La Quinta football won’t ever be the same. Sure, the Blackhawks likely won’t stop bringing in and refining some of the top gridiron talent in the desert, turning them into college prospects in the process, but no longer will the squad’s backbone be standing on the sideline, barking out assignments. Gone are the prodigies Benji Cordova, Justin Anderson and the rest of the 2017 class.
And it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Blackhawks kept fighting, and coach Dan Armstrong kept barking assignments from the sideline until the bitter end. But the Blackhawks didn’t enter Friday’s battle without weaknesses, and the Terriers of Redlands managed to find them and exploit them in the second half. With the 24-10 final, the better team won.
But for nearly half the game, the Blackhawks held tight, with the help of a 14-yard dash into the end zone from Derrick Kennedy, the Blackhawks and Redlands were tied 10-10 in the second quarter.
With under two minutes to go after a missed 38-yard field goal from kicker Logan Prescott, La Quinta was trying to hold onto the tie for dear life. On third-and-17 from Redlands’ own 13, Terrier quarterback Steven Garcia found wideout Brian Landon open on a busted zone coverage for a 62-yard gain down the right sideline.
Moments later, with just 18 seconds left in the half, running back Doug Haugh punched it in from the 1-yard line, his first of two from that distance on the night. Coming into Friday’s contest, Armstrong said one thing his team couldn’t do – and what they failed to do against Cathedral City in last week’s first half – was give up big plays.
Though they would get the ball first in the second half, the normally fiery locker room, led by Cordova and Anderson’s leadership, was quieter than the team’s coach would have hoped.
“You could tell in the locker room it kinda took the wind out of our sails a little bit,” Armstrong said.
And it showed when they came back out on the field, producing the first three-and-out from either team in the game on the first drive of the third quarter.
The Terriers methodically drained the clock with a heavy dose of Haugh on nine runs that totaled 40 yards, ending in his one-yard burst into the end zone to give Redlands a comfy cushion at 24-10 toward the end of the third.
With the help of Redlands’ pooch-kick kickoff strategy, the Blackhawks took over with good field position, and a personal foul on the Terriers gave La Quinta the ball just outside the red zone. But with the offensive line beginning to look more porous and a lead to make up, the Blackhawks had to move to a passing game that’s struggled most of the season. Quarterback Andrew Garcia threw his first of three late interceptions in the end zone, and a collective sigh exited the La Quinta stands.
“We weren’t coming off the ball the way we were in the first half,” Armstrong said. “And catch-up ball isn’t our brand of football. Justin still isn’t that comfortable with the passing game, and we had to bring Andrew in, and it brought us out of our game plan.
“If we could have gone into half 10-10, we could have stuck with our plan, and it would have been a different game.”
The Blackhawk defense refused to give up, finally picking up on the speed sweep the Terriers used on replay, snuffing it out and forcing multiple late three-and-outs that, with poor punts, gave the ball to La Quinta already in Redlands territory. But as snaps rolled on the ground, Anderson was forced to scramble, flustered and Garcia pushed into forcing throws into closed windows, the Blackhawks’ season came to a screeching halt.
And with it, the coaching career of Armstrong, who announced before the season began that 2016 would be his last. Just don’t expect it to be the last time he steps on a football field.
“Nah, there’s plenty more football fields,” he said.
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REDLANDS 24, LA QUINTA 10
La Quinta 3 7 0 0 — 10
Redlands 7 10 7 0 — 24
(LQ) Logan Prescott 30-yard field goal (2:35)
(R) Jakobie James 43-yard pass from Steven Garcia, PAT good (0:30)
(LQ) Derrick Kennedy 14-yard run, PAT good (9:45)
(R) Zack Lozano 25-yard field goal (6:29)
(R) Doug Haugh 1-yard run, PAT good (0:18)
(R) Haugh 1-yard run, PAT good (3:09)
Rushing (Att-Yds-TD) – LQ: Benji Cordova 17-102, Derrick Kennedy 7-75-1, Justin Anderson 12-minus 8, Andrew Garcia 2-minus 15, Logan Prescott 1-16. R: Doug Hough 21-88-2, Jakobie James 2-minus 9, Adam Grizzle 2-11, Emilio Trejo 1-3, Steven Garcia 1-minus 27.
Passing (Comp-Att-Yds-TD-INT) – LQ: Andrew Garcia 3-12-29-0-3, Justin Anderson 1-1-0-0-0. R: Steven Garcia 9-22-225-1-0.
Receiving (Catches-Yds-TD) – LQ: Justin Anderson 3-29, Gordon Haskell 1-0. R: Brian Landon 8-135, Jakobie James 1-43-1, Paul Karge 1-52, Doug Haugh 1-13.