Desert Vista has had to battle all year. The 5-4 Thunder’s losses have come against teams who hold a combined record of 29-4 (Perry, Skyline, Mountain Pointe and Brophy) and by an average margin of 10 points.
But if Thursday was any indication, Dan Hinds’ team will be a tough out in the playoffs, similarly to the 2015 Thunder squad (you can use that, Desert Vista) that was an eight-seed and had top-seeded Chandler on the ropes before the Wolves were able to advance. Thursday night, the Thunder got the marquee win they were looking for over defending state runner-up Desert Ridge, 20-17.
Hinds told the Thunder after the game that he wouldn’t want to play this team in the playoffs, and it’s fair to say that’s a consensus around Division 6A. The Thunder just need one shot for the knockout. In this case, it was a 4th down play from the Desert Ridge 28-yard line. Senior quarterback Nick Thomas had his read but was flushed from the pocket. He said, “screw it” (a direct quote) and rolled out, making a perfect throw to the back of the end zone, where wide receiver Jake White came down with it with 1:18 left in the game.
The final Thunder haymaker came when defensive back Alijah Gammage intercepted Desert Ridge quarterback C.J. Fowler, his second of the game, to seal it for the Thunder.
After the game, Coach Hines addressed the team and talked about the brotherhood they had built. It’s what they have preached since summer camp, and it has forced them to not quit on each other. It helped them climb out of their 2-4 start to the year, and it made it possible for them to be a playoff darkhorse when November rolls around.