St. George is the population and commercial center of Utah's Dixie; a nickname given to the area when Mormon pioneers grew cotton in the warm climate. St. George's trademark is its geology—red bluffs make up the northern part of the city with two peaks covered in lava rock in the city's center.
The northeastern edges of the Mojave Desert are visible to the south. Zion National Park can be seen to the east, and the Pine Valley Mountains loom over the city to the north and northwest. The climate has more in common with the Desert Southwest than the rest of the state, with scorching hot summers and mild, mostly snow-less winters.
Desert Hills High School star Josh Anderson looms large in this section of the desert plateau. The 6’3”, 235-pound tight end/defensive end is one of the most skilled student/athletes to ever emerge in Washington County.
“My family moved to the region three years ago from Salt Lake City. It was a blessing for me. A lot of my friends in middle school were getting into trouble. Doing drugs, committing crimes, having unprotected sex. The temptations were plentiful.
St. George has more of a small-town feel. Far more innocent. I’ve made some great friends. Love building bonfires, going down to the lake, cliff jumping, boating and skim boarding. It’s a spectacular setting for an outdoorsman like me!” said the 17-year old junior.
But Josh Anderson doesn’t long to be on the cover of Nature World magazine. He dreams of playing big-time Division I football.
Josh was always a big, agile youngster so his coaches in junior high school put him at center as a sixth-grader. He was so talented at both blocking and catching that he was moved to tight end the next year. He remained there until he was moved back to the line his sophomore season, at least temporarily.
“I started him at guard his 10th-grade year. We had holes in the line and Josh stepped right in. He is such a fast learner and has such a feel for the game, that he excelled on the line. But last year, I decided to move him back to tight end. And he was a major reason we advanced so far in the state playoffs," said Desert Hills head coach Carl Franke.
Josh’s best friend is talented wideout Ty Rutledge. The 6’2”, 185 pound speedster also has college programs seeking his services.
“Josh is double-tough. He plays even bigger than is. Yet, he's got the speed to keep up with the wide receivers in all our drills. He uses his basketball background as the school’s power forward to box out and out-leap defenders to the ball. But he’s equally devastating as a defensive player. His speed and power off the edge are impressive,” stated Rutledge.
Quarterback Blake Barney from neighboring Dixie High School can attest to that. The skilled signal-caller saw his team go up on the Thunder by 17 in their regular-season matchup.
“Then Josh Anderson turned it on. He caught at least five or six balls the last two drives. And he was a load to bring down. So strong and fast. And defensively, he was in my face all game long. Harassing me. Knocking me down. Always where the ball was.”
Desert Hills ended up prevailing by three points over Dixie.
The Thunder would advance all the way to state championship game versus rival Hurricane High School. Hurricane had soundly defeated Desert Hills in the regular season and eventually pulled away in the title tilt, winning 21-0 in a snowstorm.
“We realized that to reach our team goal this year we have to be a lot more physical. We simply have to get stronger,” proclaimed Anderson.
As a captain, Josh realizes he will have to lead by example. He compiled 33 receptions for nearly 400 yards in a strong run-oriented attack. Anderson’s blocking helped open the holes in that potent rushing offense. His defensive skills, particularly as a pass-rusher, are formidable.
Josh Anderson is as sturdy and sound as the famous Red Hills that surround St. George. A high-honor student with a lofty 3.9 GPA and a passion for community service, he is smart enough to know that his considerable physical gifts will likely carry him to a major college program after his senior year. His work ethic inside and out of the classroom sets an example for teammates and his many friends, and will carry on to the next level and beyond.