Centennial v. Desert Ridge

5A2 Showdown in Week 1: #1 Centennial v. #2 Desert Ridge



Desert Ridge traveled across Maricopa County to start their 2008 campaign on the same turf that their 2007 season had ended on.  Waiting for them was a familiar foe-two-time state champion Centennial defeated the Jaguars twice in 2007 by a combined score of 85-8.  In the months that followed Desert Ridge would emerge as a chic pick to unseat the Coyotes, and looked determined to do just that early on in Friday night's game.


After Centennial's John Hughes ripped off a 23-yard run to place the Coyotes in Jaguar territory, Desert Ridge LB Justin Gray picked off a Coyote pass, with the ensuing return setting up the Jaguars' first offensive series on the Centennial 32-yard line.  QB Kevin Pantastico would connect with RB Chris Heldore from 17-yards out later in that series, giving Desert Ridge an early 7-0 lead.  Centennial's next possession would end in much the same way their opening possession did, as Heldore would pick-off Coyote QB Dain McFarland deep in Desert Ridge territory. 


Centennial would answer back with three minutes left in the first period, when junior defensive back Kyle Coffey picked off a Pantastico pass and sprinted in for a score.  On Desert Ridge's ensuing drive Coffey would register his second pick of the night, setting up an eight-yard touchdown pass from McFarland to WR Justin Callahan as the second quarter began. 


A botched shotgun snap for the Desert Ridge offense would result in a Juan Ramos sack on third-down and five; Hughes would sprint to the Jaguar 16-yard line on the ensuing punt, dashing into the end zone from eight-yards out later in the series.  With just under nine and a half minutes left in the half Centennial had extended their lead to 21-7.


Following a fumble recovery by Centennial's Josh Bell junior running back Anthony Hughes would rumble 21-yards to the Desert Ridge 19, setting K Ryan Shauger up for a 37-yard field goal.  A short touchdown toss from McFarland to John Hughes would extend Centennial's lead to 31-7 going into the half.  Shauger would knock down a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter, and Centennial's defense would turn away a long Desert Ridge drive that carried into the fourth quarter to seal the 34-7 victory.


Bottom line


Desert Ridge was able to create big plays early in the game, and along with some costly Centennial penalties seized the momentum soon after the opening kickoff.  For three series in the first quarter the Jaguars appeared to have the vaunted Coyote offense off-kilter, as each series ended with a Centennial turnover.  Without an outstanding effort from the Centennial defense Desert Ridge just might have walked out of the first quarter with a three touchdown lead. 


Thanks to the stellar defensive play and equally adept special teams play, Centennial's offense was put into much more favorable positions towards the end of the first quarter and into the second.  After some short drives ended successfully the Coyote offense appeared much more comfortable, with John Hughes leading the way.  Centennial will need more from its offense if they are to knock off 5A-1 power Hamilton next Friday. 


Game ball


Heldore and John Hughes seemed to be competing for the title of "fastest man on the field"; Heldore had a great game in the loss (a touchdown reception, an interception, and some nice gains off of draw plays) while Hughes juked and slashed his way to over 100-yards rushing and some massive kickoff and punt returns. 


Defensively Coffey was the Coyotes' major standout, with a pair of picks and a pair of pass deflections on the night.  Josh Bell, Juan Ramos, and Jimmie Lewis had big efforts on the Centennial defensive line. 


K/P Shauger was vital for Centennial's special teams, going a perfect four-for-four on extra points, knocking down two field goals, and booting four kickoffs into the end zone.     

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