It was an uphill battle from the start and not a good sign for a team fighting for its postseason livelihood.
Despite a late valiant effort, Desert Vista fell short to Corona Del Sol 41-28 because of mistakes early in the first quarter.
Going up against a 1-7 Corona team, this was a game Desert Vista needed to win to keep its playoff hopes alive. Early in the game, Desert Vista, which is No. 13 in the latest Division I power rankings, did not make it easy on itself to earn a victory.
The defense gave up a touchdown on Corona’s first drive of the game. The offense then followed that up with an interception from sophomore quarterback Alex Farina, which led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Corona senior running back George Wright.
To make matters worse, Desert Vista (4-5) fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff.
Corona took over on offense and scored another touchdown on a 4-yard pass from senior quarterback R.J. Rhiner to junior tight end Cassius Peat.
At the end of the first quarter, Desert Vista found itself down 21 points and the offense had only been on the field for four plays.
“It was real hard when you put yourself in a hole like that early,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “It’s difficult to come back on something like that.”
Corona tacked on a field goal late in the second quarter to put the Thunder down 24-0. Desert Vista needed some momentum to carry into halftime.
The spark came again from senior wide receiver Jason King. He took a pass from Farina 68 yards for a touchdown to give the Thunder some hope heading into the locker room.
Being down three touchdowns, King said the offense had to make some plays to fight back and gave credit to an inspired Corona team.
“Honestly, we thought we had to do whatever it took,” King said. “A couple bad breaks right off the bat, a tipped ball for a pick, that dropped kickoff. We can’t be playing like that against a team at home that’s hungry. They won one game this year and we think they circled us on their schedule and they came out and they played harder than we did.”
Corona added one more field goal before half. It was a long shot for the Thunder to make up 20 points in the second half but that did not matter to the Thunder players.
They came out of the locker room reenergized and scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the game on a 1-yard pass from Farina to senior wide receiver Richard Haywood.
Hinds gave credit to his players for turning this around.
“It came from our guys,” Hinds said. “Our kids didn’t quit. I didn’t sense that at all on our sideline or in the locker room. We simply just got out-played tonight but there was no quitting our kids. They tried hard.”
Desert Vista put up 21 points in the second half which featured a safety and two touchdowns passes from Farina to senior tight end Anthony Reaves.
King said a sense of urgency kicked in late in the game, especially for the seniors.
“We had two games left as senior and this is probably going to be our last road game as a senior class,” King said. “We just were going to come out and fight and give everything that we had left.”
Corona was ready for a last ditch effort by Desert Vista. Corona had two key touchdowns in the second half to respond to every push made by the Thunder and keep the lead throughout the game.
Interim coach Tim Kelly was proud of the way the offense played to keep a steady lead throughout the second half.
“We told them if (Desert Vista) comes back and works, we got to put another score down, burn six minutes of the clock and keep working and working and working and put it away,” Kelly said. “Offensively we did a great job and I can’t give enough [credit].”
The Thunder now sit with their playoff ambitions out of their control. One thing they can control is their attitude in the seniors’ last regular season home game next week against Brophy.
“Senior night [against] Brophy a team that we’ve had kind of had a rivalry with the last few years so we’re going to get it up,” King said. “We’re going to play as hard as we can. We want to go out as winners if we don’t make the playoffs.”