Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 | 5:17 p.m.
The Desert Pines football team lost 30 seniors, including eight that went to Division I football programs, from last year’s state championship team.
A year later, with a roster made up of mostly juniors and sophomores, the Jaguars are right back in the state title game following a 50-28 win over Spring Creek on Saturday.
Desert Pines ran away from the Spartans late in a rematch from last year’s 3A championship game with 23 fourth quarter points.
“We lost a lot of players from last year’s team and everybody was kind of writing us off but I knew we had a good freshman group and I was excited to see what they could do, and so far they’ve taken care of business,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said.
Standout sophomore running back Michael Lofton led the way for the Jaguars with 86 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Jyden King ran for 44 yards and a pair of scores, and also caught a 40-yard touchdown.
“(They're) a two-headed monster, and it’s just a special combination,” Rodriguez said.
Spring Creek hung tough early on, even taking the lead 14-13 midway through the second quarter. Spartans quarterback Thomas Ledford threw touchdowns of 73 and 76 yards on back-to-back plays.
Ledford finished impressively with 13-of-23 for 228 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“We just couldn’t get in rhythm early,” Rodriguez said. “(Spring Creek) is tough and they don’t quit. We got up early and we kind of let go of the momentum. Then in the second half, we got it back.”
The Jaguars defense tightened in the second half, relentlessly pressuring Ledford.
Senior linebacker Tyce Odunze led the charge with two sacks, and picked up a fumble and ran it all the way back to Spring Creek’s 1-yard line.
“Once our defense gets into a rhythm, it’s hard to beat us,” Odunze said. “(Getting a pass rush) was really important. I can’t do that without the defensive ends and the rest of the defensive line doing their job.”
Desert Pines will defend its state championship against the Cinderella-story Mojave Rattlers next Saturday at Bishop Gorman. Mojave defeated Fernley High 42-13 Saturday in Northern Nevada to continue it’s unlikely run.
The Jaguars beat Mojave 35-6 on Oct. 6, but will have to contain running back Tawee Walker to repeat as 3A champs.
“Walker is an amazing athlete,” Rodriguez said. “They have some other playmakers so it’s not just him but he’s a tremendous player so we need to have a great week of practice and be prepared.”