For Desert Mountain coach Tony Tabor, Friday’s win for Desert Mountain was one his program has been wanting for a long time.
Junior defensive back Daniel Fedorka and senior linebacker Steven Campbell stopped Chaparral receiver Tyler Whiley inside the Wolves’ 1-yard line on fourth down as Desert Mountain improved to 4-0 with an exciting 28-21 victory over the visiting Firebirds, its rival and three-time defending state champions.
“This was huge for our program,” said Tabor. “We’ve been talking about this for a year and a half. To be the best you have to beat the best.”
With 2.1 seconds remaining and fourth down on the Wolves' 5, Chaparral quarterback Brad Schencker connected with Whiley on a slant pass, but Fedorka and Campbell put a stop to what – with the addition of the PAT – would have been the game-tying score.
“I knew they were going to come to my side, but I thought they’d throw it up top,” said Fedorka. “They threw a slant and we just muscled everything we could. He was only about a foot or maybe two feet away (from scoring). It was very close … a little scary.”
While the win is a building block for the Wolves, it was another crusher for first-year Chaparral coach Dave Huffine, whose team has lost on the last play twice and the last series in all three of its losses.
“We’ve lost twice at the last second and that’s tough,” Huffine said. “It’s something you think might happen once in season, but we’ve had it happen three times in the last four games.
“When we lost in the last seconds to (Tempe) Marcos (de Niza), I told the kids how proud I was of them and I told them that again tonight. At some point in time you have to figure out how to rise up. These kids will rise up, because they put their hearts into it and care too much.”
The game had multiple big plays and big series. Chaparral’s last drive started from its own 8.
The Firebirds looked to be on their way of holding onto city bragging rights by jumping out to a 14-6 lead. Schencker hit Jake Roh on an 11-yard touchdown pass on the Firebirds first series of the game, right after holding the Wolves to an initial three-and-out.
After Whiley picked off Wolves’ quarterback Kyle Allen, Chaparral was set up first-and-goal from the 8 and Josh Aganon scored on an 8-yard run for an eight-point lead, but right before the half Desert Mountain gained momentum and carried it all the way to its signature victory.
Following an interception by Desert Mountain’s Alex Waltman, Allen drove the Wolves to the tying score with only 1:31 left until halftime. From the 10, Allen squirted away more than once from the Firebirds pass rush before dumping the ball off to running back Adam Cooper, who scored to cut the margin to 14-12. Trying to make up for a PAT that banked off the crossbar on its first touchdown – an Allen to Mark Andrews 2-yard pass -- Desert Mountain went for two and Allen connected with favorite target Andrews on a slant pattern to tie it up 14-14.
Chaparral fumbled the second-half kickoff and the Wolves quickly answered on a 3-yard touchdown run by Cooper.
“When they give you the ball like that and you can jump out to a lead at home, that’s huge,” Tabor said. “We knew they were going to make plays, too. When we were able to (get the second half score and) come back down14-6 right before the half – that’s something we wouldn’t have done before (against Chaparral) at Desert Mountain.
“It was like a boxing match. We withstood some early punches and came back.”
Desert Mountain took a two-touchdown lead when Cooper scored on a 12-yard run with 2:56 left in the third quarter. It was his third touchdown of the game. He rushed 22 times for 77 yards and caught three passes for 27 more yards.
Chaparral, sparked by the running of backup running back Malcolm Thomas, cut it to 28-21 when Justin Paniagua finished off an 80-yard drive with a 4-yard run with 10:40 left. Thomas, who came into the game late in the third quarter, had nine carries for 62 yards. Paniagua had 97 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Allen, who came in averaging 227.3 passing yards per game, was 10-for-20 with one interception and 115 yards. He threw two scores to up his season total to 12.
Schencker was 13-for-22 with one interception, 105 yards and one touchdown.
Score by quarters
Chaparral 0 14 0 7 -- 21
Desert Mountain 0 14 14 0 -- 28
First downs: Chaparral 16; Desert Mountain 16
Rushes-yards: Chaparral 41-246; Desert Mountain 33-138
Passing yards: Chaparral 105; Desert Mountain 115
Comp-Att-Int: Chaparral 13-22-1; Desert Mountain 10-20-1
Fumbles-lost: Chaparral 2-1; Desert Mountain 0-0
Penalties-yards: Chaparral: 8-67; Desert Mountain 1-15
C – Roh 11 pass from Schencker (McReynolds kick)
D – Andrews 2 pass from Allen (kick failed)
C – Aganon 8 run (McReynolds kick)
D – Cooper 10 pass from Allen (Andrews pass from Allen)
D – Cooper 3 run (Taylor kick)
D – Cooper 12 run (Taylor kick)
C – Paniagua 4 run (McReynolds kick)