Falling behind 28-0 less than 15 minutes into a game is never a good idea.
Doing so on the road against a Desert Mountain squad led by two of the top prospects in the state – senior quarterback Kyle Allen and senior receiver Mark Andrews – well, on most occasions that would be enough to call it a night.
But Friday night was just another night for Chaparral. Despite climbing into what appeared to be an insurmountable hole, the Firebirds proved that sometimes it’s not how start, but rather how you finish.
With the help of some fortuitous bounces, a relentless second-half pass rush, and big plays down the stretch by the senior tandem of running back Elijah Castro (16 carries for 112 yards) and tight end Trevor Wood (five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown), Chaparral scored 35 unanswered points to shock Desert Mountain 35-28.
“We’ve been on the other side of these type of games,” Chaparral coach David Huffine said. “It’s a good building block for our program. Playing three of the best quarterbacks in the state in the first four games, we didn’t give up. I think this is going to carry over, especially when we look to make our playoff push.”
One of those top-notch quarterbacks, Allen, was on his way to a banner night in front of a nationally-televised audience.
However after starting the contest 8-for-8 with 215 yards passing and three touchdowns, the Texas A&M-commit lost two of his most valuable assets on the offensive side of the football and simply wasn’t able to hang on.
In the second quarter, Andrews went down with a deep right thigh bruise after recording a sack on Chaparral quarterback Sean Paul Brophy (302 yards passing and two touchdowns).
Without Andrews, Desert Mountain (2-2) closed the first half with three empty possessions, and Chaparral managed to cut the deficit in half with late touchdowns by Justin Paniagua and Wood.
But the news went from bad to worse from the home side coming out of the locker room.
After the Firebirds (3-1) opened the third quarter with a 12-play touchdown drive, Wolves senior center Christian Boettcher got his right leg caught underneath a block at the line of scrimmage during their first offensive possession, and spent the remainder of the night watching from the sidelines on a pair of crutches.
Taking advantage of Desert Mountain’s misfortune, Chaparral capped off its unbelievable comeback with consecutive touchdown runs by senior Devin Magana, the last of which coming at the 8:53 mark of the fourth quarter.
While the Firebirds fumbled twice in the waning moments, including on a goal line scramble by Brophy, the Wolves were unable to muster up anything close to the offensive attack they had so easily displayed earlier in the game.
Desert Mountain had a chance to tie the game with less than two minutes remaining, but Allen’s final pass of the night, a 25-yard heave toward the end zone, was picked off by sophomore Kurt Shughart to secure the victory for Chaparral.
“You can’t really describe a win like this,” Wood said. “We came together when things were going against us, and still found a way to play our game.
“It’s a big win for us, especially on the road. Hopefully this kind of night shows that Chaparral football is back.”
In defeat, Allen finished 17-of-29 with 288 passing yards and three touchdowns, but his night was marred by the rash of untimely injuries.
“We should be able to overcome (the injuries), but it was tough,” Desert Mountain coach Tony Tabor said. “I give Chaparral and those guys all the credit. They stayed the course. I compared it to a boxing match. They took a lot of shots early on in the fight, and we almost had them down. But they fought back.”
The 15-round slugfest went Chaparral’s way, but Tabor’s focus was clearly on the health of his players when the final whistle blew.
Desert Mountain lost three players – Andrews, Boettcher and senior wide receiver Gary McKay - due to injury in the seven-point loss. According to Tabor, all three will be evaluated Monday morning to determine the extent of their respective injuries.
Chaparral 35, Desert Mountain 28
First Downs: C 19, DM 11
Rushing: C 33-190, DM 20-78
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): C 24-34-302-2-0, DM 17-29-288-3-1
Fumbles-lost: C 2-2, DM 2-0
Penalties-yards: C 10-105, DM 6-48
Chaparral 0 14 14 7 - 35
Desert Mtn. 21 7 0 0 - 28
DM: Andrews 71-yard pass from Allen (Taylor kick)
DM: Warren 5 run (Taylor Kick)
DM: Warren 36-yard pass from Allen (Taylor Kick)
DM: Sabato 32-yard pass from Allen (Taylor Kick)
C: Paniagua 12 run (Packal Kick)
C: Wood 26-yard pass from Brophy (Packal Kick)
C: Simpson 3-yard pass from Brophy (Packal Kick)
C: Magana 2 run (Packal Kick)
C: Magana 4 run (Packal Kick)