Nobody wants to look at the bright side after a loss; that’s especially true after one that keeps a relatively-young program from reaching its first state championship game.
But the sting of a 42-32 loss to Desert Vista in the Division I state semifinals Friday night may linger a while before it begins to dissipate, it might be wise for those surrounding the Basha football program to keep their eyes open to the possibilities in front of them.
There is no doubt Basha (9-4) will miss senior standouts like quarterback Kyle Duran and the versatile Devin Reed (among others) when it finally looks ahead to 2012.
But it was a host of underclassmen that might have been the biggest reason the Bears were able to trade barbs with the one-loss Thunder until Friday night's final minutes.
Basha’s points might have had a senior-laden undertone – two rushing touchdowns by Duran, a 33-yard field goal by kicker Justin Barber and a 70-yard interception return for a score by cornerback Quinten Del Re – it was the contributions of up-and-comers like sophomore Rajhan Meriwether that arguably contributed most to the Bears ability to keep things close.
Early on, in fact, the first eight scores alternated between the teams, and Desert Vista (12-1) led 28-24 early in the fourth before pulling away.
For the third straight game, the youngster Meriwether was the Bears’ go-to player in the backfield, this time to the tune of 113 yards on 20 carries. Despite entering the regular season finale with just 66 yards on 16 attempts, Meriweather has broken the hundred-yard barrier three times in the last four games of the season, totaled 555 yards, and averaged close to eight yards per carry.
While most of Basha’s senior class had a hard time leaving the field at Mesquite High School following their final high school matchup, Meriweather, who undoubtedly has two full seasons left, was noticably just as upset.
“It doesn’t make it easier,” he said of being an underclassman compared to his senior teammates. “I feel like I put my heart out there and worked hard for this season … (losing) isn’t what we worked for.”
Meriwether was hardly the only non-senior to show life on the biggest stage the program had seen in six seasons – since a Tim McBurney-coached Basha team finished 11-3 and lost to Hamilton in the state semis in 2006.
Junior receiver Nate Phillips (six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown) and junior tight end Ronnie Querry (three catches for 72 yards) were Duran’s favorite targets through the air. Junior running backs Myles Smith and J.J. Husar also contributed early on the ground.
Bears coach Bernie Busken didn’t hesitate when asked about the prospects of Meriweather and the Bears’ team looking ahead.
“All of our backs are coming. All of our slots are back. Three of our linemen are back. We’ve got some really good defensive guys coming,” Busken said. “We’re just trying to get to where we want to be and we’re real proud of our kids.”