Rancho Mirage High School was widely viewed as one of the top teams in the Coachella Valley by area coaches in the preseason, and the Rattlers backed that assertion up Friday evening with a decisive 35-6 win over visiting Beaumont at Jerry Argovitz Stadium in Rancho Mirage.
Marques Prior returned the game’s opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to get Rancho Mirage on the board early, and the Rattlers never looked back. Tailback Kyle Whitefield ran for 159 yards and three scores in a game that was never really close.
Still, miscues and penalties caused the Rattlers to miss a number of scoring opportunities. Prior had an 82-yard touchdown run called back on a penalty, Whitefield had a 27-yard rushing score returned, and quarterback David Talley fumbled one yard from scoring a rushing touchdown of his own early in the game. On another play, a tipped Talley pass was intercepted in the end zone for a touchback.
In all, the Rattlers only committed six penalties, officially, for 55 yards, but a number of them came a critical times. Head coach L.D. Matthews attributed it to being the first game of the season, and sounded confident the mistakes will be sorted out after looking over film and getting comfortable over the next couples games.
“I think we’ll work through those things over the next couple of weeks,” Matthews said. “It was good to get the win here tonight, but there’s still room for improvement.”
The Rattlers defense allowed Beaumont 196 yards of total offense, but the Cougars had a difficult time moving the ball consistently. Rancho Mirage blocked two punts and forced a pair of turnovers, including an interception by Felipe Sandoval.
A pair of fire engines and an ambulance arrived at the field with emergency lights flashing to start the fourth quarter, following an incident near the student section. After a few minutes, the situation appeared to be under control and the emergency vehicles left the stadium. Details of the incident were not immediately known.
The Rattlers, who finished 9-3 a year ago, are now 1-0 for the second consecutive season, after the varsity program began in 2014.
Prior not under center
It was an open secret that junior Marques Prior would not be playing exclusively at quarterback, but Friday night it was apparent that Prior will play more as a tailback or slot receiver than anything else.
Prior started at quarterback as a freshman, during the Rattlers’ inaugural varsity season, and started again as a sophomore in 2015, passing for 1,265 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 777 yards and 11 scores last year. But his athletic ability and speed, and the emergence of sophomore David Talley at quarterback, allowed coaches to used Prior in a variety of ways.
Prior was unleashed Friday, and he didn’t disappoint. He touched the ball 14 times and racked up 174 total yards and a pair of touchdowns running, catching and returning kicks. He also came close to recording double-digit tackles on defense. It was merely a glimpse of what the junior could be capable of In 2016.
“It was fun,” Prior said. “Those were things I was doing before I played quarterback, and I enjoyed getting back to that kind of stuff.”
New scoreboard introduction
The first video scoreboard in the Coachella Valley, which was unveiled in a ceremony at Jerry Argovitz Stadium in April, was introduced to the host of fans who filled the stadium Friday evening. The scoreboard offered fans a chance to catch highlights and replays, in addition to the usual encouraging catchphrases that typically accompany a high school football game.
The scoreboard came with a price tag of $350,000, and was paid for with a $250,000 donation from Loni Bader Argovitz, a Rancho Mirage resident, and an additional $100,000 from the Palm Springs Unified School District through other fundraising.
Whelan attempts 65-yard field goal
Rancho Mirage place kicker Daniel Whelan, the De Anza League Special Teams Player of the Year in 2015, attempted a 65-yard field goal in the third quarter that fell just below the crossbar. Matthews said he had been making 63 and 64-yard field goals in practice, and that the windy conditions might have played a factor in Whelan not converting the 65-yarder.
“He’s capable of making those,” Matthews said. “He’s an asset for us. To have a guy with a powerful leg like that is going to be huge for us this year.”
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RANCHO MIRAGE 35, BEAUMONT 6
(RM) Marques Prior 82-yard kickoff return (Daniel Whelan kick)
(B) Michael Torquato 2-yard run (kick failed)
(RM) Kyle Whitefield 1-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM) Whitefield 21-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM) Prior 5-yard run (Whelan kick)
(RM) Whitefield 1-yard 1 (Whelan kick)
RM: Passing (Comp-Att-Yds-TD): David Talley 8-12-96, Marques Prior 1-1-4. Rushing (Att-Yards-TD): Kyle Whitefield 20-159-3, Prior 11-70-1, Talley 8-36, Michael Provost 1-3, Dwight Balagtas 3-0. Receiving (Rec-Yards-TD): Prior 1-6, Gabriel Maldonaldo 1-17, Felipe Sabdoval 3-22, Mairyk Ferrer 1-21, Isaiah Archuleta 2-26.
B:Passing (Comp-Att-Yds-TD): Kyle Pillips 1-9-26. Rushing (Att-Yards-TD): Fabian Marble 11-77, Elijah Delgato 13-52, Michael Torquato 6-12, Gabriel Giron 2-1, Brandon Harvey 3-19, Phillips 4-0. Receiving (Rec-Yards-TD): De’Jon Hopes 1-26.