Despite turning the ball over four times throughout the game, the No. 5-ranked Desert Ridge Jaguars overcame a 10-point deficit to knock off No. 1-ranked Mountain Pointe at Karl Kiefer stadium, 31-20.
It was Mountain Pointe’s first loss at home since 2011 when they fell to Brophy Prep. With 12 sophomores on the roster, Desert Ridge head coach Jeremy Hathcock said his team truly found out who they were Thursday night.
“We have 12 sophomores, we could’ve came out and tanked but I think we really found out who we are today,” Hathcock said after his team’s comeback victory. “Like I tell our kids, this is really a great victory, enjoy today, shoot enjoy it tomorrow but come Saturday were back to work.”
The two teams traded field goals in through the first 16 minutes of the game, but the Jaguars got into the endzone first via a short Tyrese Allen touchdown run with just over four minutes left in the half. That turned out to be too much time for Mountain Pointe as they tacked on another field goal before halftime.
As they have all season long, the Pride made their halftime adjustments and came out strong in the second half as Jakim McKinney struck from six-yards out to give the Pride a three-point lead.
Then after a Marshawn Gibson interception, Nick Wallerstedt struck from 29-yards out on a quarterback keeper for his 5th touchdown run of the season, to take a 10-point lead.
“We really dominated the first half and then we just let them back in the game,” Hathcock said. “They came out in the second half and they played like the No. 1 team in the state for those two drives, but our kids just had so much resilience.”
The Jaguars proved that resilience throughout the rest of the game and it started on the back of junior running back Lucas Wright, who finished the night with 116 rushing yards, 43 receiving yards. His lone touchdown of the night, a 1-yard plunge, brought the Jaguars within three points at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Their defense then held on two straight drives forcing the Pride to punt. Between quarterback Cooper Schmidt and Wright, the Jaguars drove down the field, with an option attack that Mountain Pointe head coach Norris Vaughan admitted gave them fits all night long.
“We really had trouble stopping them, their little option game hurt us and I think that was pretty much the story of the game,” Vaughan said.
On the final three plays of the drive, Schmidt carried the ball twice, the final one being a 17-yard quarterback keeper that put the Jaguars up 24-20. But their job wasn’t over yet. With just under three and a half minutes to play the Pride still had a chance to comeback.
It seemed like that might as Sky Hinojosa came down with a 30-yard reception in between two defenders to keep the drive alive for Mountain Pointe. Two plays later, that feeling was taken away when junior linebacker Gabe Segura jumped a pass to pick off Wallerstedt and take it 50-yards for a pick-six touchdown, putting the game virtually out of reach.
“It was stressful but great,” senior Tyrese Allen said of the defensive drive leading up to the interception. “That pick was amazing, it was so relieving after that.”
The interception sealed the win, but it was the battle at the line of scrimmage that helped the Jaguars upset the No. 1-ranked team in Arizona. All season long, the Mountain Pointe running game has been their strength and even if a defense could hold them, they still found a way to break off big runs. The Jaguars prevented that Thursday night and forced the Pride to beat them through the air.
“Put everyone in the box and hope they don’t break a big one,” Hathcock said about his team’s approach to Mountain Pointe’s running game. “I mean that was really it. Wrap up, set the edge and stay lane disciplined on the back side and for the most part we did that.”
They held Jakim McKinney to just 68 yards rushing and one touchdown on 68 carries, his second lowest total of the season when he’s had 10 or more carries. As a team the Pride rushed for a total of 181 yards.
Desert Ridge made a statement Thursday night that they should be in the mix as one of the best teams in 6A. They will attempt to back that statement up with a matchup next week against the No. 7-ranked Desert Vista Thunder on October 20 at Desert Ridge High School.
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