Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017 | 1:40 p.m.
The Desert Pines football team came out of the locker room after halftime of Saturday afternoon’s 3A state championship game focused and angry.
The Jaguars held only a 10-6 lead over Mojave after the first half, and weren’t happy with their performance.
Then sophomore running back Jyden King ran roughshod through the Rattlers’ defense for touchdown runs of 39 and 38 yards on back-to-back offensive plays. It opened the offensive floodgates, and allowed Desert Pines to run away from Mojave for a 54-24 win and a second-straight state title.
“It changed the momentum of the game,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “We have so many playmakers and it was just so good to see him get loose in the second half.”
King finished with a team-high 13 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Mojave played valiantly in the first half, and even led Desert Pines 6-3 until the seven minute mark of the second quarter. Star running back Tawee Walker was a workhorse, carrying the ball 29 times for 149 yards and two scores.
“Our was to stop (Walker) and they have some other playmakers,” Rodriguez said. “The kids stuck in there and made him earn his yards. Every time he ran the ball we put hats on him and made him earn the tough yards.”
The Desert Pines pass defense was smothering, holding Mojave quarterback Xavier DeLong to 4-of-14 for 83 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Jaguars offense struggled in the first half, but too the game over in the second.
“There were a lot of mistakes in the first half,” quarterback Tyler Williamson said. “We went into the locker room and came back out with a different mindset. We said we were going to execute every play.”
Williamson completed only six passes, but threw a pair of touchdowns in the second half and made plays with his feet throughout the game.
“We knew that we needed to play cleaner in the second half,” Rodriguez said. “We were making a lot of mental mistakes. I just told them to take a deep breath, execute and the score will take care of itself.”
Michael Lofton was also big for Desert Pines, rushing nine times for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
When the dust settled, the Jaguars again found themselves atop the 3A division, holding the state championship trophy.
“It feels amazing,” Rodriguez said. “After what we lost last year with 30 seniors and eight Division I players, we knew we had young talent but we weren’t proven. We finished the job. It’s great to see these guys develop and I’m just excited for our future.”
The Jaguars started the season rough, losing their two first games by a combined score of 60-0, but their underclassmen stepped up as the season went on.
“We are a team now,” Williamson said. “In the beginning of the year, during the first two games, we were just playing for ourselves and now we played as a team.”