Deion Warren might have saved Desert Mountain's season.
The name probably doesn't roll off the tongue as others on the Desert Mountain football team might (Kyle Allen and Mark Andrews, for example), but the junior running back/defensive back might have been most responsible for keeping Desert Mountain in the playoff picture.
There wasn't much he didn't do on Thursday night, especially after halftime during what was a swift, stunning and thorough reversal of fortune for the Wolves in a 48-31 win over Mountain View.
Down by 10 points at halftime, the Wolves cashed in quickly on two Mountain View special teams mistakes immediately after intermission, and outscored the Toros 34-7 in the second half.
After being physically beaten up with injuries, a meltdown of their own in the second half against Chaparral, followed by a drubbing at the hands of Horizon and Red Mountain in back-to-back weeks, the Wolves (3-4) felt they kept their playoff hopes alive with the comeback against previously-surging Mountain View.
Smack in the middle of it was Warren, who ran for 159 yards and three touchdowns, caught four passes for 48 yards and another touchdown and recorded two sacks and forced a fumble on defense from blitzes. He even had a 50-yard touchdown reception called back on a penalty.
"We knew we had to have this one," he said. "We haven't played like ourselves the past couple weeks. It was big."
The first-half misfires were reminiscent of the past few weeks for Desert Mountain (two turnovers in the first three plays from scrimmage, penalties and defensive struggles against Mountain View's offense). The second-half barrage was reminiscent of the Wolves' own expectations coming into the season, ones which haven't yet been realized.
But if the Wolves can win at least two of their final three games (at Skyline, at Desert Ridge, vs. Mesa), they have a chance of making it.
"We withstood a few punches and were able to throw a few of our own," Wolves coach Tony Tabor said. "We played like we're capable of (in the second half)."
A night which began with effective offensive run vs. pass balance and solid tackling on defense against immediately unraveled for Mountain View (5-2).
With a 24-14 lead, the Toros received the second-half kickoff, but went three-and-out. The punt snap was errant and bounced away which Desert Mountain recovered in the end zone for a safety.
After the free kick, Mountain View held Desert Mountain defensively, but the Wolves' punt bounced off a Mountain View player who was running away from the ball, and the Wolves recovered on the Toros' 7-yard line. Warren scored on a swing pass from Allen two plays later, but it was still 24-22 in favor of Mountain View after the failed 2-point conversion attempt.
Another forced punt gave Desert Mountain the ball back again, and they took the lead on Warren's 9-yard touchdown run and a successful conversion. The Toros missed a field goal to begin the fourth quarter, and the Wolves kept going.
Around more Mountain View punts, Allen gunned an 11-yard pass on the run to Cruz Olivarez for a touchdown, a field goal and Warren's 59-yard run completed the second-half frenzy.
The Toros' got a late touchdown on a pass from John Clark to Clark Brown - who had a huge night with 13 catches for 220 yards - but it was way too late.
"A three-and-out and then you can't make mistakes like that against a good team," Mountain View coach Chad DeGrenier said. "You see it every Friday, every Saturday, every Sunday. You can't make those kinds of mistakes."
Already stung significantly by injuries, the Wolves lost a starting offensive lineman and linebacker during the game, while DeGrenier said four more significant parts of the offensive and defense lineups were lost during the game.
Allen shook off having his first two passes of the night intercepted and threw for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Andrews caught a pair of two-point conversions to go with his 54 yards, and had a couple passes defended in limited snaps on defense.
Clark threw for 294 yards and the touchdown to Brown, plus a rushing touchdown of his own, but was constantly pressured by Desert Mountain in the second half as the Toros were forced to abandon the running game late in the third quarter.
Desert Mountain 48, Mountain View 31
First Downs: DM 19, MV 16
Rushing: DM 33-206, MV 26-104
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): DM 17-28-183-3-2, MV 21-40-294-1-1
Fumbles-lost: DM 0-0, MV 1-1
Penalties: DM 3-30, MV 57
Mtn. View 14 10 0 7 -- 31
Desert Mtn. 6 8 16 18 -- 48
MV - Caleb Daniels 10 run (Bustillos kick)
DM - Deion Warren 8 run (kick failed)
MV - John Clark 1 run (Bustillos kick)
MV - Daniels 1 run (Bustillos kick)
DM - Jordan Higgins 4 pass from Kyle Allen (Mark Andrews pass from Allen)
MV - Bustillos 33 FG
DM - Safety (punt snap recovered in end zone)
DM - Warren 7 pass from Allen (pass failed)
DM - Warren 9 run (Andrews pass from Allen)
DM - Cruz Olivarez 11 pass from Allen (Olivares run)
DM - Austin Taylor 30 FG
MV - Clark Brown 26 pass from John Clark (Bustillos kick)
DM - Warren 59 run (Taylor kick)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.