Desert Ridge and Chandler combined for 942 yards of total offense on Friday night.
The one that fell short changed everything.
Rufus Green was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 from the Desert Ridge 3-yard line with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter as the No. 10 Jaguars stunned the No. 7 Wolves 38-35 in the opening round of the 5A-I state tournament at Chandler.
Chandler lined up with three running backs and plowed straight ahead, but for one of the first times of the night, a defense stepped up.
“It’s just a great victory for our program,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “I’m not surprised, but at the same time, I’m exhilarated. This is the first step. We’ve been preparing nine months — I’ve been preparing five years — and our kids bought in to the dream.”
The Jaguars, normally a pass-happy operation under Hathcock, were forced into a running attack when quarterback Parker Rasmussen went down with a knee injury two weeks ago. But the offense never missed a beat. Desert Ridge ran 55 times for 459 yards, getting 213 yards from Joey Counts, 139 from Jordan Becerra and 108 from junior varsity call-up Kevin Walters.
The Jaguars advance to face No. 15 Gilbert in the quarterfinals next week.
“How do you do that?” Hathcock said. “How do you rush for 400-and-whatever yards we did on a team like that?”
Desert Ridge rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to get the win. Aaron Mayo’s 55-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter put Chandler ahead 35-24, but Counts scored from a yard out with 3:42 left in the quarter to slice the deficit to four points.
It stayed that way into the fourth quarter, when Walters took a sweep and ran it 18 yards to the corner of the end zone to give Desert Ridge a 38-35 lead with 4:46 remaining.
The score capped a 95-yard drive for the Jaguars.
“We had to do whatever we needed to do just to get it down there,” Becerra said. “Everyone stepped it up and got it done.”
Chandler had a second-and-3 from the 5-yard line as time wound down, but Hundley ran for no gain, Paul Perkins carried for 2 yards, and Green was stopped on the big fourth down.
Chandler gained 23 first downs, running for 196 yards and throwing for 279, but couldn’t get the yard it needed late.
“Isn’t that ironic?” Chandler coach Jim Ewan said.
Chandler quarterback Brett Hundley was 17-of-21 passing for 279 yards and two touchdowns and had 78 yards rushing. However, he had a crucial fumble inside the Desert Ridge 10-yard line in the fourth to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Javon Williams had 135 yards receiving and two blocked punts to help the Wolves take control early in the third, but Desert Ridge never gave in.
It was the final game as coach of Chandler for Ewan, who is retiring from the position. The Wolves were a consistent contender during his run, but never won a state title.
“I was hoping for a storybook ending,” Ewan said. “It didn’t happen.”