Jeremy Hathcock’s message to his Desert Ridge team all season has been to “know your role.”
After a tough loss at the hands of Hamilton last week, the Jaguars once again looked like a cohesive unit, defeating Mesa 31-7 Friday night.
“Not just accepting your role, but to know your role as a player and be a master at it,” Hathcock said. “We are getting better, we are just young. I give credit to Mesa because they play harder than anybody expects them to.
“The good thing about being young is having a short memory and forgetting about what you did wrong before.”
The Jaguars offense was able to once again establish an effective ground game led by junior quarterback Cooper Schmidt and a full committee in the backfield.
On the Jaguars’ first drive of the game, senior Tyrese Allen (8 carries, 40 yards) led the charge before a 48-yard pass from Schmidt to sophomore receiver Carson Brooks set up the Jaguars at the Mesa 4-yard line. On the next play, Schmidt called his own number to give Desert Ridge the early 7-0 lead.
Schmidt (8-14 for 107 yards) found the end zone again on the Jaguars next drive, this time from 6-yards out to extend the lead to 14-0.
“We just put attitude to effort out there,” Schmidt said. “We worked hard all week but we still have a lot to work on. We have to keep moving the ball up and down the field and come together as one.”
As a team Desert Ridge rushed for a total of 222 yards, as the young offensive line was able to open holes for the six Jaguars players with a rushing attempt.
On defense, the Jaguars had a complete turn-around from the week before where they gave up 52 points, continuously putting pressure on Mesa senior quarterback Nate Hanna.
While the Jaguars defense played well overall, they could not prevent Mesa star running back Kris Jackson from surpassing 100 yards rushing for the fifth straight game.
“They do their job,” Jackson said of his offensive line. “They do just enough for me to get by. They’re doing the best they can going against big guys like that, but they hold them just enough for me to make a play and that’s what I do best. I have to give them their credit.”
Jackson (29 carries, 130 yards) used his elusiveness to break multiple would-be tacklers on several occasions throughout the night, keeping his Jackrabbits squad confident despite the miscues.
Overall, Mesa had bright spots on offense but time and time again big gains would be negated by loss of yards or turnovers thanks to the stout defensive line of the Jaguars.
Midway through the second quarter after approaching midfield, Hanna was sacked on three consecutive plays, forcing a Mesa punt from deep in its own territory.
A mishandled snap resulted in the ball bouncing into the end zone where Desert Ridge junior safety Koa Tuipala recovered it for the Jaguars touchdown.
The Jackrabbits lone score of the night came late in the fourth quarter on a 60-yard drive led by Jackson on the ground, who would score from the 1-yard line to avoid the shutout.
While too late for the Jackrabbits to mount a comeback, according to Jackson the late score showed the determination by the entire team.
“We are in it,” he said. “We just need to keep fighting throughout the whole game. We may not always start off strong but we need to fight from the very beginning all the way to the end. We can’t have one slow day in practice, every practice needs to be 100 percent.”
Now at 1-4, the Jackrabbits will look to find improvements ahead of a matchup with Basha next week, while the Jaguars (3-1) look to again add to the win column when they host Desert Mountain.
– Zach Alvira is a freelancer sports writer for MyNewsMesa.com.
Desert Ridge 31, Mesa 7
Desert Ridge 14 10 7 0 – 31
Mesa 0 0 0 7 – 7
DR – Schmidt 4 run (Stephens), 9:15
DR – Schmidt 6 run (Stephens), 4:36
DR – Tuipala fumble recovery (Stephens), 8:50
DR – Stephens 37 FG, :00
DR – Schmidt 12 pass to Brooks (Stephens), 4:20
MHS – Jackson 1 run (Barron), 4:18
First downs 15 12
Rush-yards 33-222 38-113
Comp-Att-Int 8-14-1 7-13-0
Pass yard 107 41
Total yards 329 154
Fumbles/lost 1/1 2/0
Penalties 7-60 3-20
DR – Allen 8-40, Elliott 8-92, Wright 7-41, Schmidt 6-38, Logan 3-(-)3, Purnell 1-14; MHS – Jackson 29-130, Hanna 7-(-)20, Pulotu 1-2, Taylor 1-1
DR – Schmidt 8-14-1-107; MHS – Hanna 7-13-0-41
DR – Allen 1-6, Bethel 4-29, Brooks 3-72; MHS – Taylor 4-40, Mox 2-5, Jackson 1-(-)4