clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

High school football: Desert Hills Thunder 2017 preview

Note: Desert Hills finished with a 10-2 overall record in 2016 and second in 3AA South with a 4-1 record. It beat Pine View 28-27 in 3AA championship.

Desert Hills 2016 Offensive and Defensive Stats

ST. GEORGE — The switch to platoon its players late last season played a big role in Desert Hills going on to win the 3AA state championship.

It’s an approach coach Carl Franke hopes to stick with again in 2017.

“For a school our size it’s a year-by-year thing. We are going to platoon this year though. We like the setup. As long as our personnel allows us to do it, we’ll do it. It allows us to spend more time with those kids on both sides of the ball,” said Franke.

Desert Hills made the switch to platooning after a Week 7 loss to Dixie last season, and it paid dividends with a five-game winning streak to end the season.

Last year Nephi Sewell was one of the best defensive backs in the state, but Franke wanted him to be fresh on offense so he only had him play running back those last five games.

“I’d rather have somebody that’s a little less talented in another position giving us everything he has every down than getting somebody who is more talented giving us 80 percent this play, or 50 percent because they’re tired,” said Franke. “We’ve got to the point we want to see kids give us everything they can when they’re out there. You sacrifice a little bit of talent, but you’re also getting more effort which is usually the difference.”

There’s a similar situation this year. Nephi Sewell’s younger brother Noah Sewell will start at quarterback as a sophomore — even though he’s being recruited as a middle linebacker.

Desert Hills returns six starters on offense, including three talented offensive lineman led by highly-recruited Penei Sewell.

The Thunder will again be a run-first team, and Noah Sewell and returning running back Brock Parry will be a big part of that.

Desert Hills has less experience returning on the defensive side of the ball, but year after year that’s one of the strengths of the program and will likely evolve into that again this year.

Desert Hills Thunder at a glance

Coach: Carl Franke is in his sixth year as head coach at Desert Hills, amassing a 44-15 record thus far with state titles in 2013 and 2016. He’s a graduate of Minisink Valley High in New York.

Desert Hills Offensive Snapshot

Co-Offensive coordinator: Henry Lusk and Gabe Sewell

2016 offensive production: 33.9 (3rd in 3AA)

-- 6 returning starters

-- Spread offense

Key offensive returning starters

-- Penei Sewell (OL)

Was a first team all-state offensive tackle a year ago, and the highly-recruited lineman will once against anchor the Desert Hills offensive line.

-- Brock Parry (RB)

Rushed for 676 yards and 6 TDs last year, but he’ll be expected to take on a much larger role with the graduation of Nephi Sewell.

Returning offensive starters

Brock Parry (RB)

Penei Sewell (OT)

Ryan Warner (C)

Leonides Jacobsen (OT)

Bo Barben (WR)

Gavin Young (WR)

Offensive newcomers to watch

Noah Sewell (QB)

Mason Liti (OL)

Enoka Fuailetolo (OL)

Brandon Anderson (OL)

Franke comments on RB Brock Parry:

“When Nephi was kind of banged up early last year, and the year before, we had Brock Parry. He’ll be back for his senior season. He’s got a ton of carries the last couple of years. We lose Nephi, but Brock brings a whole different dimension to it and I think he’s going to do really well.”

Franke comments on highly recruited offensive lineman Penei Sewell:

“Besides his athletic prowess and all that, he’s a huge leader on our front line. He calls out our protections. He’s a good in-game manager of adjustments. I really rely on Penei to come back to me and give me some feedback series-to-series about what the defense is trying to do up front and what they’re trying to take away. He’s really good dissecting what defenses are doing. On the other side of the ball it helps us out in practice, (our defensive lineman) have to face him in practice and they’re getting better facing one of the top offensive linemen in the country week in and week out.”

Franke comments on new QB Noah Sewell:

“What’s crazy is Noah has offers from five or six Power 5 schools at middle linebacker, so we’re actually taking our best middle linebacker and making him play quarterback. He’s a big kid, 6-foot-2, 140 pounds. He’s a mixture of his two older brothers. He plays the position physically, he’s got all the tools, he can run, he’s agile, he can throw the ball real well. He was the physical capabilities of a senior.”

Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:

Coach Franke is entrusting his offense to a sophomore Noah Sewell, who could probably play fullback or bruising tailback on a lot of different teams. He likes the dimension he brings and believes he’ll be able to throw the ball well also. There’s a learning curve he’ll need to go through, and how quickly he picks things up will impact whether Desert Hills can win the Region 9 title and any other hardware beyond that.

Desert Hills Defensive Snapshot

Defensive coordinator: Nick Hansen

2016 defensive production: 17.0 ppg (3rd in 3AA)

-- 5 returning starters

-- 4-3 defense

Key defensive returning starters

-- Carter Reynolds (DE)

As a junior last season Carter Reynolds racked up 41 tackles and three sacks from his defensive end position, and even bigger things are expected from the standout athlete.

-- Kekoa Afualo (LB)

With the graduation of several key players on Desert Hills’ defense, Kekoa Afualo will be counted on to take a much larger role after tallying 33 tackles a year ago.

Returning defensive starters

Carter Reynolds (DE)

Cole Bailey (DE)

Kekoa Afualo (LB)

Jake Stokes (LB)

Giovanni Vaifanua (CB)

Defensive newcomers to watch

Mason Creager (DT)

Leato Sewell (DT)

Cobie Rogers (DT)

Bronson Andrus (LB)

Matt Nisson (LB)

Dawson Mayfield (S)

Peyton Pace (S)

Cooper Kenney (CB)

Franke comments on secondary:

“Our biggest concern going into the season is a young, inexperienced secondary, so we have some holes to fill. We’ve got kids who we can put out there, but we’ve got to find kids who fit those roles. Corners have to be able to play run, play man to man, play soft coverage … trying to find the right fit. Secondary wise it’s always getting guys who work well together in communicating. When it’s a young group that doesn’t have a ton of experience and that takes time to gel. Our front seven is going to be pretty darn good, so they’re going to be tested because a lot of teams are going to have to throw the ball.”

Franke comments on Carter Reynolds’ versatility:

“Carter could start at outside receiver for us. He has a great set of hands, he’s a tough-nosed kid, he’s 6-foot-5, and he’s the 300 and 110 hurdle champion in the state. He’s a weapon for sure.

Franke comments on linebacker Kekoa Afualo:

“Koa is probably the main leader right now, he’s been there for a couple years and he’ll do really well for us this year.”

Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:

Desert Hills’ front seven is very good and will be difficult for any team to run against. The secondary, however, is very inexperienced — and that’s likely how teams will try and attack Desert Hills this year. That will particularly be the case with Dixie, Pine View and Snow Canyon, who all return their quarterbacks this season. that young secondary will need to mature quickly for the start of region play.

Coaches preseason Region 9 straw poll: Second

Deseret News Region 9 prediction: Second

Key Region Game: at Pine View, Oct. 5 (Week 8)

Bottom line: Desert Hills’ strengths is undoubtedly on the offensive and defensive line. There’s a lot of potential at some of the other positions, but at this point, it’s only potential. If Noah Sewell proves he can be an effective thrower and not just a running quarterback, that will give Desert Hills the offensive dimension it needs to try and win the region title.

2017 Schedule

Aug. 18 — JORDAN, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 — at Salem Hills, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 — at Mission Hills, Calif., 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 — HURRICANE, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 — at Cedar, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 — CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 — BYE

Oct. 5 — at Pine View, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11 — DIXIE, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.

Felt’s Facts for Desert Hills High School

All-time record: 69-34 (9 years)

Region championships: 3 (2012 co, 2014 co, 2015 co)

Playoff appearances: 9

Current playoff appearance streak: 9 (2008-2016)

All-time playoff record: 14-7

State championships: 2 (2013, 2016)

State championship record: 2-1

Most played rivalry: 11 meetings with Hurricane, Desert Hills leads 6-5

Felt's Factoid(s): Desert Hills, 9 years old, is one of just four schools to make the playoffs every year of its history.


Last 5

2016 — 10-2 (4-1 in 3AA South – 3A Champions)

2015 — 5-5 (4-1 in 3AA South – 3A Quarterfinals)

2014 — 10-2 (5-1 in 3AA South – 3AA Semifinals)

2013 — 11-2 (4-2 in 3AA South – 3AA Champions)

2012 — 8-4 (5-1 in Region 9 – 3A Semifinals)


Desert Hills coaching history

2012-current — Carl Franke (44-15)

2009-2011 — Jake Nelson (22-12)

2008 — Kevin Cuthbertson (3-7)


Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2016 — Nephi Sewell, DB

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2016 — Penei Sewell, OT

2016 — Bundy Sewell, DT

2016 — Tyler Warner, LB

2016 — Ryan Hoppie, S

2015 — Justice Alo, OL

2015 — Badge Morris, LB

2015 — Zak Fuchs, DB

2014 — Bridger Cowdin, RB

2014 — Justice Alo, OL

2014 — Lausii Sewell, DL

2014 — Tucker Cowdin, LB

2014 — Gabriel Sewell, DB

2014 — Nephi Sewell, DB

2013 — Bridger Cowdin, RB

2013 — Brock Doman, OL

2013 — Jake Wagner, DL

2013 — Gabe Sewell, LB

2013 — Sil Bundy, LB

2013 — Braden Reber, DB

2012 — Ty Rutledge, QB

2012 — Josh Anderson, TE

2011 — Mike Needham, RB

2011 — Peter Brown, LB

2011 — Bud Pope, DB

2010 — Peter Brown, LB

2010 — Bud Pope, DB

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Read rest of the 2017 prep football previews here.