With so many weapons, No. 5 Desert Ridge is hard to stop.
Tenth-ranked Red Mountain figured out a good way to hold the Jaguars.
Don’t let them get the ball.
“Our offense just stepped up and our defense held them like they always do,” Red Mountain quarterback Mason Thorman said. “We can’t ask for much more.”
The Lions (4-2) had two sustained scoring drives in the third quarter engineered by Thorman and a third long drive that took six minutes off the clock and kept Desert Ridge (4-2) at bay, allowing Red Mountain to come away with a 20-13 win in Division I play on Friday night.
Thorman threw for 165 yards and Marcus Brantley ran for 159 more, although more than half of those yards came on two long runs.
It was the methodical run-pass attack, taking time off the clock, that sank the Jaguars. Little Cougar Garcia had 32 tough yards and Thorman converted key plays, including a fourth-and-6 on the long drive and a third-and-4 in the dying seconds with time still on the clock.
“You always want to do that if you can,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said. “You don’t want their offense to have the football because they are so explosive. You have to minimize their opportunities.”
The Jaguars also made a big mistake – a bad snap on the usual shotgun formation at the Red Mountain 30 that Lions linebacker Juan Zuniga recovered on the 38 with 5:40 remaining. Red Mountain was able to run it out for its third straight win.
Desert Ridge also was without quarterback-turned-wide receiver Parker Rasmussen, who had to sit out one game after being ejected during the Skyline game last week for bumping an official.
“We really did miss Parker,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “He gives us that opportunity to throw the ball. He runs the ball really well. I thought Jordan (Becerra) did a great job stepping up.”
The Lions also did it on defense, holding the Jaguars to 35 yards on the ground in the second half – after Desert Ridge had piled up more than 200 in the first 24 minutes.
“In the second half, we didn’t have the ball very much,” Hathcock said. “We made a couple of mental mistakes and then we fumbled. You have to give Red Mountain credit. Their game-plan was to eat the clock and they did.”
In fact, Desert Ridge seemed to move the ball at will in the first half but only had an opening drive touchdown and a Joey Counts dive to show for it because it turned the ball over on downs in the red zone on an early drive and then a bad exchange led to a fumble at midfield with 3:56 left before halftime.
Red Mountain turned that into a touchdown because Brantley broke through the line on a second-and-5 play for 43 yards, getting knocked out of bounds at the 2. Garcia carried it over on the next play and the Lions trailed 13-6 at intermission.
The Lions came out of the break and mixed it up for a 65-yard drive capped by Thorman’s 9-yard pass to Billy Freeman. Red Mountain held Desert Ridge on a three-and-out on the next possession and got the ball on its 31.
“If we can control it with our running game and a passing game that moves the chains, we are going to do that,” Wisniewski said.
A pass interference penalty against Desert Ridge set the tone for the go-ahead drive. On second-and-12 at their 44, the Lions sent Aaron Carr deep and Thorman hit him with a 47-yard pass that the diving Carr caught just inside the Jaguar 10.
Garcia ran the ball to the 1 and Thorman dove in for what proved to be the winning score with 3:47 left in the third.
“We found early in the second quarter that we could pound the ball down their throats and that’s what we did,” Thorman said. “We knew they would come hard on the run-fake so we went play-action pass and went deep.”
Counts still got 104 yards rushing and Becerra 113 in the Jaguars’ regular shotgun rushing offense but had only 12 plays from scrimmage in the second half.