Second-ranked Mesa Desert Ridge ran into a stubborn Mesa Red Mountain defense Friday night, but it made just enough plays and chased quarterback Caleb Murray-Thomas with his sprained ankle all over the field until he had nothing left.
Desert Ridge’s 17-7 defensive-inspired Division I, Section III football victory put it in prime position to capture the section title with two games remaining.
Desert Ridge (7-1, 3-0) counted on the Morrison twins, quarterback Tarek and running back Taren, and a chip off the block, Alec Hathcock, to come through, offensively.
Tarek found Taren on a 38-yard pass play that led to a 27-yard field goal by Landon Whitlow that broke a 7-7 tie with 7:09 left in the third quarter.
Hathcock, coach Jeremy Hathcock’s son, rambled 37 yards to the 8, leading to Taren Morrison’s 2-yard scoring run — his second of the game — with 11:24 left.
“They’re really good,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said. “I’m happy with what our defense did. And that was without very much help from our offense. That bodes well moving forward. I think we’re a lot better than our record shows.”
Tenth-ranked Red Mountain (3-5, 2-1) may have to win its last two games to secure one of the 16 state playoff berths.
Murray-Thomas, who has been hobbled most of the season with a sprained ankle, drove Red Mountain to a touchdown on its first series, completing 3of3 passes for 34 yards and running twice for 16 yards.
But after that, Desert Ridge’s speed took over.
Murray-Thomas was intercepted four times, but he showed great escapability at times, eluding rushers and extending plays to make something happen.
In the end, Desert Ridge had too many athletes on defense to overcome.
“We got a lot of pressure on him all night long,” said coach Hathcock, who was an all-state running back at Lakeside Blue Ridge. “That kid stepped up and made plays. I don’t know if his ankle is good, but he is a super tough kid.”
This was the fewest points Desert Ridge scored and that includes the 28-22 loss to open the season against powerhouse Gardena (Calif.) Serra in California.
“Our DBs were phenomenal,” Alec Hathcock said. “They helped us out a lot.”