It’s an obvious tradition at Desert Vista that takes place immediately following the final home game of the season; the team’s seniors – this year there are only nine on the Thunder roster – lock arms and walk the length of the field and back, getting one last Thunder Stadium experience while still in full pads.
“It’s great to have a senior walk that’s not a sad one,” said Desert Vista senior Michael Ingrassia after the Thunder knocked off visiting No. 6 Tucson Salpointe, 34-20, to advance to the Class 5A-I state semifinals. “It’s very seldom that you get to walk the field and keep playing after a senior walk. It’s definitely something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
The win was the Thunder’s seventh of the season on their own turf – compared to nary a single loss – closing out a perfect home slate and sending No. 3 Desert Vista (10-2) to a neutral site in two weeks to take on No. 10 Mesa Desert Ridge with a berth in the state title match on the line.
The thing is, when you have players like Ingrassia torching opponents for four touchdowns in one night, it usually doesn’t matter if the game is home, road or neutral; chances are, it’s ending with a “W,” and smiles all around similar to the ones Ingrassia spoke about.
“He scored four?” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds asked with surprise. “Oh, my gosh.”
Added quarterback Hunter Rodriguez: “It takes so much of a load off. We can be in there for one play, hand the ball off and score. … most teams don’t have that big-play guy.”
Ingrassia ran for 212 yards on 13 carries, scoring on touchdown runs of 47, 20, and 31, while notching another touchdown through the air early on.
It was Ingrassia’s 31-yard run that put the game out of reach in the fourth, however.
With the Thunder leading 26-20 after a 40-yard field goal by Salpointe’s Kyle Bakewell – a pair of failed extra points kept the difference at just six points – Ingrassia scored for the fourth time less than a minute later. The ensuing two-point conversion gave Desert Vista a full two-touchdown lead it would carry to the finish.
A self-realized second-half team for most of this season, the Thunder fell behind early yet again against the visiting Lancers, trailing 10-0 and 17-6 before reaching high gear.
Desert Vista entered the locker room up 20-17 at the half. Conner Fandino’s 5-yard touchdown catch from Rodriguez gave the Thunder a halftime lead – something they hadn’t experienced much this season.
“It was nice. We walked in, and offensively I said, ‘We’re not changing anything. Everything we’re doing is working. Let’s just come out the second half and win this game,’” Hinds said.
Salpointe’s offense began the game firing on all cylinders itself, with the Lancers picking up seven points thanks to a 12-play, 89-yard scoring drive to open the game. Quarterback Jordan Scelfo opened up the scoring with a two-yard run, only to have Bakewell connect from 35-yards out to give Salpointe an early 10-0 lead.
After Ingrassia’s first score – a 7-yard strike from Hunter Rodriguez – Salpointe sophomore Johnny Pena gave the Lancers (10-2) their biggest lead of the night with a 34-yard scoring run with 10 minutes to play in the first half.
Pena was a workhorse throughout – rushing for 150 yards on 20 carries – even as the Lancers managed just three points in the game’s final 34 minutes.
Scelfo ran for 40 yards himself for Salpointe, while also completing 14 of 26 passes for 159 yards. Rodriguez countered with 167 yards and two scores for Desert Vista, completing 11 of 20 throws along the way.
Michael Arredondo ran for 88 yards on nine carries for the Thunder – all but four of those yards coming in the second half.
Desert Vista doesn’t know where it will be playing next, but it does know that it will be Dec. 3 against an explosive Mesa Desert Ridge team.
“We have a real chance to be at 100 percent,” Rodriguez said. “We want to play … but it’s a good thing we can get rest.”
Salpointe 7 10 0 0 3 20
Desert Vista 0 20 0 6 8 34
Salpointe Desert Vista
First downs 18 18
Rushes –yards 30-184 29-293
Passing yards 159 167
Comp-Att-Int 14-26-0 11-20-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 4-35 9-80
S -- Scelfo 2 run (Bakewell kick) (1st, 5:17)
S -- Bakewell 35 field goal (1st, 0:33)
DV -- Ingrassia 7 pass from Rodriguez (kick failed) (2nd, 11:03)
S -- Pena 24 run (Bakewell kick) (2nd, 10:01)
DV --Ingrassia 47 run (Gieseking kick) (2nd, 9:40)
DV -- Fandino 5 pass from Rodriguez (2nd, :48)
DV -- Ingrassia 20 run (kick failed) (3rd, 5:07)
S -- Bakewell 40 field goal (4th, 6:42)
DV -- Ingrassia 31 run (Arredondo conversion run) (4th, 5:55)
Phoenix Desert Vista (10-2) defeated Tucson Salpointe (10-2), 34-20, in a Class 5A-Division I state quarterfinal matchup Friday at Thunder Stadium.
With Desert Vista leading 26-20, Michael Ingrassia scored his fourth touchdown of the night on a 31-yard run with 5:55 remaining. The ensuing two-point conversion gave Desert Vista a full two touchdown lead.
PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Desert Vista's Michael Ingrassia finished with 212 yards rushing, scoring three times on the ground (47, 20, and 31 yards) and caught three passes for 35 yards, including another touchdown (7 yards).
Desert Vista won it's eighth straight game and finished a perfect 7-0 home record this season.