It was an emotional night for the Highland Hawks as they honored late alum Marquis Cooper. With Cooper’s family in attendance, Highland spent halftime reflecting on Cooper’s life and career, with special guests including Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and Highland graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick.
On the field, the Hawks pulled out a 24-21 victory in double overtime over the Desert Vista Thunder, clawing back from a 14-0 fourth quarter deficit. A depleted Thunder team couldn’t finish the job down the stretch, allowing Highland to get back in the game.
“It’s been challenging,” Desert Vista head coach Dan Hinds said. “With guys out it’s tough, but I’m really proud of the kids that have stepped up in those positions.”
There wasn’t any scoring from either team until the fourth quarter, when Desert Vista broke the seal on a 9-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Derek Kline. Prior to that play, both the Thunder and Hawks committed myriad penalties, were sloppy and couldn’t find a rhythm on the offensive end.
That sloppiness made its most dubious appearance halfway through the fourth quarter, when Highland muffed its second punt of the game and allowed Desert Vista’s Jacob Schamante to scoop it up and score. It was 14-0 Thunder with 6:48 to go.
On the ensuing Highland drive, Hawks quarterback Kaleb Herbert marched his team down the field, capping off a stellar drive with a rushing touchdown on a quarterback keeper. Desert Vista led by seven with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Highland got the ball back and tied it up, 14-14, with 2:02 remaining. The teams traded stops and sent the game into double overtime.
The first play of overtime resulted in a touchdown for Highland as Tanner Lunt hauled in a pass from Herbert, giving the Hawks a 21-14 lead as possession switched sides.
It took two plays for Desert Vista to tie it up on a pass from Kline to Austin Werbelow, forcing double overtime as the Thunder took the ensuing possession.
Highland held off the Thunder and forced a short field goal attempt, which sailed above the right upright and was ruled no good by the officials, setting up a game-winning field goal attempt for Highland.
The Hawks’ attempt was true, and the team stormed the field in celebration of an emotional win on a night where it honored one of its most revered alumni.
A loss at this stage stings for Desert Vista. They needed this road win in order to carry momentum into their final two games. Instead, the Thunder are 5-3, hoping to salvage what’s left of their season with multiple skill players sitting due to injury.
Hinds said his team must remain focused during these last few weeks despite the adversity they’re facing.
“Our emphasis is to have a burning will to prepare to win,” Hinds said. “They know how to prepare to win on Friday nights, so we’re going to keep doing that.”
Next up for Desert Vista is its final road game of the regular season at Desert Ridge, followed by a home finale against Corona del Sol.