Desert Hills coach Carl Franke wastes no time explaining in no uncertain terms how difficult the Class 3AA South will be this season.
"Someone from our region has either played for or won state in each of the last 11 years," Franke said.
And the Thunder usually are part of the mix. They fell to Spanish Fork by a touchdown in the state semifinals last season.
Getting back to that position and beyond is the goal for the current group of Thunder, which returns plenty for the 2013 gridiron battles.
"Basically everyone is back except for two or three on each side of the ball," Franke said.
What Desert Hills is lacking is quarterback Ty Rutledge and wide receiver/defensive end Josh Anderson, who both graduated. Rutledge was hurt on the fourth play of the game in the state semis and had limited effectiveness the rest of the way.
Franke points to a pair of senior linemen as key for the Thunder this season. Brock Doman and Chipper Whatcott anchor both offensive and defensive lines. Doman lines up offensively at left tackle, while Whatcott is Desert Hills' center. Both will be looking to open holes for Bridger Cowdin, who had a solid, near 1,000-yard rushing season a year ago.
Defensively, both Doman and Whatcott are tackles for the Thunder, and they'll get some big help from the linebacking corps. Senior Sil Bundy is called a "tackling machine" by Franke, while quick 6-foot-2 junior linebacker Gabe Sewell is getting looks from college coaches. The third line of defense for Desert Hills, the defensive backfield, is headed by senior strong safety Landon Broadhead.
Desert Hills Thunder
ASSIGNMENT • Class 3AA South
LAST YEAR • 8-4 overall, 5-1 Region 9
KEY RETURNER • Bridger Cowdin, jr., RB
PLAYER TO WATCH • Gabe Sewell, jr., LB
BIGGEST HOLE • Quarterback
NEED TO KNOW • The Thunder might go young at signal caller, handing the keys to sophomore Nick Warmsley.