Of the top four seeded teams in the Division I playoff bracket, it looked like No. 4 Desert Ridge might have the toughest first-round assignment in facing No. 13 Desert Mountain.
Despite a 5-5 regular season, Desert Mountain still had a potent offense led by one of the nation’s highest rated quarterback’s in senior Kyle Allen. Two weeks ago, Desert Mountain gave Desert Ridge quite a test during a shootout loss to the Jaguars played at Desert Ridge.
So the stage was set for an intriguing first-round rematch.
But any suspense was put to rest well before kick-off: Allen was unable to suit up due to a lower right leg injury suffered last week against Mesa.
The result was an easy victory for host-Desert Ridge (10-1, 5-0), which advanced to the quarterfinals with a 56-10 thumping of Desert Mountain on Friday night.
Allen’s next organized football game will likely be at Texas A&M, where he verbally committed to early this year.
Desert Ridge’s next game will be next Friday night when the Jaguars host No. 12-seed Brophy in a Division I quarterfinal showdown.
“Obviously that’s a huge loss for (Desert Mountain) without Allen leading their offense,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “As long as he’s on the field, you never feel too comfortable because he can throw the ball and put up points.”
Desert Ridge is also capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
Once again, the Jaguars employed their potent rushing attack to control the game. The Jaguars piled up 482 yards on the ground, as five different players scored. As usual, Taren Morrison led the way with his typical display of explosiveness and breakaway speed, rushing for 283 yards and three touchdowns. His scores came on runs of 76, 65, and 55 yards.
Fellow junior Justin Irby did his part, adding 101 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Irby’s TD runs came just 10 seconds apart near the end of the first quarter. His 15-yarder gave Desert Ridge a 14-3 lead with 1:30 left in the first.
On the ensuing kickoff, Desert Ridge surprised everyone with a successful squib kick, recovering at Desert Mountain’s 29-yard line. After a false start penalty, Irby took the handoff and weaved his way to the end zone from 34 yards out for a 21-3 lead.
It was cruise control the rest of the night for Desert Ridge, which took a 35-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Desert Mountain started freshman Austin Nuessle in place of Allen. At 6-foot-3, Nuessle had some good drives, showing potential and a strong arm. Nuessle connected with senior Mark Andrews on a 20-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter.
But a lackluster rushing attack and tired defense made things too difficult for Desert Mountain to overcome.
“We knew it would be a tough night,” Desert Mountain coach Tony Tabor said afterward. “But I thought Austin did some nice things tonight. I’m proud of our kids.”
Desert Ridge 56, Desert Mountain 10
First Downs: DR 19, DM 10
Rushing: DR 35-482, DM 19-41
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): DR 4-9-32-0-0, DM 9-19-131-1-2
Fumbles-lost: DR 2-0, DM 1-0
Penalties: DR 13-130, DM 6-80
DR 21 14 14 7 -- 56
DM 3 7 0 0 -- 10
DR-Taren Morrison 76 run (Whitlow kick)
DM-Taylor 35 yd FG
DR-Dustin Irby 15 run (Whitlow kick)
DR-Irby 34 run (Whitlow kick)
DR-Shumway 38 run (Whitlow kick)
DM-Andrews 20 reception from Nuessle (Taylor kick)
DR-Taren Morrison 65 run (Whitlow kick)
DR-Taren Morrison 55 run (Whitlow kick)
DR-Hathcock 41 run (Whitlow kick)
DR-Spaid 5 run (Whitlow kick)