Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 | 11:45 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer transition into playoff mode and go over all of Friday's matchups.
Players on the Desert Pines HIgh football team worked all offseason to beat this opponent.
Last season, Desert Pines squandered a second half lead against Faith Lutheran in the Division I-A Southern semifinals in a seven-point loss to end its season prematurely. Faith Lutheran eventually won the state championship, giving the Jaguars plenty of offseason motivation.
During each workout in the spring and summer, they couldn’t forget about the game that slipped away. They wanted revenge and to show they had the better team.
Desert Pines got its revenge Friday night in the Division I-A Southern semifinals, using a 1-yard touchdown run from Trevor Nofoa with 4:10 remaining in a 34-27 win against host Faith Lutheran to advance to the state semifinals next week in Northern Nevada.
The victory — against the same opponent and on the same field — came 364 days after last year’s loss. Players had 364 written on their hands and often yelled the number as motivation on the sideline during the game.
“Last year was the motivation for this year,” Nofoa said. “We played here 364 days ago and lost. 364. 364. We keep reminding each other. We worked as a team, as a family. We are all brothers out there.”
Desert Pines almost let this year’s game slip away, too.
Faith Lutheran erased a double-digit first-half deficit by midway through the fourth quarter, using an 11-yard touchdown pass from Greg Benson to Tyler Mahan on a fourth-down play for a 27-26 lead with 7:03 remaining.
Desert Pines, though, wasn’t bothered. It marched down the field on the ensuing possession and retook the lead on Nofoa’s third short touchdown run of the game. The scoring drive, which included picking up a first down on a fourth-down play, showed the progress in the Desert Pines program.
Last year, you could argue, they might not have responded.
“Our kids are really resilient. The experience from last year really helped us this year,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “The kids were ready for the challenge. They couldn’t wait to get to this game — 364, let’s get back at it. Let’s finish the game.”
Faith Lutheran drove the ball inside the Desert Pines 5-yard line with less than three minutes remaining and had a few near miss completions in the endzone that would have tied the game. Desert Pines stopped a Faith Lutheran running play on the 2-yard line to force a turnover on downs, then ran out the clock to start a celebration one year in the making.
“It was just happiness. We knew that if we kept working hard that our time would come,” Desert Pines senior Jon McCoy said.
McCoy had the most significant play for Desert Pines.
The Jaguars led 14-0 midway through the second quarter, but lost fumbles on consecutive possessions to keep Faith Lutheran in the game. The second fumble, just 22 seconds before halftime, was returned 65 yards by Faith Lutheran’s Alfred Soboyejo to cut the deficit to 14-13.
But McCoy returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown and seven-point halftime lead. Instead of going into halftime with no momentum after blowing a two-touchdown lead, Desert Pines players were still confident.
“(McCoy) told me before the game, ‘Coach, I got you,’” Rodriguez said. “And he really did. (The kick return) was a great play helping us into the second half.”
While the postgame celebration resembled that of winning a championship, Desert Pines still has plenty of work to win a title. The state semifinals is Nov. 15 against host Fallon in Northern Nevada.
“We know there are still two more games to win,” McCoy said.