It didn’t matter that, prior to Friday, Mike Arredondo had missed the entire 2010 season with a knee injury; and it didn’t matter that, up to that point in his return to action, the Desert Vista junior co-captain had only carried the ball five times for a modest 14 yards through four quarters of play.
No, none of that mattered, because Thunder coach Dan Hinds knew who he was giving the ball too when his team was faced with first and goal with 10 yards to go in overtime against visiting St. Mary’s.
"I knew exactly what we were going to do. I knew exactly who we were going to give the ball to. That’s what he’s built for,” Hinds said. “That’s his game. That kind of thing right there.”
Arredondo buried his head and plowed into the St. Mary’s defense once, twice, and a third time, finally scoring from one-yard out to cap the scoring on Desert Vista’s 24-17 overtime triumph at Thunder stadium.
“It was awesome that they still had faith in me, despite not performing to what they thought I could in the first half,” Arredondo said. “I was still shaking out the cobwebs.”
Needing a stop on defense to preserve Arredondo’s game-winner under the high school overtime format – both teams get an opportunity to score from 10 yards out during each overtime frame – Thunder cornerback Matt Smith intercepted a St. Mary’s pass in the endzone on 3rd and goal to officially slam the door shut on the Knights.
After St. Mary’s (2-4) fought back from an early 14-7 deficit to take a 17-14 lead into the fourth, the Knights were knocking on the door for another score just as the game clock approached the 5 minute mark. But as his team sat facing a 4th-and-8 at the Desert Vista 10-yard line, St. Mary’s coach Eddy Zubey elected to play the percentages and go for it, rather than bring on seemingly-strong footed kicker Joey Speshock for a 27 yarder (Speshock had already connected from 35 out earlier in the game).
If the Knights made it, the lead would be as high as 10 and the game would practically be over; if they didn’t, the Desert Vista offense, which had just one second-half first down up to that point, would have to drive 90 yards for a touchdown, and likely not much less even to settle for a field goal.
Desert Vista’s defense broke up a pass in the endzone, and the Thunder took over with 5:01 on the clock and that full field in front of them.
Thunder quarterback Hunter Rodriguez and the Thunder offense wasn’t perfect on the drive, but he and his receiving corps, led by Mike Ingrassia and Shaw Loomer, found enough of a rhythm, and also got some help from a few timely St. Mary’s penalties. Desert Vista (4-2) would drive all the way to Knights 8-yard line before sputtering out and making way for kicker John Gieseking.
“Hunter made some good reads. He was getting pressured. I’ll tell you, St. Mary’s has a great pressure package that they use,” Hinds said. “We did enough, though, to get down there and get in field goal range, so I’m proud of the kids for that, for sure.”
Gieseking had missed a 23-yarder earlier in the game, so a 25-yard field goal attempt with less than 30 seconds on the clock couldn’t be considered a gimme.
And only after St. Mary’s called a timeout to ice Gieseking did the junior slide the ball inside the left upright to tie the game at 17 and ultimately send it to overtime.
“It was nervewracking at first, then they called the timeout and my heart started really pumping,” Gieseking said. “Then we got out there and it took forever to snap the ball. it seemed like an hour. .. But I said to myself, ‘Look, I got this.’”
Rodriguez finished the game with 147 yards passing, completing 14 of 29 attempts in the process, also scoring on a 1-yard sneak just before halftime. Ingrassia caught three passes, but also ran for 103 yards on six carries – including a 49-yard touchdown to open the game’s scoring.
For the Knights, Joseph Federico and Lukas Treffers rotated at quarterback all game. The lone St. Mary’s touchdown pass, however, was thrown by wide receiver Patrick Barefield – a 30-yard strike to John Cruz on the option pass. Orange Mooney led the Knights in rushing, with carries of 16, 14 and 36 to go along with a 1-yard touchdown run. Mooney was stopped for a loss five times, and the Desert Vista defense caught the Knights behind the line of scrimmage a total of 13 times.
In all, the teams combined to get flagged 24 times (not including three Desert Vista penalties that were declined by St. Mary’s) for 201 yards.
Next week, St. Mary’s returns to league play to face Desert Valley Region foe Desert Mountain. Desert Vista is at home again, this time against Fiesta Region opponent Mesa.
Desert Vista 24, St. Mary’s 17
First Downs 11 15
Rushes-yards 34-111 26-145
Passing yards 123 147
Comp-Att-Int 7-12-1 14-29-1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-2
Penalties 13-101 11-100
St. Mary’s 0 10 7 0 0 17
Desert Vista 0 14 0 3 7 24
DV - Ingrassia 49 run (Gieseking kick) (10:57)
SM - Cruz 30 pass from Barefield (Speshock kick) (7:40)
DV - Rodriguez 1 run (Gieseking kick) (0:55)
SM - Speshock 35 field goal (0:01)
SM - Mooney 1 run (Speshock kick) (4:33)
DV - Gieseking 25 field goal (0:24)
DV - Arredondo 1 run (-:--)