Warriors have not attempted a field goal.
SCOUTING HURRICANE: Hurricane enters the game with a 1-4 overall mark and a 1-1 record in Region 10 play. The Tigers battled to 28-19 victory over Pine View two weeks ago in their Region 10 opener. The win marked Hurricane’s first region win since 2019. The Tigers traveled to Cedar last week, but dropped a 38-0 shutout at the hands of the Reds in the second region game of the year.
Through five games, Hurricane is scoring 14.4 points per game (No. 7 in Region 10) and averages 283.2 yards of total offense (174.2 pass/109.0 rush) per contest. Sophomore quarterback Gerritt Grondel ranks second in the region in passing, and has completed 69-of-130 passes for 871 yards and eight touchdowns. Grondel has also rushed for a team-high 255 yards and a touchdown on 64 carries. Grondel’s favorite target is senior receiver RJ Wright, who leads Region 10 with 33 catches for 496 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Ethan Staples is the Tigers’ leading running back with 205 yards and a touchdown on 58 carries.
Defensively, the Tigers allow an average of 30.4 (No. 6 in Region 10) points and 381.0 yards (203.2 pass/177.8 rush) of total offense per game. Junior linebacker Kellan Pledger leads the Hurricane defense with 47 tackles, while junior defensive end Hunter Prince has added 34 stops. Senior Adrixx Clegg and junior Alexander Stubbs lead the team with two sacks each, while senior Jace Meacham has snagged a team-best two interceptions.
On special teams, Wright has connected on 6-of-6 point-after attempts, while the Tigers have converted on 2-of-4 2-point tries.
REGION LEADERS: While Wright leads the region in receiving yards (496) and receptions (33), Hill and Wright are tied atop the region stats with a league-best five touchdown receptions each. Similarly, Grondel is second behind Crimson Cliff’s Steele Barben in passing yards and completions, but is level with Barben atop the league with eight touchdown passes. Meanwhile, Johnson (387 yds) and Grondel (255 yds) are the region’s top rushing quarterbacks. Additionally, Grondel leads the region with 1,126 total yards (871 pass/255 rush).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Snow Canyon showed last week it doesn’t matter whether it’s Johnson or Kelly at quarterback. The Warriors are going to move the ball regardless of who’s taking the snaps. Snow Canyon runs a balanced attack with close to a 60-40 split on pass to run ratio, but when the Warriors really need to find the end zone, they’ll go to the air. Snow Canyon has scored 10 passing touchdowns compared to three rushing touchdowns, with four different receivers catching touchdowns. The Warriors will mix in a quarterback keeper or a run for Hugh, but make no mistake, they’re going to air it out. Defensively, Snow Canyon has forced nine turnovers, including six interceptions and three fumbles. Expect the Warriors to fly to the ball and look to contain Hurricane’s duel threat sophomore quarterback.
While the Tigers took a step back from their region-opening win last week, don’t expect Hurricane to let it happen again. Sometimes it’s just not your day. That was last week at Cedar. It’s a new week and a new opponent. Coach Ashby and company will have their team ready to go. Look for Grondel to find Wright early and often, while the Tigers also find ways to get Carter Ashby and Nefai Iloa involved in the offense. Hurricane’s offense has been a 53-47 percent split on rush to pass, so expect a healthy dose of Grondel and Staples on the ground as well. Defensively, expect the Tigers to pressure the Snow Canyon quarterbacks to try to force mistakes the secondary can take advantage of. Hurricane will need to win the turnover battle in order to win the game.
UP NEXT: Snow Canyon will host Desert Hills, while Hurricane wraps up its three-game road swing at Crimson Cliffs as Region 10 play continues next Friday, Sept. 23.