It should have been the perfect scenario for Desert Ridge.
A seven-game win-streak, second overall seed in the 6A Conference playoffs and home-field advantage.
However, the Jaguars quickly found out that despite a 5-5 record, 15th-seeded Westview Knights were not to be taken lightly.
“All the adversity we have been through, they never gave up and kept fighting,” Westview coach Nick Gehrts said. “We started 0-5 and our coaches and kids kept working.”
The Knights (6-5) handed Desert Ridge (9-2) their first ever loss in a home playoff game, 23-7 on Friday night.
The first half was slow for both teams, as only 30 seconds remained in the first half when Westview quarterback Scott Fallers found Bobby White for the 1-yard score.
Despite an offensive attack mostly led by its run game, the Knights found success through the air.
“We knew we had to get our passing game going,” Gehrts said. “We knew they were going to get eight or nine guys in the box. Our passing game was always there, we just never needed it and we worked on it a lot this week.”
While the Westview offense found holes in the Jaguars defense, the Knights defense held their own against a Jaguars offense that averaged just under 40 points per game.
Held scoreless in the first half, the Jaguars forced a turnover on the kickoff, quickly turning it into points thanks to a Lucas Wright 8-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kick, Westview returner Romel Boyaba exploded for 90-yard touchdown to put Westview back on top, 13-7.
From there, false starts, illegal motions and even a questionable intentional grounding call stalled Desert Ridge drives. If it wasn’t one of the nine penalties for 70 yards, it was one of four turnovers.
“Injuries, penalties, turnovers, misreads,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said of his teams’ performance. “Hats off to Westview, they overcame a lot of adversity this year. They wanted it more tonight.”
Perhaps one of the costliest turnovers came late while trailing 16-7 with just over five minutes to play.
Quarterback Matt Purnell – who saw extended playing time due to fellow quarterback Cooper Schmidt sidelined from an injury last week – felt pressure and was strip-sacked by a blitzing Westview backer.
The Knights recovered and iced the game thanks to a Fallers 2-yard touchdown pass to Albert Curry.
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Jaguars, did.
“We came in expecting them to play like a 15 seed, they shocked us at first,” Donjae Logan, Jaguars senior defensive back said. “We had some turnovers and the defense was on the field a lot. We just couldn’t do it tonight.”
As the Knights celebrated their upset victory, tears and a sense of shock came over the Desert Ridge huddle.
“They’re my family,” Logan said. “I truly mean that. Anytime I am in need or they’re in need, the bond we had it was something truly special.”
One last time, the seniors locked arms and walked across the field to the sound of applause from coaches, teammates and fans.
“Very sad and very proud at the same time,” Hathcock said of the seniors’ final walk. “All of these kids I had in my eighth-grade camp. They were home-grown. While others left, they stuck it out and they were rewarded with a conference title and a two-seed. It just didn’t work out.”
– Zach Alvira is a freelancer writer for MyNewsMesa.com.
Westview 23, Desert Ridge 7
WV 0 7 6 10 – 23
DR 0 0 7 0 – 7
WV – Fallers 1 pass to White (Gonzales kick), :30
DR – Wright 8 run (Stephens kick), 10:17
WV – Julian 90 kick return, 10:06
WV – Gonzales 35 FG, 11:01
WV – Fallers 2 pass to Curry (Gonzales kick), 5:33
First downs 12 11
Rush-yards 23-59 32-97
Comp-Att-Int 21-31-2 10-14-0
Pass yard 222 132
Total yards 281 229
Fumbles/lost 4/2 3/2
Penalties 9-70 5-35
DR – Purnell 11-(-)1, Wright 12-60; WV – White 2-3, Fallers 13-62, Romero 2-1, Juarez 1-1, Olivas 9-24, Curry 5-5
DR – Purnell 21-31-222-2; WV – Fallers 10-14-132-0
DR – Bethel 2-14, Elliott 4-36, Eastman 7-117, Lee 5-45, Wright 2-4, Allen 1-6; WV – Juarez 1-12, Rodriguez 1-7, Houx 2-75, Curry 2-15, White 3-8, Young 1-15
DR – Stephens (28)