If Desert Ridge is truly state championship material, it can’t rely solely on the offense to beat powerhouse teams like Mountain Pointe and Hamilton in the postseason.
The Jaguars are hoping Friday night’s showing by its defense is a harbinger of things to come.
Desert Ridge allowed a touchdown to the Lions on their opening drive but nothing else, grinding out a 17-7 victory in a Division I football contest at Red Mountain.
The Jaguars (6-1) picked off Red Mountain quarterback Caleb Murray-Thomas four times, including a pair by safety Sean Eremia. Desert Ridge needed the strong effort from that unit as the offense totaled only 235 yards.
“Offensively we were about as sluggish as you can get,” Hathcock said. “Flat-out, it was a defensive, ugly win. I love it.”
The Mountain Lions picked up five first downs on the opening drive and Kaiden Molina punctuated it with a 5-yard score for the early 7-0 lead. Red Mountain stood tall for much of the first half, continuously forcing punts until Desert Ridge star running back Taren Morrison finally broke through with a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7 with 2:28 left in the second quarter.
The Jaguars nearly pulled ahead at intermission, but Josh Rocha was tackled at the 1-yard line by Kiwan Lear after returning an interception 54 yards with no time remaining.
Desert Ridge controlled the second half, as Landon Whitlow hit a 27-yard field goal in the third quarter for the team’s first lead of the game and Morrison put it away with a 2-yard touchdown scamper early in the fourth quarter.
Red Mountain had trouble moving the ball after the first drive, totaling 71 yards on it but only 179 the rest of the way. Murray-Thomas was picked off by Eremia on fourth down with 10 seconds left to end the last-ditch comeback attempt.
“Every game’s started like that - a little slow,” Eremia said. “But we’re a second half team.”
Morrison was the only standout individual performer for either team on offense, finishing with 14 carries for 70 yards, four catches for 72 yards and the two touchdowns.
Red Mountain drops to 3-5 with the loss, but again showed it can hang with the better teams in the state. The Lions have lost four games by 10 points or less.
The defense held Desert Ridge to a season low in points but the offense could never get untracked.
“Multiple times, we came just a couple inches short,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said. “And against good teams you can’t do that. Defensively, we’re pretty darn happy. This team scores on one-play drives and they didn’t tonight. Our kids played really hard on defense, and that’s something we’ll take with us moving forward, but we’ve got to play better on offense than we did tonight.”
Desert Ridge 17, Red Mountain 7
First Downs: DR 10; RM 14
Rushes-Yards: DR: 36-163; RM 35-116
Passing (Comp-Att-Yards-TD-INT): DR: 4-10-72-0-0; RM: 13-25-0-4-134
Fumbles-Lost: DR 1-0; RM: 2-0
Penalties-Yards: DR 7-50; RM 3-45
Desert Ridge 0 7 3 7 -- 17
Red Mountain 7 0 0 0 -- 7
RM - Molina 5 run, Tani kick
DR - Morrison 9 run, Whitlow kick
DR - Whitlow 27 FG
DR - Morrison 2 run, Whitlow kick