It was an offensive showcase between the Shadow Hills Knights and the Palm Desert Aztecs Friday night. In the end, it was the Knights who pulled off just enough big plays to win the Desert Valley League matchup.
The Knights scored four rushing touchdowns of 40 yards or longer and added a defensive touchdown to take a 46-34 win over a spirited Palm Desert team at Shadow Hills High School. In all the Knights rushed for 329 yards while improving to 2-0 in the DVL and 5-1 overall.
“It just worked out that way. Our guys made a lot of big plays,” Shadow Hills head coach Ron Shipley said. “They made something of nothing. We went into the game trying to be balanced, but the running game kind of took over.”
Palm Desert, which rallied with four touchdown passes in the second half from Carter Stokes, fell to 0-2 in league and 1-5 overall.
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“We killed ourselves on defense by missing responsibilities and giving up big plays,” Palm Desert head coach Shane McComb said. “Offense, we just have to execute and play catch and block. We’ve just got to execute. And third we’ve got to find a little want and desire for all 11 to play 100 mph every single snap.”
The high-scoring shootout between the two teams was actually just 6-0 Shadow Hills at the end of the first quarter. But in the second quarter, Shadow Hills struck for two scores on a 41-yard run by Lee Hawkins and a 65-yard dash by Kaleb Welmas. In between those two scores Palm Desert scored on a 3-yard run by Manny Sepulveda.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I knew we could do it,” Welmas said after the game. “I’m just proud of the team for getting the win and playing hard all four quarters. The past couple of weeks we’ve kind of struggled in the second half, but I’m glad tonight we were able to go steady all four quarters.”
Welmas ended the night with 143 yards on 10 carries, pacing the big rushing night for the Knights.
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Both offenses broke out in the third quarter, starting with Shadow Hills quarterback Seth Morales keeping the ball on a read-option and running up the middle for 65 yards and a touchdown on the first play of the half. But Palm Desert, which failed to complete some drives in the first half, started to find the end zone. That started with a 19-yard scoring pass from Stokes to Adrian Lopez, cutting the Shadow Hills lead to 27-14.
But Palm Desert’s next drive ended with Shadow Hills defensive back Willie Hawkins grabbed a tipped pass and raced 35 yards for a touchdown and a 33-14 lead. Both teams added another touchdown in the quarter, Palm Desert on a 5-yard Stokes-to-Brooks Stephenson pass, and Shadow Hills on a wide receiver screen pass to J.D. Lang that he turned into a 25-yard score.
Welmas broke free for a 45-yard scoring run three plays into the fourth quarter and a 46-21 lead. But again Palm Desert rallied, scoring on a 2-yard pass from Stokes to Sepulveda, and recovering an onside kick. That set up a second scoring pass from Stokes in less than one minute, this one a 3-yard toss to Stephenson. Stokes finished the night with 192 yards and four touchdowns on 16 completions in 26 attempts.
For Shadow Hills, which has struggled at times in the second half of games this year, the effort from the opening kick to the end of the game pleased Shipley.
“I was happy with the overall effort,” Shipley said. “I know we made a lot of mistakes on defense. Those are things we’ve got to fix. But I noticed in the second half we were still battling and still making the right plays.”
Shadow Hills 46, Palm Desert 34
Palm Desert 0 7 14 13 — 34
Shadow Hills 6 15 18 7 — 46
SH – Kevin Johnson 23 pass from Seth Morales (kick failed)
SH – Lee Hawkins 41 run (Morales pass to Christian Matthews)
PD – Manny Sepulveda 2 run (Jacob McIlroy kick)
SH – Kaleb Welmas 65 run (Juan Sotelo kick)
SH – Morales 65 run (kick failed)
PD – Adrian Lopez 19 pass from Carter Stokes (McIlroy kick)
SH – Willie Hawkins 35 interception return (run failed)
PD – Brooks Stephenson 5 pass from Carter (McIlroy kick)
SH – J.D. Lang 25 pass from Morales (pass failed)
SH – Welmas 45 run (Sotelo kick)
PD – Sepulveda 2 pass from Stokes (McIlroy kick)
PD – Stephenson 3 pass from Stokes (pass failed)
RUSHING: Palm Desert – Manny Sepulveda 24-139, Carter Stokes 4-minus 1. Shadow Hills – Kaleb Welmas 10-143, Lee Hawkins 10-90, Seth Morales 6-67, J.D. Lang 4-19
PASSING: Palm Desert – Carter Stokes 16-25-6-4-1-192. Shadow Hills – Seth Morales 11-18-2-0-127.
RECEIVING:Palm Desert – Zach Helm 4-73, Adrian Lopez 3-58, Brooks Stephenson 4-32, Richie Madrid 2-11, Timothy Lee 1-16. Shadow Hills – J.D. Lang 3-45, Christian Matthews 2-30, Kevin Johnson 1-25, Kaleb Welmas 3-14, Fernando Cardenas 2-13.