Needles wins penalty-filled game over Democracy Prep

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but Needles football coach Matt Fromelt will take the end result Friday night.

Because, in reality, there’s only one stat that counts in his mind.

“Our No. 1 stat is wins and losses,” he said. “So any time you get a win, you’re happy. … (But) there were a lot of mistakes both ways, so we’ve got a lot of stuff to work on.”

Gillman Jenkins caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jayden Yeager in the second quarter, and the Mustangs held off Democracy Prep 6-0 in a penalty-infested Class 2A Southern League game at Rancho High.

Needles (5-0, 3-0) finished with only 167 total yards of offense and had three turnovers, but relied on its offensive line when it counted most to close out the victory.

After stuffing Democracy Prep (2-2, 2-1) on fourth-and-20 at its own 30-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs drove 69 yards to the Blue Knights’ goal line in 6 minutes, 47 seconds to end the game.

Senior quarterback Jayden Yeager was deliberate in running down the clock after play calls — forcing Democracy Prep to burn all of its timeouts — and teammate Marcus Turner ran for 23 yards to grind out the victory.

“We told them, ‘We’re either ending in the end zone, or the game ends in our hands,’” Fromelt said. “Our offensive line bought into it and took care of business. … Marcus was the one that said, ‘I’m not going to get tackled.’ He ran physical.”

The defense, meanwhile, made up for the lack of offense.

Needles held Democracy Prep to 150 yards of total offense, including 45 on the ground.

“Everybody on defense played well,” Fromelt said. “Any time you pitch a shutout, it’s not one guy. It’s 11 guys doing their job. Defensively, I couldn’t be more happy. Those guys did a great job. They flew around. They stuffed them. And our (offensive) line, when it mattered, came together and moved.”

Yeager finished 4-for-13 passing for 44 yards and two interceptions and ran for a game-high 54 yards. Teammate Trey Tsosie had three catches for 42 yards.

Democracy Prep quarterback Micah Gayman was 13-for-24 passing for 105 yards and an interception, and Vanell Meeks had 64 yards of total offense (21 rushing, 43 receiving).

Kelley Jones had both interceptions for the Blue Knights.

“It was a grudge match,” Democracy Prep coach Keith Jones said. “Good football game, regardless of what the score says. It comes down to mistakes and we made the most mistakes today.”