If Desert Ridge was going to improve its playoff standing and win its first region title, it was going to have to do it without regular quarterback Parker Rasmussen. If Perry was going to secure a home game for the first round of the playoffs, it figured it would have to stop Rasmussen’s passing game.
But Rasmussen hurt knee ligaments in last week’s win over Westwood and is out for a month, which meant receiver Jordan Becerra, who came into the Desert Ridge program as a quarterback, took the snaps and led Desert Ridge to a 45-7 win Friday over Perry.
In the Tribune’s projected power point rankings, Desert_Ridge will enter the playoffs as the No. 10 seed and face No. 7 Chandler in the first round.
“We knew coming into the week that Parker was going to be out,” running back Joey Counts said. “Jordan did a great job stepping in. Jordan can run the ball, pass the ball. We never thought twice, ‘Well, Parker’s out so the game’s over.’ We always came in, ‘This is what we have to do to get the job done.’ And the scoreboard shows we had a great overall effort.”
Becerra and Counts combined for 292 yards in Friday’s homecoming victory, giving the Jaguars (7-3, 5-1) their first East Valley Region championship.
“It’s fantastic to finally put a banner up in the gym, first time in Desert Ridge history,” Counts said. “It’s just great to be part of that.”
For Perry it was a missed opportunity to secure a first-round home game. The Pumas (7-3, 4-2) were seventh in power points in 5A-II going into the night but dropped to No. 11 in the Tribune’s projected power points rankings. That gives the Pumas a projected first-round playoff date with No. 6 Marcos de Niza, who they beat earlier this season.
Perry coach Preston Jones had prepared for Rasmussen and when the Jaguars – who have been a pass-happy team for several seasons – ran the ball, it caught Perry off guard.
“Losing their quarterback this week probably helped them more than hurt them,” Jones said. “Going into the game we were hoping to face the other quarterback. That No. 5 (Becerra) is extremely good. He’s tough to defend and we weren’t really sure what they would do without their quarterback.”
What the Jaguars did was amass 350 rushing yards on 45 carries and only had to throw it 11 times. Desert Ridge controlled the clock in the second half after taking a 17-7 lead at halftime and then quickly scoring on the first possession of the third quarter.
“We knew Parker was out so we knew the line was going to have to have a big game,” Becerra said. “My arm is not the best so we had to run the ball and our line stepped up big time and got it done for us.”
The Desert Ridge defense — led by Jake Watts and Sam Papa — held Perry to 51 yards on the ground, including the big stop in the third quarter, and took the air out of the Pumas’ sails.
Perry sputtered on its first second-half possession but Ronnie Sanchez’s punt was touched by a Desert Ridge player and recovered by Bryce Fulton at the Desert Ridge 49. Seven plays — and two Jaguar pass interference penalties — later, Perry faced first-and-goal at the 4. But Josh Uhlorn threw three incomplete passes and then couldn’t get in from the 2 on fourth down.