Ninety-one yards of resiliency has a way of washing away nearly four quarters of frustration.
Desert Vista used a 12-play, 91-yard drive that took 4 minutes and 38 seconds on its final possession of the game to win its season opener 20-15 over Tucson at home Friday.
It almost went kaput, however, when Tucson went nearly 80 yards in the final minute – helped by two personal fouls by Desert Vista on one play – before senior Matt Smith sacked Tucson’s Shakir Smith on 3rd down from the 5-yard to end the game.
“That was a huge defensive stand,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “We made it hard on ourselves, but we got the job done in the end.”
The winning drive, which started with 6:04 remaining, was capped off with senior wide receiver Mike Ingrassia’s 23-yard run. He started to the right, but he cut back inside and broke two tackles to give the Thunder the lead with 1:26 left.
“When your name is called in a situation is called it seems like it takes forever to get the play started,” said Ingrassia, who finished with five carries for 80 yards. “Someone had to make the play and when I saw the hole inside I went for it.”
The Thunder had not played a quality game up until the final six minutes of the game.
Granted it was the first game of the year, the junior-laden team had several players making their varsity debut and the team had three starters out due to injury.
But 14 penalties for 156 yards, including four personal fouls, was nearly too much to over come.
“Dan Hinds will take care of that, believe me,” Hinds said. “First thing (Saturday) morning we will address that. We have some young players that don’t understand yet what it is to play Desert Vista football. I was not happy about that.”
It is easier to take when the team still ends up 1-0. For a team that missed the playoffs by fractions of a point despite winning just two games, it was huge.
Desert Vista has next week off, and does not play at home again until Oct. 1 after three straight road games, two of which come against teams that advanced to the Class 5A Division I state semifinals and beyond last year.
It wasn’t a must win by any means, but 0-1 would be a lot more difficult to take with no game next week.
“We needed this,” junior quarterback Hunter Rodriguez said. “If we can win a game where we missing a lot of our guys, we have personal fouls all over the place and trail in the fourth quarter it shows what we can do. How good can we be if we get everyone healthy and play a good game?”
The Thunder defense came up with the key play down stretch, but had trouble containing the Tucson tandem of Smith and Dandre Williams, who combined for 200 yards rushing as Williams had 16 carries for 123 yards and two catches for 17.
Williams had two first half touchdown as Tucson took a 12-6 lead into the half, but it was Smith who put the Badgers into the red zone in the final minute with two long runs.
He was terrorizing the Desert Vista defense with his elusiveness, getting out of possible sacks, by breaking containment on the outside and making plays on the run.
“With a quarterback like that you have to keep him in the middle of the field,” Hinds said. “Then we started keying on that and he made big plays inside. We knew he was going to be trouble coming into the game.”
The fourth quarter featured three lead changes – Desert Vista sophomore Zack Gonzales scored with 11:09 left for a 13-12 lead and Tucson went ahead 15-13 on Jose Perez’s 32-yard field goal – before the final flurry came out in the Thunder’s favor.
“We gelled as a team after that drive,” said Rodriguez, who finished 5 of 16 for 72 yards. “We’ll look back at this and know we came together in the fourth quarter.”
Missing the game for Desert Vista were starting tailback and linebacker Mike Arredondo, fullback Austin McLennan and lineman Zach Tamburo.
“We kind of kept that under wraps all week,” Hinds said. “But the nice thing is we are off this (coming) week and we can heal up.”
Desert Vista 20, Tucson 15
First downs 18 18
Rushes-yards 35-213 34-204
Passing yards 78 72
Comp-Att-Int 10-18-0 5-16-1
Fumbles-lost 1/1 1/0
Penalites-yards 11/95 14/156
Tucson 0 12 0 3— 15
Desert Vista 0 6 0 14-- 20
T – Williams 13 pass from Smith (kick failed), 11:02
DV - Kereluk 7 run (kick failed), 8:18
T – Williams 2 run (pass failed), 2:03
DV – Gonzales 25 run (Golfein kick), 11:09
T – Joe Perez 32 field goal, 8:10
DV – Ingrassia 23 run (Goldfein kick), 1:26