Pre-game Notes: This game is for the 5A-11 Pima Region Championship. Desert Ridge (7-2, 3-0) runs the no-huddle spread offense, which is racking up the points. The Jaguars have scored 352 points, 2nd most in 5A-11, scoring over 50 points three times this year. Third year Head Coach Jeremy Hathcock has seen his offensive passing numbers jump up each year with a different quarterback. Sophomore QB Kevin Pantastico has thrown for 2,000 yards with 22 TD's. His favorite target is Senior RB Chris Heldore who has scored a total of 18 TD's, while running for 659 yards and receiving the ball for 729 yards, he gets a lot of touches with this fast paced offense. Desert Ridge is riding a six game winning streak coming into this battle. Marcos de Niza is strong on the other side of the ball, as their defense has given up only 87 points. Hard-hitting Junior LB Ramon Abreu has four interceptions, 56 solo tackles and 37 assists. He also shines on the offensive side by carrying the rushing load with 643 yards and 12 TD's. Junior WR Justin Rodriguez leads all Padres receivers with 557 yards and 7 TD's. Padres coach Roy Lopez has this year's team paying hard physical football. Their only loss was a 13-11 defeat to Pinnacle earlier this season. It's a high scoring Jaguar offense against a rock solid Padre defense.
Recap: The second time Desert Ridge touches the ball they drive to the Padres 1 yard line. With the Jaguars poised to score, the Padres show why they don't give up many points by keeping the Jaguars out of the end zone and end their drive by blocking the field goal attempt to keep the first quarter scoreless. The second quarter opens with Marcos de Niza Junior QB Zach Schira hitting WR Tevin Newell with a 40 yard pass to give the Padres their first TD of the evening, 7-0 Padres. Immediately the Padres defense forces a fumble which leads to a 7-yard TD pass from Schira to WR Justin Rodriguez and it's a quick 14 point lead for Marcos de Niza. Desert Ridge finally gets its no huddle offense moving with QB Kevin Pantastico in a 5 play drive capped off with a 20 yard scoring pass to RB Chris Jamsion and at the half Desert Ridge trails 14-7.
In the second half RB Ramon Abreu kicks it into another gear by running the ball into the heart of the Jaguar defense as he gets a good number of the carries. He scores on a 24-yard pass increasing Marcos de Niza's lead to 21-7. WR Justin Rodriguez scores his second TD of the game on a 22 yard pass and Desert Ridge is stunned by the Padres 28-7 lead. K Eric Rodriguez makes a 28-yard field goal for another Padre score. The Padres defense keeps the Jaguars offense in neutral for most of the game until late in the game when Padres QB Zach Schira throws a sloppy pass and is intercepted. This sets up final score of the game when Desert Ridge RB Chris Heldore finally gets in the end zone with a 3 yard run. The Padres run out the clock and they are the Regional Champs for the 5A-11 Pima region.
Bottom line: It is exciting waiting to watch a "play station" offense do its thing but high scoring offenses can sometimes run into a brick wall and tonight's brick wall was the outstanding Marcos de Niza defense. They frustrated the Jaguars and forced QB Kevin Pantastico to run for his life, with the Padre defense getting 3 sacks and one hit on the QB that was heard throughout the stadium, and the QB got up quickly. Even though the defense is the team strength, there are great athletes on the offensive side of the ball with receivers jumping for passes and RB Ramon Abreu breaking through tackles for good gains. Coach Roy Lopez on the whole must be happy with his team's effort. Tonight was not Desert Ridge's night. Even though the offense did not score much tonight they will be a dangerous team for anyone who has to play them in the playoffs.
Game ball: WR Justin Rodriguez with two touchdowns and they love to throw him the "alley oop pass" as he out jumps the defenders. Also a game ball can go to RB/LB Ramon Abreu with one touchdown. Down the stretch it was his ability to pick up those extra yards that kept the ball out of the Jaguars hands.
Up Next: Marcos de Niza (9-1 5A-11 Pima Region Champs) and Desert Ridge (7-3) both begin playoff action next Friday night.