With a sour taste in its mouth after a Tukee Bowl loss to Mountain Pointe, Desert Vista needed a win to get back on track. On Friday in Ahwatukee, defense propelled the Thunder to a 28-22 win over Gilbert.
Desert Vista sacked Tigers quarterback Jack Plummer eight times, stymying the star signal caller for most of the night and holding him to one touchdown through the air. The defensive performance more than made up for a mediocre offensive outing for the Thunder.
“Coming off an emotional game last week, we might have been a little bit flat starting out,” Desert Vista head coach Dan Hinds said. “They played hard and did what it took to win this football game in the second half.”
Toward the end of a sluggish first quarter for both teams, Gilbert struck first on a touchdown grab by Dawson Tanner. The Tigers took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter and appeared to be in a rhythm.
But Desert Vista would tie the game late in the second quarter on a 14-yard run up the gut by Tyson Grubbs. The ground game was working all night, with Grubbs at the center of it all. He needed to step up, too, with Keishaud White and other Thunder skill players sidelined due to injury.
“We just had some guys that really stepped up,” Hinds said. “I’m just really impressed with what they did in the circumstances.”
Moments after Grubbs’s touchdown, Gilbert’s Connor McKernan took the kickoff 91 yards to the house, reclaiming the lead for the Tigers and firing up their sideline in the process. A failed two-point conversion attempt made it 13-7 Gilbert at the half.
Grubbs would have his answer on the first play of the third quarter, returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. The extra point gave Desert Vista its first lead of the game, one the Thunder would not relinquish despite Gilbert’s best efforts.
Jordan Huddleston — who played running back, quarterback and tight end — was an integral part of Desert Vista’s success on Friday. He filled at least part of the void left by the injured players, and his 61-yard rumbling run in the third quarter put the Thunder on top 21-13.
“If it weren’t for Jordan, I’d lose a lot of sleep at night,” Hinds said. “He can backup at quarterback, he can back up at running back, he can back up on the edge — I bet if we put him in at guard he could play that too.”
The Thunder and Tigers traded touchdowns late in the third quarter, with Desert Vista entering the final frame up by nine. A Gilbert field goal with two minutes left made it 28-22 before a pivotal possession for the Tigers defense.
Thanks to mistakes by Desert Vista, Gilbert was able to get the ball back with just under two minutes to go, and Plummer went to work. The Purdue commit got his team as far as midfield before two monumental sacks sealed the much-needed win for the Thunder.
Desert Vista moves to 5-2 with the win while Gilbert drops to 3-4. Next up for the Thunder is a pair of road games at Highland and Desert Ridge before capping off the season at home against Corona del Sol.
Hinds said he hopes his team can get healthy for this final stretch of games and maintain its level of play.
“If the defense continues to play like that and we get the offense where we know it can be, then we’re going to be the football team we want to be,” Hinds said.