Rancho Mirage junior running back Marques Prior had been looking forward to Thursday night for the past year. After the Rattler football team’s first playoff run a year ago that ended in the quarterfinals at home to Notre Dame, Prior said the team started to hear chatter from doubters that 2016 would be even worse.
After the first half of the first game of this year’s playoff run, he walked off the field frustrated.
“I played terrible, and I’m thankful we have a defense that gave us second chances,” Prior said. “I came out in the second half with a hot hand, knowing I had to do something different.”
Whatever it was, the Rattlers could use plenty more of it over the next three weeks. With the help of three rushing touchdowns on three consecutive times touching the ball over the third and fourth quarters, Prior helped break open Thursday’s CIF Southern Section Division 12 first round game against Los Amigos to the game’s final score of 42-8.
Prior’s first and third scores came on lengthy runs of 63 and 58 yards, filled with shifty cuts and great blocking from the rest of the Rattlers, helping him finish with 155 yards on the ground on nine carries.
The first half, though, was all Kyle Whitefield in the ground game. After receiving the opening kickoff, the senior running back helped Rancho Mirage slowly, but methodically march the ball down the field just outside of the red zone with runs of seven, five, 10 and 17 yards.
To add another wrinkle to Los Amigos’ gameplan, quarterback David Talley kept the ball on a read option the following play and dashed in for the score from 29 yards out.
Whitefield would find the end zone for the first time of the evening midway through the second quarter on a three-yard run, giving his team a 14-0 lead the Rattlers would take into halftime.
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It felt like it should have been more, especially after the defense picked up an interception and fumble from Los Amigos quarterback Steven Hernandez along with several forced three-and-outs, but the Rancho Mirage offense couldn’t get out of its own way. Holding penalties stalled drives and kept Rancho Mirage from having the game wrapped up by halftime, something the frustrated coach LD Matthews after the game.
“Hats off to the Lobos. They came out ready to play and gave us a great effort in the first half,” he said. “We seriously have to clean up those penalties. I don’t understand it this late in the season, but I’m extremely proud of these guys, and in the end we were able to get the win tonight.”
Whitefield’s 139 yards and two scores, along with 46 yards and one touchdown from Talley, reflected what Prior said is so special about the Rattlers and what may be toughest to stop for future opponents.
Not even they know who’s going to get the hot hand in a half, let alone a game, and as long as they get the win, they don’t care who it is.
“It gives us a big confidence, never knowing who it’s going to be,” he said. “We never know who they’re going to gameplan for, so we all just come out ready and confident.”
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RANCHO MIRAGE 42, LOS AMIGOS 8
Rancho Mirage 7 7 14 14 — 42
Los Amigos 0 0 7 0 — 8
(RM) David Talley 29-yard run, PAT good (8:58)
(RM) Kyle Whitefield 3-yard run, PAT good (7:02)
(RM) Marques Prior 63-yard run, PAT good (9:06)
(RM) Prior 1-yard run, PAT good (3:36)
(LA) Hernandez 80-yard run, 2-point conversion good (3:20)
(RM) Prior 58-yard run, PAT good (11:34)
(RM) Whitefield 25-yard run, PAT good (8:04)
Rushing (Att-Yds-TD) – RM: Whitefield 16-139-2, Prior 9-155-3, Talley 8-46-1, No. 86 3-11. LA: Hernandez 23-145-1, Galindo 11-24.
Passing (Comp-Att-Yds-TD-INT) – RM: Talley 6-13-93-0-0, Prior 0-1-0-0-0, Provost 1-1-13-0-0. LA: Hernandez 9-19-57-0-1.
Receiving (Catches-Yds-TD) – RM: Prior 3-49, Whitefield 2-31, Wilson 1-13, Ramil 1-13. LA: Deluna 1-5, Antolin 2-15, Potts 5-35, Contreras 1-2.