As the ball floated off the right arm of quarterback Kyle Allen for what seemed like eternity, Desert Mountain’s Mark Andrews wasn’t thinking about his three dropped passes during the second half, or the clock winding down. Instead, he thought back to the words coach Tony Tabor had been harping on since the 2012 season began.
“When it matters most, big-time players make big-time plays.”
And on Friday night, the junior wide receiver was a little bit bigger than everyone else.
Andrews’ two-yard touchdown grab wasn’t his longest of the night, but with 12 seconds remaining it proved to be the decisive score, as Desert Mountain rallied back to take a thriller over Notre Dame, 40-37, and remain unbeaten.
“I know I dropped a few passes down the stretch, but I knew at some point my team was going to need me late,” Andrews said. “It’s all about keeping your cool and staying in the moment. (Friday night) that’s what I tried to do and it worked out.”
Andrews, who finished with 11 catches for 194 catches, scored touchdowns of 79, 44, two and five yards.
But it was almost all for naught, as Desert Mountain (5-0) managed to cough up a 20-point first-half lead.
After recovering a fumble by Wolves’ running back Adam Cooper midway through the third quarter, the Saints aerial attack began to click, as senior quarterback Nick Duckworth found fellow senior Bailey Jones wide open down the right sideline for a 53-yard score to cut the gap to 27-21.
Two drives later, senior linebacker Luke Taffuri picked off Allen and danced his way past oncoming tacklers for a 43-yard touchdown and the Saints’ first lead of the night.
Desert Mountain struck back in the fourth quarter on an 80-yard drive capped by a 15-yard slant pass over the middle from Allen to senior wideout Cody Erickson.
But the Saints (2-3) were not flustered by their unbeaten foes.
As the game wore along, Duckworth, who passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns, began to pick apart the Wolves' secondary. Three plays into Notre Dame’s ensuing drive, the senior found a streaking Jordan Schlueter all alone down the right sideline. The 75-yard connection gave the Saints a 37-34 lead and sent the home side at Scottsdale Community College into an absolute frenzy.
After a red zone interception by Joseph Sarandrea looked to end the Wolves last-ditch efforts with just minutes remaining, the senior cornerback inexplicably took the ball out of the end zone before being tackled at his own 2.
Instead of a touchback, Notre Dame was pinned against its own goal and had to punt after a quick three-and-out.
In last week’s pressure-cooker against Chaparral, Desert Mountain needed a late-game push from its defense to seal the win against its Scottsdale rivals.
On Friday night, it was all about Allen and the offense.
The senior quickly led the Wolves down the field with a 22-yard strike to senior Alec Waltman. After two goal-line carries were stuffed by Notre Dame’s defense, Allen – who passed for 393 yards and six touchdowns - found his trusty partner in crime, Andrews, for the game-winning score.
“You can’t win a championship without at least a few times having to find a way to win,” Tabor said. “When you look back at a season there are normally a handful of plays that make the difference. Tonight, we made the plays when it mattered most.”
The win for Desert Mountain marks the first time in program history a Wolves team has started a season 5-0.
“This team is definitely a championship-caliber squad,” said Andrews. “We have a lot of heart, and even when things are not going our way we aren’t going to roll over. I think this comeback shows we are definitely contenders.”
Desert Mountain 40, Notre Dame 37
DM- Alec Waltman 18 yard pass from Allen (Taylor kick)
ND- Grant Martinez 12 pass from Nick Duckworth (Naquin kick)
DM- Mark Andrews 44 pass from Kyle Allen (Taylor kick)
DM- Mark Andrews 5 pass from Kyle Allen (Taylor kick)
DM- Mark Andrews 79 pass from Kyle Allen (Taylor kick)
ND- Lucas Taffuri 1 run (Naquin kick)
ND- Naquin 40 FG
ND- Bailey Jones 53-yard pass from Nick Duckworth (Naquin kick)
ND- Luke Taffuri 43 yard INT return (Naquin kick)
ND- Cody Erickson 15-yard pass from Kyle Allen (Taylor kick)
ND- Jordan Schlueter 75 pass from Nick Duckworth (Naquin kick)
DM- Mark Andrews 2 pass from Kyle Allen
First Downs: 29
Penalty Yards: 28
First Downs: 26
Penalty Yards: 15