Desert Mountain has been looking for a ray of light ever since quarterback Chad Christensen graduated and headed to Arizona State in 2001.
The Wolves may have finally found it Friday in Casa Grande.
James Rana's 26-yard touchdown run with 2:20 to play in the game lifted the Wolves to a 27-20, come-from-behind victory over the Cougars in 5A nonregion play.
More importantly, the Wolves improved to 3-1 this season — a far cry from the struggles the team has experienced in the past.
“This win was a program turner," Wolves coach Tony Tabor said. “We've tried in the past but we were unable to win these kind of games."
Desert Mountain almost did itself in by committing 17 penalties (128 yards) that stalled several drives.
But after Casa Grande (2-2) fielded a poor punt at the Wolves' 36-yard line and then drove all the way to the Desert Mountain 1 late in the fourth quarter, the Wolves' defense concocted one of those season-defining stands.
On fourth-and-goal, Desert Mountain's Brett Patrick deflected Joe Youcupicio's pass away from Kevin Keeton in the corner of the end zone and Desert Mountain took over.
On the next play, quarterback Cory Campbell (205 yards passing, 2 TDs) connected with Justin Kramer on an 73-yard pass. Rana then capped the drive with the long run to set off a celebration.
Tabor believes the game will give his team much needed confidence for the Desert Valley Region schedule ahead.
“At the same time," he said. “We know that the storm is coming — that we're going to have to deal with the upper echelon."