It was almost enough to forget the triple-threat offense of the last two seasons. Okay, it’s just one game but sophomore Tarek Morrison did his best to help put behind the memory of Jordan Becerra, Joey Counts and Parker Rasmussen.
That trio ran up amazing numbers and got Mesa Desert Ridge to the Division I state semifinals a year ago. But they are all gone now and coach Jeremy Hathcock took a big step in moving on to the next chapter of his program.
“He’s special,” Hathcock said. “He’s a lot like Jordan Becerra, throw a lot like Parker Rasmussen, he’s young and has a long way to go. We feel good about our offensive line.”
Morrison also credited his offensive line in the Jaguars’ 47-6 rout of visiting Gilbert on Friday night.
“I had some butterflies, it was a nervous game but we brought it to them,” Morrison said. “Our linemen played a good game. Our receivers blocked well. I threw some bad passes but I made it up in running.”
After a slow start, Morrison got his option offense in gear, initially with Morrison himself carrying the ball and when he broke through for a 49-yard touchdown on the second play of the second quarter, he had signaled the beginning of what turned out to be an impressive debut.
Morrison ended up the night with 214 yards rushing and three scores and he threw for another 128 yards – all in two and a-half quarters. After he scooted down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown with 6:15 left in the third period, giving Desert Ridge a 40-6 lead, he was done for the night.
He had to pick up the slack with twin brother Taren Morrison not playing running back on Friday after hurting his foot this week.
Meanwhile, the Jaguar defense kept Gilbert in check after some initial success on the ground in cruising to the win.
“We knew if we didn’t score it would be a long night for us,” Hathcock said. “We had to outscore them to get them out of what they wanted to do.”
For Gilbert, and first-year coach Leland Rodgers, it will be back to the drawing board. Former standout wide receiver Connor Helvig took over at quarterback for the Tigers, but had limited success outside of the running game anchored by Eric Hironaka.
The fullback took the ball on the Tigers’ first six plays, gaining 45 yards but once Gilbert got behind, it had to try and throw the ball and Hironaka finished with 88 yards rushing. Helvig was just 4-of-9 passing, one of the completions being a 25-yard TD pass to Maurice Thomas on the second-to-last play of the first half. The Tigers didn’t get anything going in the second half.
“We’re a team trying to rebuild a program,” Rogers said. “And this was a good gauge for us to see just how far we really need to go to compete with the better teams on our schedule.”
Desert Ridge amassed 380 yards and kept opening-night jitters to a minimum. Morrison threw one interception and penalties negated a couple of big plays, including J.J. Husar’s 86-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half.
Score by quarters
1 2 3 4 F
Gilbert 0 6 0 0 – 6
DR 7 20 20 0 – 47
DR-Husar 13 run (Solis kick)
DR-Morrison 49 run (kick failed)
DR-Caraveo 73 pass from Smith (Solis kick)
DR-Morrison 12 run (Solis kick)
G-Thomas 25 pass from Helvig (kick failed)
DR-Husar 1 run (Solis kick)
DR-Morrison 60 run (kick failed)
DR-Marshall 6 run (Solis kick)