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Desert Pines closes out regular season in style

Desert Pines has talked all season about “unfinished business,” referring to last season’s heartbreaking loss in the Division I-A state title game.

And now that the pesky regular season is over, the Jaguars are four wins away from finishing that business from 2014.

Isaiah Morris rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries Friday night to help Desert Pines close out their regular season with a 48-0 drubbing of Sunrise Mountain.

Trevor Nofoa added 101 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries for the Jaguars (7-2, 4-2 Sunrise League).

“It’s special to us to see our running backs get those kinds of yards,” senior center Natron Auelua-Naki said. “Our running backs don’t look out for themselves. They always give props to (the offensive line). They never give props to themselves and that is what we look for.

“We come out every practice, every day and grind. We take film very serious. We go over every note and every play. We just keep moving, step-by-step, with one goal — to get that state ring.”

Desert Pines quarterback Marckell Grayson completed 12 of 21 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. His 14-yard rushing TD in the first quarter opened up the scoring and gave Desert Pines a 6-0 lead with 10 minutes, 24 seconds left.

The Jaguars scored 21 points in each of the first two quarters to take a 42-0 halftime lead.

Morris’ 46-yard run with 3:08 left in the third quarter started the running clock.

Randal Grimes caught three passes for 85 yards and a touchdown, and Amari Calvillo-Tatum caught three passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.

The Jaguars had their chances to score more, but penalties and a turnover killed two promising red-zone drives in the second quarter, which is something head coach Tico Rodriguez hopes to clean up before next week’s playoffs.

“This was a good game for us,” he said. “They were 6-2, and we were 6-2. We just wanted to come out and play a good game with clean football. We do need to clean up some penalties. We had some overaggressive penalties tonight, and we just have to clean that up.

“We had some opportunities to score, but we took ourselves out of scoring position. When we get a chance to score, we need to capitalize and not hurt ourselves with dumb penalties.”

The Jaguars defense also was dominant, limiting the Miners (6-3, 3-3) to only 89 yards of total offense in the shutout. The Miners didn’t get a first down until less than two minutes before halftime.

Sunrise Mountain’s top back, Claude Moore, was held to 41 yards on 19 carries.

“I have two Division I defensive tackles, and our front seven is a really talented group,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been doing it all season, We’ve only given up 59 points all season, so it’s just our front seven is phenomenal.”

The Jaguars will enter the playoffs as a No. 3 seed, after having to forfeit two games for using an ineligible player, and will travel to face Cheyenne.

“A lot of the kids wanted to be in front of the fans for those games, and having home playoff games helps us because we don’t have a lot of resources,” he said. So, with us losing those home games, it will really affect our budget, affect us getting supplies for football and getting to the next level. It affects not only the football team, but the community as well.”

Auelua-Naki doesn’t care where they play, though. He’s focused on avenging last season’s fourth-quarter collapse.

“It was important for our personal pride to win our last home game,” he said. “We had an unfortunate misunderstanding with our season, and we had to forfeit some games. But we are going to come back. It doesn’t matter if it’s home or away, we are going to take the game the same as always because this year it’s unfinished business for us.”

Despite the loss, the Miners qualified for the playoffs last week. As the Sunrise’s No. 4 seed, they will play at No. 1 Faith Lutheran next week.

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