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Coming up big: Desert Hills defense stands strong at the end of a 56-55 double overtime win over Cedar City

The Thunder hadn’t stopped much of anything throughout Friday’s shootout, but managed to hold strong when the game was on the line

ST. GEORGE — Desert Hills’ defense didn’t stop much of anything during Friday’s thrilling 56-55 double overtime win over Cedar City, but the team stood strong during the game’s most critical juncture.

Following a Thunder scored touchdown during the second overtime period, their coach, Mark Murdoch, determined to go for 2 in an effort to end play, but his defensive coordinator, Wes Nunley, had other ideas.

“He talked me out of it and assured me they could get a stop,” Murdoch said. “As the score showed, we hadn’t stopped much of anything the entire game, but I trust my coaches and decided to just kick the extra point.”

Turns out Nunley’s defense proved him correct, although not immediately.

Just as they had for most of the game, the Reds punched it right through for a touchdown, and unlike the Thunder, determined to go ahead with the 2-point conversion to finally end play.

It was at that moment when Desert Hills finally stood strong defensively.

According to Murdoch, the Reds slung a lateral toward the sidelines, with the receiver then taking the option to either run it or throw it.

“We stacked up well against an attempted run and forced a throw,” Murdoch said. “And then we just made a play, knocked the pass away and got away with one.”

The player swatting away the attempted pass was Jacob Wilkins, with Murdoch using that final play to motivate his team.

“We’re really, really young defensively, and it shows at times,” Murdoch said. “But making plays in key situations is what we managed to do and is what we need to focus on doing a lot more of. Hopefully this past game can help start that.”

While the defense has struggled, Desert Hills’ offense has been putting up big points and chunks of yardage game-in and game-out.

“You know it’s going to be a high-scoring affair whenever we play,” Murdoch said. “Fortunately our offense has shown to have some really good playmakers, starting with our quarterback, who has been really, really good.”

That quarterback is Logan Wilstead, who entered Friday’s win with 1,107 yards passing and 13 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

“He’s really good and is a great leader for us,” Murdoch said. “He’s able to get the ball effectively to our playmakers and we’ve depended on him a lot.”

Other standout playmakers on offense include running back Lousiale Taufa and receivers Jace Mortensen and Kire Goulding.

The goal for the rest of the season will now be to maintain offensive production while hoping the defense can take the momentum from Friday’s big play and parlay it into more consistent success.

“We’re getting there,” Murdoch said. “We have a long way to go, and we’re still a really young team, but we’re working and Friday’s win was a big one for us.”