Making it to the playoffs is nothing new for the Desert Oasis football team. However, winning those games has been quite the challenge.
Until Friday night.
Senior running back Ty’shun McClinton ran for 102 yards and three second-half touchdowns on 25 carries to lead the Diamondbacks to a 34-12 win over host Palo Verde in the first round of the Sunset League playoffs.
The victory gave the Diamondbacks (7-3) their first playoff win in school history.
“It feels great. I just want to cry,” McClinton said. “We never had a game like this in school history. No one in Desert Oasis history has got a playoff win but us. It feels great because I’m a senior, and I’m not going to be playing here next year. I just wanted to get that win for my boys.”
The Panthers (4-6) started Friday’s game with a bang, taking their first possession 66 yards on nine plays to take a 6-0 lead. Max Miller-Hooks capped off the drive with a 1-yard TD plunge after Christian Bell set the Panthers up inside the 5-yard line following his 38-yard run.
Bell finished the night with 127 yards on 14 carries.
However, the Diamondbacks responded with a scoring drive of their own when quarterback Brannon Flowers scored on a 16-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 6-6.
The Diamondbacks would eventually take a 13-6 lead late in the second quarter after Flowers scored on a 2-yard run.
After a sluggish first half, the Panthers took their first possession of the half 90 yards on 12 plays to cut the lead to 13-12. Aaron Chisholm capped the drive with a 6-yard scoring run.
“We had some trouble defending their counter play,” Desert Oasis coach Brad Talich said. “We had to adjust real quick. They were moving their fullback around on us a little bit. We had to do some things real quick in the third quarter after their touchdown drive, but after we made the adjustment, the kids settled down and played how we game planned them for two weeks.”
It also helped that McClinton took over in the second half. McClinton scored a 1-yard TD run, the first of his three second-half scores, to make it 20-12 with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third quarter.
Before that drive, the Panthers defense held McClinton to eight yards on six carries in the first half. An offensive adjustment suggested by McClinton may have changed the game for the Diamondbacks.
“In the first half, their linebacker was blitzing every play far side. I just thought he’d do the same thing in the second half, and he did,” McClinton said. “I told coach to run the blast play to his side because we know he’s blitzing. So we ran to his side and it worked every time because he came down hard and we just got out.”
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers’ Chamere Thompson raced 86 yards to the Desert Oasis 4-yard line. The play appeared to swing momentum back to Palo Verde, which ended up at the 2-yard line after the Diamondbacks were flagged for illegal substitution.
But the Desert Oasis defense regained momentum by recovering a fumble at the 1.
“Our kids, down on the goal line, we practice it a lot, and when you are playing this type of offense, you practice goal line defense quite a bit,” he said. “It was a big stop for the kids, and I give them all the credit. I know our big kids dug the trenches and held them out. That was a very big stop for us.”
Palo Verde did not threaten again, failing to convert on three fourth-down attempts. McClinton sealed the win rushing with touchdown runs of 16 and 3 yards.
The Diamondbacks will face Arbor View (9-1) next week in the Sunset Region semifinals. The Aggies won the previous meeting between the two schools, 45-6.