Desert Pines looked like the better team for all but one play.
That one play was enough to get fifth-ranked Las Vegas a 7-6 home victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.
Senior linebacker James Joseph intercepted a pass and ran it back 10 yards for the Wildcats only score with 5:13 to play in a game in which the Las Vegas offense struggled to find any kind of rhythm.
“I saw him rolling out. I just rolled out with him and he threw it right to me,” Joseph said.
Desert Pines backup quarterback Trey Robello threw the errant pass as he slipped to the ground. He had entered the game after starter Dalton Leilua suffered an apparent concussion in the third quarter.
Las Vegas (7-1, 5-0 Northeast) gained just 26 total yards in the first half and 166 in the entire game, but head coach Chris Faircloth said his defense didn’t get frustrated by the offense’s struggles.
“The mentality is it’s your job to stop them. We were waiting for a break,” he said.
“We preach to the kids all the time that as long as you play hard, something’s going to come our way.”
Joseph wasn’t surprised the game came down to one play.
“We expected a close game,” he said. “We just kept doing what we had to (on defense).”
Faircloth said the offense is going to have to play better if Las Vegas hopes to make a run in the playoffs.
“We really struggled coming out on offense. They got after us and I think they manhandled us, which isn’t very good,” he said. “We’re going to have to get a lot better on that.”
He said there was one key stat in his offense’s favor.
“We never turned the ball over. You always have a shot as long as you don’t turn the ball over,” Faircloth said.
Desert Pines (5-4, 3-2) got its points on its first drive. The Jaguars went 80 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass from Leilua to Eric Tuiloma. The extra point was blocked.
Leilua threw for 124 yards before leaving the game, but the Jaguars never could add to their lead. The result left many of the Desert Pines players visibly upset.
“It’s real frustrating. You’re watching the kids on the field. They’re hurt,” head coach Paul Bennett said. “I’m hurt. You play that type of game and for it to end like that? It stings.”
Tuiloma caught nine passes for 135 yards for Desert Pines.