Xavier Prep’s offense put up 34 points on a Twentynine Palms defense that had yet to yield a point this season. But it was the Saints’ defense that eventually won the game at Tom Nicoll Memorial Stadium.
The Saints scored the last touchdown in a 34-27 win, with quarterback Michael Johnson throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chandler Barbara with 6:25 to play after X returned a Wildcats’ punt to the Twentynine Palms’ 25.
However, it was the Saints defense that not only preserved the win, it put Xavier in position to possibly pull away in the second half. After holding the Wildcats to 14 points and 104 yards total offense in the first half, the Xavier defense held on fourth down and four to go with 1:10 to play and the ball at the Xavier 26.
Twentynine Palms quarterback D’shaun Barrett tried to throw deep to his tallest receiver, Adam Bell. But three Xavier defenders were on the scene, and defensive back Parker DeKlotz got his hand on the ball to make the decisive deflection, sealing the win for the Saints.
“I told our kids, we have to take it one play at a time,” said Saints coach Bill Molyet. “We knew they were going to make some plays, and we’re going to have to be able to respond. And they did. I’m very proud of this team.”
The Saints returned an interception for a touchdown, had a sack-fumble returned for a touchdown, and set up another touchdown with an interception to stake out a 27-14 halftime lead. Xavier squandered another opportunity when, late in the half, Mason Sarna returned an interception to the Twentynine Palms’ 4 before the Saints committed a holding penalty and eventually turned the ball over with an interception in the end zone.
Twentynine Palms’ first-half passing game was a struggle, including three total interceptions. Xavier’s Braxton Wehrli and Barbato both had defensive touchdowns. Barbato’s score gave the visitors a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
After Xavier spurned the chance to take a larger lead into the halftime break, Twentynine Palms got right back into the game on the first carry from scrimmage in the third quarter. Wildcats’ running back Hunter Tygart found a hole in the middle of the line and went 77 yards for a touchdown, setting the stage for a tense second half.
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STAR OF THE GAME
Michael Johnson, Xavier QB: In a game where Xavier had many standout efforts, Johnson’s calm and cool in the pocket and in the huddle kept Xavier’s wits about them as a team. While he only threw for 62 yards and rushed for 42, he made very few mistakes, and his poise was contagious.
JUST THE FACTS
Xavier lost wide receiver Spencer Conley to an unspecified injury in the first half, and coach Bill Molyet said players like Barbato stepped up to fill the void. Conley caught nine passes in the Saints’ previous game, a 34-0 win over St. Monica…The two teams combined for five fumbles, and only one was lost…Xavier was penalized five times for 50 yards, including two pass interference penalties on Twentynine Palms’ last drive…Twentynine Palms was penalized eight times for 85 yards.
Xavier Prep (2-1) hosts Aquinas of San Bernardino on Thursday, while Twentynine Palms (2-1) travels to San Bernardino to face Indian Springs on Friday..
Xavier Prep 34, Twentynine Palms 27
Xavier Prep 14 13 0 7 – 34
Twentynine Palms 7 7 7 6 – 27
X-Scotty Gilliland 9 pass from Michael Johnson (Adam Gil kick)
X- Braxton Wehrli 33 interception return (Gil kick)
TP-D’shaun Barrett 30 pass from Hugh Carpenter (Ryan Stowers kick)
X-Chandler Barbato 54 interception return (Gil kick)
TP- Abraham Bell 14 pass from Barrett (Stowers kick)
X-Mason Sarna 2 run (kick failed)
TP-Hunter Tygart 77 run (Stowers kick)
TP-KJ Magwood Morton 8 run (kick blocked)
X-Barbato 25 pass from Johnson (Gil kick)
RUSHING (Carries-Yds-TDs) — X: Michael Johnson, 13-42; Mason Sarna, 10-34-1; Adam Gil, 6-25; Fabrice Voyne, 1-3; Spencer Conley, 1–1; Chandler Barbato, 1-5. TP: Hunter Tygart, 22-140-1; Derek Sutherland, 3-18; KJ Magwood Morton, 6-44-1; D’shaun Barrett, 4-19; Eneliko Tuli, 2-6; Hugh Carpenter, 3-0.
PASSING (Comp.-Att- INT—TD- Yds) — X: Michael Johnson, 6-15-1-1-62; Spencer Conley, 0-1-0-0-0; Mason Sarna, 0-1-1-0-0. TP: Hugh Carpenter, 6-21-2-1-73; D’shaun Barrett, 1-7-1-1-14.
RECEIVING (Rec.-Yds-TDs) X: Fabrice Voyne, 3-15; Scotty Gilliland, 1-9-1; Juan Lua, 1-12; Mason Sarna, 1-4; Chandler Barbato, 1-25-1.
TP: Derek Sutherland, 2-27; Gunnar Moss, 1-11; Abraham Bell 2-19-1; Eneliko Tuli, 1-15; Adam Bell, 1-15; D’shaun Barrett, 1-30-1.