Off-season Reports: Young Desert Hills Thunder using summer to answer questions, fill holes

ST. GEORGE — Everything is new again at Desert Hills High School.

Entering its fifth season as a Utah high school, Desert Hills should be completely established. Technically, with solid facilities and an ardent fan-base, the Thunder are in great shape. But at Desert Hills, 2012 might just be a re-birth.

Gone is head coach Jake Nelson, who led the team to the state title game in just three short years as head coach. Gone are 26 seniors, the foundation for that deep playoff run last season that ended with a loss in the state championship game to region rival Hurricane. The defensive coordinator will be different this year as well for Desert Hills.

So change will be the operative word for the Thunder in 2012.

“Things will be different without Jake,” said new head coach Carl Franke. “We’ll try and keep the same model he set up, but it will be fun changing some things the way I see fit. Add to that the loss of the 26 seniors we had last year and yes, things will be a little different this year.”

Franke said his team has had an excellent summer, full of growth and revelation.

“We have a lot of holes to fill from last year and young guys are going to have to step up and fill them,” he said. “This summer we had our team camp and we went up to the SUU full-contact camp and I saw a lot of guys step up and compete. We wanted to find out who was going to stick there nose in there and get the job done and who wasn’t and I think we found a lot of answers.”

Region 9 had three of the four state semifinalists from a year ago and with the region looking as strong as ever, Desert Hills really doesn’t have time to rebuild. Instead, the Thunder need to re-load — and quickly.

“There are some great teams in Region 9 again,” Franke said. “I think we will be very talented as well, but we will be young and we won’t have much depth. We don’t have that one dominant guy on defense like we did with Peter (Brown), but we have some pretty good players. Our defensive strength will be our line with Keenan Wittwer and Josh Anderson. Travis Lagrone is back and we really like Lousii (Boogie) Sewell and Brad Wulfenstein.”

Ty Rutledge will take over the reins at quarterback, moving from a slot position and Franke said sophomore Bridger Cowdin has a bright future at running back. He will share time with senior Brock Johnson.

“I’m very concerned about our guys up front, the offensive line,” Franke said. “We may be starting two sophomores and two juniors on the O-line.”

With Nelson gone, Desert Hills has a new defensive coordinator in Nick Hansen, who joins Franke’s staff after many years at Virgin Valley (Nev.). Hansen had great success as a Bulldog, helping VVHS win a couple of state championships.

The Thunder will continue conditioning and weight training through July, then start official two-a-days Aug. 6.

Desert Hills opens the season on the road at 5A Syracuse Aug. 17. The Thunder’s first home game is Aug. 31 vs. West.

Desert Hills Schedule
Fri., Aug. 17 – at Syracuse
Fri., Aug. 24 – bye
Fri., Aug. 31 – West
Fri., Sept. 7 – at Canyon View
Fri., Sept. 14 – Pine View
Fri., Sept. 21 – at Dixie
Fri., Sept. 28 – at Stansbury
Fri., Oct. 5 – Snow Canyon
Thu., Oct. 11 – at Hurricane
Thu., Oct. 18 – Cedar

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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