TUCSON - It was a somber ride back to the Valley for the Desert Edge Scorpions on Dec. 3 following the 5A football semifinals. In a back-and-forth game until the end, the No. 3 Scorpions fell to the No. 2 Salpointe Catholic Lancers 29-17 in Tucson.
As the players emerged from the locker room, many of them had tears streaming down their cheeks. It was an emotional moment for the group, especially the seniors.
“We knew this was going to be the toughest game we played all season, just because we’re so similar,” Desert Edge co-coach Marcus Carter said. “It was going to come down to who made less mistakes, and we made a couple more mistakes than they did and that was just the outcome of the game. That’s what good football games come down to.”
Trailing 23-17 with under three minutes remaining, Desert Edge knew the opportunities to strike back and take the lead were dwindling away. Those were all but solidified on a fourth and 16 play when senior quarterback Adryan Lara was sacked near midfield.
“It was a great match up, but we lost to ourselves tonight,” senior cornerback Amir Smith said.
Following a long opening kickoff return, Desert Edge wasn’t able to capitalize on their field position. Salpointe made the stop on fourth and five and was able to take over at their own 30-yard-line.
The Lancers gained momentum on its first drive with a long pass from senior quarterback Treyson Bourguet to senior wide receiver Dylan Dreis. Continuing to pound the ground, Salpointe Catholic found a way into the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Bourguet. The kick was good, putting the home team on top 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
On the following drive, more trouble ensued for the Scorpions. Once again, a great kick return set Desert Edge up in prime scoring position but the offense could not finish the drive.
Lara was sacked on a third and 15, resulting in a loss of 10 yards and bringing up a fourth down. Desert Edge decided to go for it but again couldn’t convert, turning the ball over on the Lancers’ 38-yard-line with just under five minutes left in the first.
The Scorpion defense was starting to find a groove on the following drive. On a third and five, Bourguet was sacked, forcing the Lancers to punt. Desert Edge opened up the second quarter on an explosive 46-yard touchdown run from junior Chris Cordero.
All tied up at seven, Salpointe wasn’t able to do anything with its next possession. Desert Edge was able to take a 14-7 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the half on a 51-yard bomb from Lara to junior Vinny Mansfield.
The Lancers were determined to score before the half, with Bourguet finding senior Anthony Wilhite for a three-yard touchdown. Scorpions special teams left it all on the field tonight. In addition to their kick returns, they blocked the extra point attempt to hold onto a 14-13 lead going into the half.
“Our halftime preparations were great, but I feel like once we touched the field we kind of got lost in the moment and didn’t really trust our own abilities,” Smith said.
On the opening drive of the second half, Salpointe Catholic took a 16-14 lead following a field goal midway through the third.
Trouble started unfolding for Desert Edge on the following drive, as Lara’s pass was picked off by senior Antonio Martinez and returned for a touchdown. The kick was good, giving the Lancers a 23-14 leg up with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Eating away at the clock, the Scorpions continued to move the ball before ultimately settling on a field goal to cut the Lancers’ lead to 23-17 just as the fourth quarter was getting underway.
Following the late sack of Lara, Wilhite had a crucial run to pick up a first down, allowing the Lancers to run the clock down until there were three seconds left before calling a time out.
With enough time for one final play, the Lancers decided to put the ball in the air for a touchdown instead of kneeling down. As the horn sounded, Bourguet was able to find Dreis in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown to make the final score 29-17.
Read the work of Brittany Bowyer, Andy Morales and Javier Morales at All Sports Tucson.
The final touchdown delivered one final sting for the Scorpions as they congratulated their opponents before making their way into the locker room.
Wilhite, who was a proverbial thorn in the Scorpions’ side all night, rushed for 143 yards on 31 carries while also catching a pass for a touchdown.
“[Salpointe Catholic] did a really good job,” Marcus Carter said. “I’ve got nothing but love and respect for their quarterback Treyson [Bourguet] and their running back [Anthony] Wilhite. Congratulations to him for the AllTucson Award, and Treyson is going to go to college and be great.”
While it was a tough loss, it caps off what should still be looked at as a successful season for the Scorpions. While it wasn’t the way the seniors on this squad were hoping to go out, their contributions to the program have helped them establish a strong baseline for success among future classes at Desert Edge.
“The foundation has been laid, and our kids know the standard,” Marcus Carter said. “When you build a program, people have to understand the standard. I think they understand the standard because they keep getting better and better each year.”
Lara, who is off to Washington State next year, finished the night completing 17 of his 29 pass attempts for around 145 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Bourguet completed seven of his nine pass attempts for 147 yards, three passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and no interceptions.
“Lara, he’s a special talent, you know what I mean,” Desert Edge co-coach Mark Carter said. “Some people go their whole careers without being able to coach talent like that, so I just thank God I was able to coach him. He learned some things from me, he just told me that, but I learned a lot from him. He made me a better coach.”
While it’s tough to send seniors out with a loss, there’s a bright future for Desert Edge with players returning next year. One of them is Cordero, who really was able to come into his own in the second half of the season. Cordero carried for 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 runs.
“His father died over the summer, then he got COVID-19, so we didn’t really have him until week six,” Marcus Carter said.
The Carter brothers talked about how much Cordero has matured in the last few years.
“I wanted to fight him every single day, just because he was kinda a knucklehead,” Mark Carter said. “Just the transformation for him over the summer of becoming this leader and being somebody that we can depend on, that’s the reason why I coach.”
“He did everything he was supposed to do, got knocked down, got back up and had an amazing season, and that’s what we want kids to learn from this game,” Marcus Carter said.
As things officially come to a close for Desert Edge football in 2021, the Carter brothers both agree they’re pumped to keep growing and evolving with the team in the offseason.
“In this game, you don’t win all the time,” Marcus Carter said. “I think some of our best lessons come from failure, and I think that’s what’s wrong with this generation… We’re not allowing our children to fail, and I think it sucks that we had to come here and lose, but I think that we’re going to learn a lot more than from a win.”
“I’m just really happy, really blessed that everyday, win or lose, I’m able to come out here and live my dream, and this is a dream of ours,” Mark Carter said.
“This is why you play the game,” Marcus Carter said. “Like I said before, you can’t win ‘em all, and you know, we just came out on the short end this time.”
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