The Moapa Valley Pirates visited the Thunder at Desert Hills High School on Friday night, and left with sinking hopes and the weight of Thors hammer on their heads.
Desert Hills was in control from the first whistle to the last, showing to be the more dominate team in every aspect of play. Mike Needham showed just what the Pirates were going to have to face when he took the opening kick-off 50 yards, then followed that with another 40-yard run along the sidelines, and then punched in a touchdown two plays later. Needham wouldn’t stop there, he added another touchdown in the second quarter, getting the reception from quarterback Porter Harris and running free for the 30-yard touchdown. Desert Hills’ front lines on offense and defense proved to be more physical and simply dominated the much smaller Moapa Valley line, providing large holes for running backs and linebackers to run through.
Turn-around player of the game was first year football player, Tavo Allegria, who was 100 percent on all extra points and field goals. Last week, Allegria struggled to find the middle of the goal posts. Coach Barry Bundy said during practice last week, the team rushed Allegria while he practiced kicking until he was able to get used to the pressure. It paid off in a big way as Allegria went 3-3 on extra points and nailed a 42-yard field goal in heavy winds.
Desert Hills gave Moapa several chances of making it a close game by throwing an interception and fumbling on the 5-yard line. The Thunder didn’t have much of a punch inside the redzone as they found themselves settling for turnovers or field goals. Despite the officials’ making a point to get themselves noticed after the half by throwing penalty flags, Desert Hills continually seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time–definitely something the coaches will remind their players to be careful of going into region play in two weeks.
The Thunder defense continues to look strong during the preseason with the secondary continuing to improve. Peter Brown, outside linebacker, made his presence known by forcing and recovering two fumbles from the Pirates. Both came at critical times when the game was still up for grabs. The Thunder offense still has a ways to go before they equal the defense. The passing game still needs a lot of work, unless you’re passing to Ty Rutledge, who seems to come down with the ball no matter where you throw it. Rutledge would add to the scoreboard in the third quarter with a sweep around the left end and fly past the defending Pirates for the touchdown from 12 yards out, making it 24-0. The run game is the best offensive weapon the Thunder have, thanks to Mike Needham running with a power back style, punishing would-be tacklers if they try and stop him. If you don’t believe me, ask the Moapa Valley secondary…several of them found out really quickly that Needham is a force, and it hurts when you get in his way.
Getting the 24-0 win was great, but it could have, and should have been a much greater deficit. If the Thunder would have punched in the touchdowns while in the redzone, the score would have been 45-0. Desert Hills will have one more chance to work out any kinks in preseason as they head up to North Sanpete next week. The northern Utah team is notorious for dirty play and will provide a good challenge for the Thunder.