The No. 8 Desert Ridge Jaguars defeated the No. 9 Cesar Chavez Champions by a score of 58-41 in the first round of the 6A playoffs behind the strong connection between quarterback Austin Kolb and wide receiver Aidan Lee.
Pregame, Jaguars coach Jeremy Hathcock emphasized that in order to win the game his team would need to not get caught up playing Cesar Chavez’s game.
“I think you got to run right at them and hit them because they’re so fast," Hathcock said. "You can’t get caught up into playing the speed game with them. You got to play a physical game because they haven’t seen a physical team in like seven weeks. So, it’s important that we exert our physicality. If we can’t do that it might be a tough night for us.”
Nearing the end of the first half it looked as if Desert Ridge was going to take a 24-0 lead into halftime.
With 42 seconds left, Cesar Chavez senior quarterback Lucas Arnds connected with senior wide receiver Jaleel Walker for a seven-yard touchdown. Then, on the first play of the Jaguars drive, Kolb threw a screen pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Champions junior middle linebacker Linwood Crawford.
In a matter of only 42 seconds, the Champions entered halftime only down 10 points with momentum on their side.
Arnds, Walker and Crawford played a big factor as to how Cesar Chavez was able to stay in the game as they scored all six of the Champions' touchdowns.
Arnds went 12-of-39 for 168 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 12 times for another 83 yards. Walker had four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown, while Crawford carried the ball 12 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Crawford also had a pick-six.
Even though the Jaguars did not end the half how they wanted to, Hathcock’s confidence in his team remained steadfast.
“We played a little undisciplined and our quarterback for some reason threw a pick six. It happens. It’s high school football. We said, ‘man, they (Cesar Chavez) played as good as they could play and we’re still up by ten,’ so I felt pretty good about who we are,” Hathcock said.
Whether the Jaguars wanted to or not, they ended up playing the Champions “speed game” in the second half.
The two teams combined for 61 second-half points.
Even though Desert Ridge’s defense gave up four second half touchdowns, they made up by intercepting Arnds twice and taking both of them to the house.
“Honestly, our defense played great. I think it was two or three third down penalties that kept them kind of in the game and honestly if we clean that up, I feel good about our effort,” Hathcock said. “I know we allowed three touchdowns in the second half with our starters in there, but I gotta give Cesar credit. They’re a good football team.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the trio of Kolb, Lee and junior running back Avantae Barrett had it working all night.
Kolb completed 13-of-23 passes for 248 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Lee had 7 receptions for 145 receiving yards and three touchdowns and Barrett carried the ball 26 times for 181 yards, two touchdowns and a fumble.
After the game, Kolb was quick to put the reason for the team’s success on everyone besides himself.
“He’s (Adrian Lee) a big asset to have. I mean, go to guy, whenever I need a play, I can rely on him,” Kolb said. “I have the best line in the state, no doubt. They always have my back.”
Kolb also said that the reason the connection from him to Lee was so open in tonight’s game was due to the man defense that Cesar Chavez ran all game.
“They wanted to blitz all night, cover zero, man us up. I knew my receivers were better than theirs. I say we have the best receiving corps in the state so, I mean, it’s not hard with them, Kolb said.”
This win was especially meaningful for Lee because it is helping change the culture for this Desert Ridge program.
“It means a lot. For the last two years we’ve lost in the first round and we wanted to change that,” Lee said.
Next week, the Jaguars will face top-ranked Red Mountain.
“They're physical, and big, and fast and they beat us last time, so we got a lot of work to do,” Hathcock said.
Desert Ridge 7 17 13 21 – 58
Cesar Chavez 0 14 6 21 – 41
Desert Ridge – Austin Kolb 54 pass Aidan Lee (Edwards kick), 0:23
Desert Ridge – Brock Edwards 22 yard field goal 7:27
Desert Ridge – Koby Hathcock interception (Edwards kick), 7:17
Desert Ridge – Austin Kolb 7 pass Aidan Lee (Edwards kick), 2:26
Cesar Chavez — Lucas Arnds 7 pass Jaleel Walker (Martinez kick), 0:42
Cesar Chavez -- Linwood Crawford interception (Martinez kick), 0:26
Desert Ridge – Avantae Barrett 4 rush (Edwards missed kick), 6:08
Desert Ridge – Austin Kolb 22 pass Aidan Lee (Edwards kick), 4:36
Cesar Chavez -- Linwood Crawford 3 rush (two-point conversion no good), 2:17
Desert Ridge – Austin Kolb 27 pass Andrew Chino (Edwards kick), 11:46
Cesar Chavez -- Linwood Crawford 21 rush (two-point conversion is good), 8:26
Cesar Chavez — Lucas Arnds 7 pass Deavon Crawford (two-point conversion no good), 6:01
Desert Ridge – Avantae Barrett 3 rush (Edwards kick), 3:00
Desert Ridge – Josiah Crockett interception (Edwards kick), 2:47
Cesar Chavez — Lucas Arnds 7 pass Deavon Crawford (Martinez kick), 0:37