By. Jason Digos Jr.
Number 5 seeded Mesa Desert Ridge knocked out 12 seeded Scottsdale Horizon 28-17 in the first round of the Division-I playoffs thanks to an outstanding effort on the defensive side of the ball, in which the Jaguars limited the state’s top passing offense to just two touchdowns.
Horizon started off the night fast as UNLV commit Dalton Sneed found Nick Lylyk on a quick out on their third offensive play of the game, and the senior receiver took the short pass for a 70 yard score to put the Huskies on the board first, 7-0.
Desert Ridge was forced to punt on their first series, but their defense began to settle down and forced Horizon to punt on series two. The Jags got the ball back near midfield and quarterback Tate Shumway hit Taren Morrison for a 42-yard pass to get down to the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Morrison got Desert Ridge on the board with a 9-yard run and tied the game at 7-7.
On the next Horizon series, Sneed marched the Huskies down the field again. However, the Jaguars defense stiffened up in the red zone and Noah Pearl hit a 23-yard field goal to gain a 10-7 lead.
The Jaguars marched down the field for a long drive to looking end the first half with some points. Unfortunately, on first and goal Jaguars fullback Alec Hathcock was tackled in a pile at the 2-yard line and was unable to get up. Hathcock partially tore his ACL earlier in the season and played last week’s regular season finale and Friday night with a brace. He was carried off of the field by his teammates and did not return. The next play after Hathcock’s injury, Taren Morrison again took a toss to the right and around the edge for an easy score to put Desert Ridge in the lead at halftime, 14-10.
Both teams held each other scoreless in the third quarter, but on the first play in the 4th, Huskies running back Carter McCarthy scored on a 1-yard run and Horizon took the lead back, 17-14.
Next series for the Jags, Justin Irby and Taren Morrison quickly lead the march down the field and Marrison scored his third touchdown of the night with a 6-yard toss sweep. Jaguars took the lead 21-17 with just over 8 minutes to go.
It seemed like Sneed had all the time in the world to mount a comeback drive for his Huskies, however it was not meant to be. The Jaguars defensive front came with relentless pressure and contained Sneed in the pocket for a majority of the night. Sneed was sacked by Jalen Harris and fumbled near midfield on 4th down with over 4 minutes to go. On the next play, senior RB Justin Irby put the final nail in the coffin for Horizon, scoring on a 48-yard run, extending the Jaguars lead to 28-17.
Next week, the 10-1 Jaguars take on #4 Brophy at Phoenix College in Round 2 of the D-I State Playoffs. The two teams met earlier this season at PC, and Brophy won, 40-35.