Desert View defeated Ironwood Ridge 43-11 on Friday night on the road behind a stifling defensive performance and an explosive offensive display to pick up its third straight win.
After starting the season 0-2, outscored by its first two opponents, Sunnyside and CDO, by a combined total of 54-13, the Jaguars have flipped a switch.
Desert View (3-2) has won its last three games against Flowing Wells, Nogales and Ironwood Ridge by a combined total of 105-31.
“Obviously, starting off 0-2 is not good at all, but we really turned the program around, ” Desert View senior halfback and middle linebacker Sean Sierra said. “Our focus as a team really came together, and we’re playing a lot stronger as a team, and now we’re a top team again.”
Desert View began to pull away when Sierra stripped Ironwood Ridge junior quarterback Dominic Norris and senior Rudy Rodriguez recovered the fumble and ran it back 13 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 21-3 with 2:41 remaining in the first half.
“I just saw the ball, I picked it up, and I looked back, and no one was right next to me, so I took off.,” Rodriguez said.
On Ironwood Ridge’s next possession, Norris was flagged for intentional grounding on fourth-and-15 from its 13-yard line, forcing a turnover on downs.
On the next play, Desert View junior quarterback A-niy Parks connected with senior wide receiver Justin Bucio for a 13-yard touchdown pass that extended the Jaguars’ lead to 27-3 with 52 seconds remaining in the first half.
Ironwood ridge senior Otto Hagele ran the ensuing kickoff back 65 yards to Desert View’s 20-yard line.
The Nighthawks (1-5) attempted a fake field goal on fouth-and-7 from the Desert View 18-yard line, but Desert View’s defense held strong giving its offense a chance to take over from its 16-yard line with under 10 seconds remaining in the half.
Parks would connect with Bucio near midfield before he cut to the far sideline and scored on an 84-yard touchdown reception. After Sierra rushed for a two-point conversion that followed, the Jaguars headed to the locker room up 35-3 at halftime.
“We only had a couple seconds left in the first half so we just wanted to take a shot because we got the ball back, and our coach called the play,” Bucio said. “He called the shot for us, and it worked out. Once I saw the ball in the air, I knew I had a touchdown.”
Rodriguez finished the game with three touchdowns. One on a 1-yard rushing touchdown that put Desert View up 8-0 on its first possession with the two-point conversion that followed. Another on a 20-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive of the third quarter that put the Jaguars up 43-3.
“I came out ready to play,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just ready for the next game now.”
Ironwood Ridge scored its 11 points on a 31-yard field goal from junior kicker Antonio Vassallo with 8:40 left in the first quarter and a late fourth quarter 11-yard touchdown scramble from Norris, followed by a successful rushing two-point conversion from Hagele.
For Bucio, the turning point in the season came from the bitter taste of losing.
“You just get tired of losing,” he said. ” After the loss against CDO, nobody wanted to lose no more. Nobody wanted to feel that again. So I feel it just put a fire in us.”
Desert View plays next Friday at home against Tucson High (2-4). Ironwood Ridge plays next Friday at home against Cienega (2-4). Kickoff for both games is at 7 p.m.
FOLLOW @KEVINMURFEE ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.