After a rocky first half, La Quinta coach Dan Armstrong’s Blackhawks came out in the first four minutes of the second half looking like their 22-year head coach had given a rallying cry in the locker room only comparable to Bluto’s in the movie “Animal House.”
But Armstrong needed no such speech.
Earlier this week, the La Quinta coach charged his two senior leaders Benji Cordova and Justin Anderson with playing safety Thursday night after a rough game for the Blackhawks’ secondary six days ago, giving up 42 points through the air to Xavier Prep.
The dynamic duo took the challenge to heart, taking control of the secondary, the offensive production and the leadership in the locker room when the Blackhawks found themselves up just 14-0.
“It was just us seniors stepping up and getting everyone motivated, telling them that we can go out and play way better than we came out and played in the first half, and it showed in the second half,” Anderson said.
With a pile of big-yardage plays and punishing hits between the two on defense, Anderson and Cordova helped La Quinta run away with a 48-0 shutout at home between the two previously undefeated DVL foes to take control of a league title run.
Fellow senior Andres Sanchez got the second half off with a bang instantly, taking the opening kickoff nearly 60 yards down to the Shadow Hills 24-yard-line. From there, Anderson, playing quarterback, made easy work of the rest, cutting and scampering into the end zone to put La Quinta up 21-0.
Just a few plays into the ensuing Shadow Hills drive, Cordova, who was a menace for the Knights all night on both sides of the ball, strip-sacked Shadow Hills quarterback Seth Morales and picked the ball up before running in 12 yards for his third of four touchdowns on the night.
After another Shadow Hills punt forced by three incomplete passes, Cordova kicked things off with a 60-yard run down to the 4-yard-line. Because he came up limp after the tackle, sophomore Derrick Kennedy came in and cleaned up the rest on a 4-yard scoring run the next play.
Just like that, the Knights found themselves down 35-0 before they knew what hit them.
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By that point, the Knights were too out of sorts to mount any sort of a comeback, but they didn’t struggle the whole game. Taking the opening kickoff, the Knights drove down close to the red zone with the run-pass combo they’ve been known for this season.
After picking up one fourth down, the Knights again went for it on fourth and two, but junior JD Lang was stuffed at the line for no gain at the La Quinta 24, taking the air out of a chance for the Knights to get on top.
The Knights’ second drive, after a Cordova five-yard scoring run, took them nearly as deep into La Quinta territory, but penalties and a sack drove them back near midfield, forcing the first of many Kaleb Welmas punts on the night.
The Blackhawks would continue to run all over Shadow Hills’ front seven the rest of the first half, but put up just one more Cordova score after Anderson fumbled near the red zone and quarterback Andrew Garcia threw an interception four yards from scoring with under two minutes left in the half.
Going into the locker room, up just 14, Anderson said he only cared about the zero up on the board. It was clear the Blackhawks had enough to handle the Knights’ air attack. It was time to go on the offensive.
And as Shadow Hills coach Ron Shipley noted after the game, a physical La Quinta team was simply too much for his Knights Thursday.
“They just came out and were physical, and we sat there and let them kick our butt,” he said. “We just got our butts kicked.”
Yucca Valley at Coachella Valley
Desert Mirage at Desert Hot Springs
Indio at Xavier Prep
Palm Springs at Palm Desert
Twentynine Palms at Rancho Mirage
Desert Chapel at Joshua Springs
Bloomington Christian at Desert Christian Academy
Friday Night Hero
This week’s winner: Michael Johnson. You voted on Instagram and chose Xavier Prep’s quarterback, who went 28 for 40 through the air for 480 yards and six touchdowns in a high-scoring thriller against La Quinta.
LA QUINTA 48, SHADOW HILLS 0
La Quinta 7 7 27 7 — 48
Shadow Hills 0 0 0 0 — 0
(LQ) Benji Cordova five-yard run, PAT good (5:11)
(LQ) Cordova two-yard run, PAT good (8:01)
(LQ) Justin Anderson 24-yard run, PAT good (11:41)
(LQ) Cordova recovers a fumble and 12-yard run, PAT good (9:21)
(LQ) Derrick Kennedy four-yard run, PAT good (8:29)
(LQ) Kennedy three-yard run, PAT no good (3:11)
(LQ) Cordova one-yard run, PAT good (11:22)
Rushing (Att-Yds-TD) – LQ: Anderson 12-181-1, Cordova 21-229-3, Garcia 1-2, Kennedy 3-8-2, Sanchez 4-8, Prescott 1-24, Duncan 1-0, Powell 2-minus 2. SH: Welmas 7-15, Lang 3-2, Morales 10-minus 20, Lee Hawkins 5-16, Venegas Jr. 1-minus 6, Valencia 1-4.
Passing (Comp-Att-Yds-TD-INT) – LQ: Garcia 3-5-74-0-1, Anderson 0-1-0-0-0. SH: Morales 8-22-124-0-0, Lang 0-1-0-0-0.
Receiving (Catches-Yds-TD) – LQ: Kasten 2-28, Cabrera 1-46. SH: Lee Hawkins 1-17, Matthews 1-31, Welmas 1-27, Rissman 1-8, Valencia 1-0, Johnson 1-21, Lang 1-13, Cardenas 1-7.