Las Vegas coach James Thurman insists his team was calm and poised at halftime despite trailing Desert Oasis by seven points on the road in the Wildcats’ season opener Friday night.
Maybe that was because the Wildcats knew Andrew Moreland was going to get more involved in the offense.
The 5-foot-7-inch junior was featured on two drives in the second half, both resulting in Moreland touchdowns, as the Wildcats rallied for a 17-13 win.
“I knew I could break something,” Moreland said. “We just had a couple of bad plays (in the first half), and I tripped up a little bit and then got it going in the second half.”
On Las Vegas’ opening drive of the third quarter, Moreland caught a swing pass for an 8-yard gain and then broke a run down the left sideline for 52 yards. He then scored from 2 yards out on the third play.
“He’s a very dynamic player,” Thurman said. “He was a good player for us last year; he just got overshadowed by (second-team all-State running back Farrell) Victor.”
Moreland didn’t touch the ball again until the fourth quarter’s opening drive with the Diamondbacks (0-2) up 13-10.
He started the series with a 3-yard run to the left and broke off a 52-yard touchdown run down the left sideline on the next play to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
“I gave one guy a stiff arm, then broke a tackle, and I just kept running,” he said. “I saw the end zone, and I was on my way.”
Moreland finished with 147 yards and the two scores on 12 carries. The Wildcats (1-0) gave him plenty of help on defense and special teams.
Jay Mattox made a 40-yard field goal midway through the third quarter and consistently pinned Desert Oasis at the 20 with touchbacks on kickoffs and deep in its territory on punts.
The Wildcats also blocked a third-quarter extra point and a short field-goal try early in the game after turning away the Diamondbacks inside the 5-yard line.
“Our kids have bought in to playing three phases, and we practice three phases,” Thurman said. “We’ve always done that, and that goes back to (previous coaching staffs). We’ve been traditionally pretty good (on special teams).”
Desert Oasis scored the first half’s only points on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Herman Smith to Jordyn Compehos on a fourth-down play in the final minute of the second quarter.
Thurman said his team remained confident despite being shut out through two quarters.
“(Desert Oasis had) played one game, and the cliche is you (make the most improvement) from your first game to your second game,” he said. “I think we had a couple hundred yards of offense, just made some big mistakes that kept us from scoring.
“We told them the plays we were running were working. … The kids were fine. They knew we were doing good things.”
Kurtis Brooks ran for 136 yards for the Diamondbacks. Smith threw for 167 yards, including 74 on six completions to Marvin Duty.