Coaches often throw out the cliché ‘we beat ourselves’ to describe a loss.
Often times it might not be exactly accurate, rather more of a feel-good way to keep their team motivated moving forward. Especially when you lose by three touchdowns.
But this is exactly how Cactus coach Joseph Ortiz described his teams’ demoralizing 35-14 loss to fellow Class 4A power Goodyear Desert Edge in Glendale on Oct. 11.
And he couldn’t have been more accurate.
Trailing only 7-0 after a Scorpions’ Adryan Lara-to-Jihad Marks 30-yard first quarter touchdown pass, the wheels fell off for the Cobras after a series of self-destructive second quarter miscues and they couldn’t recover.
Midway through the second quarter, Desert Edge would go on to score three times in a span of just 4:56, twice following blocked Cactus punts, and a third on a fumble recovery, adding a lot of credence to his own observation.
“We never worry about other teams playing us. We always feel its Cactus vs Cactus. Tonight it was Cactus beating Cactus,” Ortiz stated.
A usually potent Cactus offense was being stymied by a swarming Desert Edge defense throughout most of the first half, leaving them unable to string together many big plays.
But the Cobras’ defense was equally staunch, limiting the Scorpions to just 58 yards total minus the aforementioned Lara touchdown strike.
But that changed in a blink of an eye.
With 8:47 left before halftime, Desert Edge’s Keith McKaney blocked the first of his two punts on the day, allowing the visitors to cover up the ball on the Cactus 25-yard line.
Seven plays later Lara found Marks again, this time in the right corner of the end zone on a fade, raising the lead to 14-0 with 5:57 left before halftime.
And they weren’t done.
Another McKaney blocked punt, after a three-and-out on Cactus’ ensuing possession, set up a 45-yard Lara-to-Marks touchdown pass. Marks took the screen and weaved his way down the left sidelines for a 21-0 Desert Edge lead.
“I just saw something out there and I was able to get to the balls to make plays,” said McKaney.
The damage continued when the Cobras fumbled away the ball after just two plays from scrimmage, ruining a fantastic 21-yard kickoff return by Nicc Quinones.
The Scorpions needed just four plays to extend its’ lead to 28-0 when Jeryll McIntosh shoved his way in from one yard out with only 53 seconds remaining before the half.
“Definitely we had some big plays in the first half that set the tempo,” said Desert Edge coach Jose Lucero.
“We had some big special teams plays and of course we had big plays on offense as well. Adryan (Lara) is a tough kid. I was happy with what he did.”
In the decisive first half, Lara came up huge. The heralded sophomore finished 12-of-15 for 147 yards. His favorite target Marks grabbed seven of those passes for 99 yards in the first half alone. Lara finished the game 20-of-28 for 226 yards.
Meanwhile McIntosh was a work horse all game as well, piling up 179 yards on 28 carries.
The Cobras showed signs of life in the second half when they finally got on the board on a Connor Cordts’ 4-yard score with 4:22 left in the third quarter, reducing the Desert Edge lead to 28-6.
While Cordts was highly effective on the ground for Cactus, gaining 115 yards on 15 carries, the Cactus quarterback’s passing game suffered mightily due to a plethora of dropped passes throughout the contest.
Desert Edge (5-3), who is among the Class 4A contenders this season with Cactus (5-2), put an exclamation point on the game when they went up 35-6 on an impressive 18-play, 79-yard drive that was capped by a McIntosh 4-yard score.
The sophomore carried the ball on 16 of the 18 plays, wearing down the Cactus defense in the process.
A Cordts to Jacob Winter 8-yard scoring strike with 2:45 left to play closed out the scoring.
“Our special teams have to be special and they were not special tonight,” Cordts said. “And because we didn’t get it done on special teams it put a lot of pressure on our defense. We can’t do that.”