Phoenix North Canyon controlled the first half, then turned in two big plays in the second half to hand visiting Scottsdale Desert Mountain its first loss, 20-13, on Friday night.
The Wolves had cut the Rattlers’ lead to 14-13 on two Lance Harper touchdowns in the third quarter before Roland Pierce returned an interception 65 yards for a TD and a 20-13 lead.
Desert Mountain (2-1) had one last chance when Kyle Tokasey downed Josh Hubner’s punt on the 2-yard line with 3:53 remaining. But on a third-and-7 play at the 5, Paul Dodson broke up the middle for 62 yards for the Rattlers (2-1) before Tokasey caught him.
“We ran a blitz right up the middle,” Desert Mountain coach Tony Tabor said. “There’s no way he should have been able to run through there.
“We can’t keep making mistakes. I’m going to take responsibility for that. You can write this down, next week we will be more mentally prepared.”
North Canyon sophomore quarterback Dominic Portocarreo ran for two second-quarter touchdowns for a 14-0 lead at the half, but the third quarter belonged to Desert Mountain.
Tokasey tackled North Canyon punter Tyler Bennet at his 5 to set two carries by Lance Harper for a TD.
“We didn’t quit,” said Tokasey, a junior.
Another big play on defense set up Desert Mountain’s second score. Shane Williams stripped Dodson, and Nick Anthony covered the fumble at the Rattlers’ 22. Four plays later Kevin Radcliffe connected with Harper from 8 yards out for the TD. Dodson slipped through to block the point after, but Desert Mountain had pulled to 14-13.
Four big penalties hurt the Wolves in the second half. A roughing-the-quarterback call negated an interception that would have given Desert Mountain the ball on the North Canyon 10. Jordan Fox had three big punt returns called back by penalties that would have given the Wolves the ball at the Rattlers’ 39-, 18- and 30-yard lines.
“We had some big penalties,” said Tabor, who was an assistant coach on North Canyon’s 2005 5A-II state championship team. “But we dropped a big pass and kept making mistakes like lining up wrong. When you have the chance to make a big play, you have to make it.”
Desert Mountain only made it into North Canyon territory twice in the first half. The Wolves’ fumbled to kill the first drive and gave the ball up on downs near the end of the half.