Ask Jeremy Hathcock about his Desert Ridge team and the first thing he mentions is the youth.
With 13 sophomores seeing considerable playing time, the Jaguars have showed maturity now that they have past the half-way mark in the season, tallying just one loss and 269 points.
A large margin of those points came on Friday night, defeating Gilbert in the region opener, 68-47.
“I did not expect our offense to erupt like that,” Hathcock said. “Besides maybe one pass overall our offense had really great execution.”
The Jaguars offense wasted no time finding a rhythm, scoring on its first drive thanks to a Donjae Logan 5-yard run early in the first quarter.
A defensive stop and just three minutes of game clock expired, junior quarterback Cooper Schmidt found a seam and scampered 85 yards to extend the lead. After a 65-yard pass from Schmidt to Caden Bethel just two minutes later, it was clear that Jaguars offense was going to click all night.
In total, seven different Jaguars found the end zone on the night, including three total touchdowns from junior Lucas Wright and two from senior Donjae Logan.
“We expected a battle,” Logan said. “We didn’t think the game would be given to us.”
Despite junior Cooper Schmidt taking on an extended role at quarterback in recent weeks, Hathcock and the Jaguars returned to the two-quarterback tandem that proved to be effective early in the season.
The aerial display by both Schmidt (12 of 18, 166 yards) and sophomore Matt Purnell (8 of 14, 140 yards) allowed the rushing attack to find its rhythm early on.
“They’re really good teammates and they really root for each other,” Hathcock said of his two quarterbacks. “I have two special quarterbacks. There’s not a lot of people that have one and I have two. It’s a really good problem to have.”
While the offense was firing on all cylinders, the youth of the Desert Ridge defense was exploited by the talented Gilbert offense led by quarterback Jack Plummer.
The Tigers offense did not find the end zone until midway through the second quarter, but the 19-yard run by Plummer gave the senior enough motivation to wear down the Jaguars defense.
Of the Tigers 47 points, Plummer (19 of 39, 298 yards) was directly responsible for all of them, throwing two while rushing for four more.
Luckily for the Jaguars, early stops allowed the offense to build a big enough lead to where Gilbert could not make a comeback.
Still, numerous missed tackles that allowed Plummer to make the impact he did remains a major concern for both Logan – a starting defensive back — going forward.
“We are really young and there’s some things we need to work on,” Logan said. “We need to work on tackling, breaking down and just coming together to be great.”
Now at 5-1 on the season and 1-0 to start region play, Desert Ridge will look to continue its offensive success while attempt to fix the defensive miscues before they host another region opponent in Corona Del Sol next Friday.
“We got the win so now we need to put this one behind us,” Logan said. “We know we are really good and talented, we just need to keep moving forward in our season. We are going to be OK.”
– Zach Alvira is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com.
Desert Ridge 68, Gilbert 47
Desert Ridge 21 19 21 7 – 68
Gilbert 0 20 8 19 – 47
DR – Elliott 5 run (Stephens), 9:50
DR – Schmidt 85 run (Stephens), 6:27
DR – Schmidt 63 pass to Bethel (Stephens), 4:15
DR – Wright 6 run (Stephens), 8:29
GHS – Plummer 19 run (Duran), 7:32
DR – Logan 39 run, 4:24
GHS – Plummer 4 run, 1:38
DR – Purnell 15 run, 1:20
GHS – Plummer 21 pass to W. Plummer (Duran), :00
DR – Allen 37 run, 10:22
DR – Logan 7 run (Wright 2 PT), 8:52
GHS – Plummer 47 pass to Laganke (Otanez 2 PT), 4:31
DR – Wright 7 run (Stephens), 2:03
GHS – Plummer 2 run, 11:30
GHS – Plummer 9 run, 5:01
DR – Wright 50 Kick Return (Stephens), 4:53
GHS – Plummer 9 run (Duran), 4:04
First downs 19 16
Rush-yards 35-285 21-48
Comp-Att-Int 20-32-1 20-40-2
Pass yard 306 355
Total yards 591 403
Fumbles/lost 1/1 1/1
Penalties 10-88 7-66
DR – Allen 4-45, Elliott 7-14, Wright 8-30, Schmidt 6-103, Logan 4-59, Purnell 6-34, ; GHS – Plummer 10-8, Amendolara 4-21, Laganke 5-27, Wilson 2-8
DR – Schmidt 12-18-1-166, Purnell 8-14-0-140; GHS – J. Plummer 19-39-2-298, W. Plummer 1-1-0-57
DR – Bethel 2-105, Elliott 4-43, Wright 3-15, Logan 1-5, Brooks 1-7, Eastman 7-99, Lee 2-32; GHS – Tanner 1-7, W. Plummer 2-33, Hudson 4-103, Otanez 3-43, Laganke 5-82, Amendolara 5-87