Desert Pines didn’t just rebuild this summer. It reloaded.
Sophomore quarterback Marckell Grayson threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns as the Jaguars routed host Desert Oasis 48-0 on Friday.
Grayson, who was making his first varsity start, also rushed for 42 yards and scored a touchdown for Desert Pines (1-0). Sophomore running back Isaiah Morris also had a big night, rushing for 54 yards and two touchdowns on five carries. He added two receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars lost several key skill-position players from last year’s team that lost to eventual state champion Faith Lutheran in the Division I-A quarterfinals, and there were plenty of question marks about the team coming into Friday’s opener. However, the veteran leaders along the offensive and defensive lines dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing the young skill position players to exploit the overmatched Diamondbacks’ defense.
“The big boys up front are experienced,” Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez said. “We have some young players who are unproven, and tonight they wanted an opportunity to prove themselves. I’ve got Marckell and Isaiah and a bunch of young sophomores. I have more sophomores on my team than seniors. They were excited for the opportunity to show their talent and skill set.”
Despite his big debut, Grayson wasn’t too excited afterward, citing a few passes that were missed on timing routes.
“I did pretty well for the first game, but there is always room for improvement,” he said. “I believe we need more practice and more work on our timing, but we’ll get there.”
After the Jaguars’ first drive ended with an interception, Desert Pines forced a three-and-out, and Morris scored on a 27-yard run. The Diamondbacks fumbled on their next possession, and Desert Pines scored one play later on a 34-yard pass from Grayson to senior receiver Jon McCoy.
Desert Oasis put together a 15-play drive that stalled on the Jaguars’ 24-yard line, and Desert Pines then drove 76 yards in 11 plays, increasing its lead to 21-0 on a 3-yard run by Morris.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Diamondbacks fumbled, and Desert Pines went up 27-0 as Grayson hit Morris on a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Despite the big win, the Jaguars were flagged 10 times for more than 100 yards.
“You know, it was first-game jitters,” Rodriguez said. “We made some silly mistakes, but we’ll clean it up. We’ll watch the film and make sure we cut those penalties in half for the second game.”