3AA football: Desert Hills defense gets better of Pine View QB (with video)
The frigid wind kept Gabriel Sewell's flowing black hair from giving him a clean view of the frenzy. The Desert Hills safety eventually whipped his head back to get a view of the Thunder's Class 3AA title celebration.
The championship was set up by the stellar and timely performance of the Thunder defensive backs.
Facing rival Pine View star quarterback Kody Wilstead, the stout Desert Hills defense at times bent, but it was rare. Instead, one of the more dominant fronts in the state took to getting after Wilstead, and it worked.
The Thunder picked off Wilstead four times despite giving up 332 yards passing and one touchdown on 22 completions.
"Everybody's in high school and everybody's young, so he looked like he started panicking," said Sewell, who finished with six tackles. "We just had to make plays on it."
They did late in the fourth quarter. It was defensive back Jordan Hokanson who gave the Desert Hills offense a chance to win the game when he picked off Wilstead for the second time, putting the Thunder on a short field at the Pine View 48-yard line with less than three minutes remaining.
"We just prepared well the whole week," Hokanson said. "All we were thinking about was topping them. They still put up 21, but we just had to keep our head in. ... We're clutch. We're a clutch [defense], we're a clutch team."
In facing a high-powered Pine View team that has no shortage of weapons on the outside, the Desert Hills defense matched the Panther athletes with their own. Hokanson said much of the credit goes to the Thunder's front seven, which kept pressure on Wilstead and the Pine View offense all evening.
"Us DBs, we just stay in front and watch Kody where he throws it, and we rallied to the ball," Hokanson said.
The likes of Hokanson, Sewell, Braden Reber and Landen Broadhead faced a tall task against a talented offense. They were up to it.
"We've got a lot of athletes," Desert Hills coach Carl Franke said. "We had a lot of guys who stepped up. ... It happened."