In the opening night of high school football, it is common to see the jitters during the early quarters of a new season. For Syracuse and Desert Hills, it was no different. Committing penalties and making bad decisions are parts of the preseason schedule as the teams hope to be in top shape come region play.
Defense was the major player in this game, both teams looking strong and aggressive. Defensive standouts for the Thunder included defensive end #13 Nate Brinker and linebacker #34 Mike Needham. Brinker drove past his blockers to record three solo sacks among a myriad of tackles. Needham laid the wood late in the game on the Titan receivers, making them think twice about catching the ball in the flats.
Brinker brought some of that spotlight to the offense after starting quarterback #14 Porter Harris went down with hamstring cramps. Brinker took the snap from center and tossed a gem to streaking wide-out #1 Ty Rutledge, who dove to make a spectacular catch in heavy traffic.
The Titans controlled the game for almost all four quarters, especially at the line. The team in white and blue looked like the tougher opponent, their offensive line opened holes so big a semi could drive through them, but waiting on the other side was the sturdy Thunder Linebackers and secondary. Syracuse struck quickly in the first after Desert Hills turned the ball over in four downs. The Titans got a quick pass out to the flats, and a shot through the uprights, making them the first on the board.
It would take Desert Hills until the third quarter, when Porter Harris connected with offensive standout Ty Rutledge, before they would see anything but a zero under their names. First year kicker, and convert from soccer, Tavo Allegria, struggled to find the middle of the goal posts. The senior has a strong leg on kick-offs, but struggled with the extra points and field goals.
With under seven minutes to go in the final quarter, a defensive miscommunication allowed the Titans to thread a needle over the top of the Thunder defense and Syracuse found paydirt again, making it 14-6.
If there’s one thing to admire on this team, it is their tenacity and drive to win. Coming back with time running out on the clock, Desert Hills QB Harris found Rutledge once again on a post pattern, who then evaded a would-be Titan defender and dove into the endzone, making the score 14-12. Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game at 14, the Thunder tried a sneak play where Mike Needham took a direct snap and attempted to race around the corner, but the Syracuse defensive line met him in the backfield.
After a failed onside kick by the Thunder, the Titans ran out the remaining two minutes and 30 seconds to claim the preseason win, 14-12.