Desert Ridge wide receiver Manny Figueroa was sidelined on Friday night against Red Mountain after getting ejected from last week’s game against Skyline.
Coach Jeremy Hathcock decided to give the rest of the unit the night off, too.
The Jaguars abandoned their well-known spread offensive style in favor of a power look and the Mountain Lions were helpless to stop it as No. 7 Desert Ridge cruised to a 31-8 victory in a Division I clash of Mesa’s two best teams.
The Jaguars (5-1) carried the ball 49 times for 380 yards, continually using an offensive formation which featured two tight ends, two running backs and a fullback with no wide receivers. J.J. Husar led the way with 18 carries for 209 yards and two touchdowns while twin brothers Taren (12 carries, 66 yards, TD) and Tarek Morrison (12 carries, 63 yards) also contributed.
“We’ve got a stable of running backs, and we used them,” Hathcock said.
Tarek Morrison, the team’s quarterback, attempted one pass in the game, completing it for no gain midway through the fourth quarter. It’s a far cry from the Desert Ridge teams of the past two years which passed and ran the ball out of the spread with a state title appearance and a run to the semifinals to show for it.
The offensive line was dominant, pushing the Mountain Lions defenders backwards and giving the ball-carriers plenty of room to run.
“We have the best offensive line in the state,” Husar said.
The Jaguars defense was equally impressive. Red Mountain entered undefeated behind its passing game, but quarterback Mason Thorman threw for only 166 yards on 20-of-33 passing with an interception and no touchdowns. Drake Pierre, the state’s leading receiver heading into the game, had only three catches for 50 yards.
“We’re really clicking as a group,” said Desert Ridge safety Anthony Havorka, who had a fumble recovery and played a vital role in pass defense all night.
The Mountain Lions couldn’t muster anything on the ground, rushing 22 times for 70 yards. Red Mountain beat Westview and Brophy in shootouts earlier this season but had trouble getting into a rhythm offensively and also fumbled twice to stall promising drives in the first three quarters.
“We did that a couple times tonight, and you can’t do that when they have that ground control going,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said. “You’ve got to take advantage of every single opportunity when you touch the ball.”
Red Mountain trailed 17-0 late in the first half when it drove down to the Desert Ridge 6-yard line. Thorman threw three straight incomplete passes and the Mountain Lions (5-1) then missed a field goal. They got the ball back to start the third quarter and drove down into the Desert Ridge red zone, but a fumble at the 5-yard line ended the drive.
Red Mountain had one last gasp when it scored to make the deficit 24-8 and then forced Desert Ridge’s only punt of the game on the ensuing possession, but turned the ball over on downs. Taren Morrison put the game away with a one-yard score with 5:54 remaining.
“We just thought if we could keep the ball away from their quarterback, it would give us a chance to win,” Hathcock said. “We did a little more than that. We proved we’re a tough running team. We may have found something.”
Score by quarters
RM - 0 0 0 8 -- 8
DR - 7 10 7 7 -- 31
First downs: RM 16; DR 19.
Rushes-Yards: RM 22-70; DR 49-380
Passing Yards: RM 166; DR 0.
Comp-Att-Int: RM 20-33-1; DR 1-1-0
Fumbles-Lost: RM 2-2; DR 1-1.
Penalties-Yards: RM 5-40; DR 13-146.
DR - Siamau 10 run, Solis kick
DR - Husar 4 run, Solid kick
DR - Solis 35 FG
DR - Husar 49 run, Solis kick
RM - Limbs 1 run, Molina pass from Thorman
DR - Taren Morrison 1 run, Solis kick