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July 22, 2014

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After slow start, Desert Pines secures playoff spot

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Despite starting the season 0-4, the Desert Pines Jaguars secured a spot in the Sunrise Northeast playoffs Friday night, defeating Chaparral 27-20 in double overtime.

The manner in which the Jaguars won was a reflection of their season as a whole, as Desert Pines was down 13-0 going into the third quarter and had to pull off an exciting comeback in the second half to win.

"I'm just happy for the kids," Jaguars coach Paul Bennett said. "They came out here in the first half and we were a little sluggish. In the second half we came in and put it all together."

Desert Pines had just 83 yards and four turnovers in the first half. The most costly turnover came with 5:15 left in the second quarter, when a fumble by quarterback Dalton Leilua was recovered by the Cowboys' defense on Desert Pines' 7-yard line. Two plays later, Chaparral quarterback Jermal Turner was in the end zone to put the Cowboys up 13-0.

However, in the second half the Jaguars came out looking like a different team. Eric Tuiloma's 39-yard touchdown scoring run capped an opening drive that went for 81 yards in just seven plays and 2:53.

It then appeared as if the teams had switched uniforms, as Chaparral gave away a costly fumble on their own 13 while attempting a hand off on a wide receiver double reverse.

Jaguars running back Derrick Shaw punished the Cowboys for their error, turning a fourth-down conversion into an 8-yard touchdown run to level the score 13 all.

The Jaguars saved their most impressive display for the opening of the fourth quarter. Pinned at their own 1, Desert Pines drove the ball 99 yards in 11 plays. The Jaguars converted three third downs on the drive, and fullback Scott Dennis put the team into scoring position with a 40-yard breakaway run. He would not get the honors of the touchdown, however, as the defense got to him at the last moment. The drive was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Leilua and the point after put Desert Pines up 20-13 with 5:46 left in the contest.

Chaparral wasn't going down without a fight. The Cowboys hit back with a six-play, 69-yard drive, which was capped by a 20-yard touchdown reception by Devian Blow on fourth down to tie the game. Blow found openings in the Jaguars' defense all night, recording five receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

"That Chaparral team is a great team," Bennett said. "I had an opportunity to watch them against Eldorado and I knew we were in for a battle."

Chaparral came close to taking the game in the last few seconds of regulation, but a 49-yard field goal attempt by Cowboys kicker Carl VanLandingham bounced off the cross bar barely an inch shy of being successful.

VanLandingham got a chance to redeem himself almost immediately as the Jags committed their seventh offsides penalty of the game to give him a 44-yard attempt. This time the kick drifted wide right and the game went into overtime.

VanLandingham would get yet another chance to win the game in overtime. The Cowboys came up with an interception of the first play of overtime to set up a 33-yard VanLandingham field goal. However, this kick went wide left and the game went into another period of overtime.

Shaw scored on the second play with a 9-yard run into the end zone. Desert Pines wrapped the game up, picking off Turner's first pass of the ensuing drive.

"If I had to give a player of the game it would be each and every one of you," Bennett said to his players after the game. "You never gave up out there."

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