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September 23, 2014

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Las Vegas maintains streak over Desert Pines

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Cydney Cappello

Desert Pines wide receiver Anthony Ruiz, right, pleads his case on a disputed catch in the third quarter against Las Vegas High. Ruiz believed that he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Dalton Leilua, but the referees determined that he had trapped the ball.

Las Vegas defeats Desert Pines

Desert Pines' Paul Bennett (19) warms up with Jonathon Tagle (24) during the second quarter. Desert Pines lost 21-0 to Las Vegas Friday night. Launch slideshow »

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It's been five years since the Desert Pines High football team toppled Sunrise Northeast rival Las Vegas High.

A slew of missed opportunities Friday means that streak will last a bit longer after the Jaguars fell to the Wildcats, 21-0, in each team's league opener.

Desert Pines (0-4) held Las Vegas (3-1) to just 259 yards of total offense and outplayed the Wildcats in much of the second half but couldn't take advantage of the numerous times they regained momentum, especially in the second half.

"It is what it is," Jags coach Paul Bennett said. "Where we had chances to make plays, we didn't. I take my hat off to the defense. The defense played well against a good Vegas team. We just keep pushing. I know we've got a good team. They believe in each other. We'll just keep going. We'll keep pushing."

The Jaguars trailed 21-0 at halftime thanks to two Wildcat scores after Desert Pines miscues. Punter Eric Tuiloma decided to try to run for a first down on fourth-and-8 from his own 43-yard-line — a previous fake punt called by the coaching staff had been successful — but was stopped after a gain of 2 yards. Las Vegas High took advantage of the short field as Reggie Bullock scored three plays later for a 14-0 lead with less than a minute and a half left before the break.

"Guys want to try to do something to spark the team," Bennett said. "I told him, 'You got to play within yourself.' That kind of killed us."

Just as deadly was Desert Pines' inability to run the clock out on its final drive, especially after Aaron Frankin returned Tuiloma's punt 46 yards to the Jags' 10-yard line. Two plays later, Emir Lopez found Tim Daniels in the end zone for a 6-yard scoring pass and a three-touchdown advantage.

The Wildcats (3-1) had 122 yards in the second quarter, nearly half their output for the entire night.

"We weren't clicking very well on offense except for about the last six minutes of the second quarter," LVHS coach Chris Faircloth said. "Besides that, I thought we struggled bad. We were penalty-laden, we did a lot of poor things, but Aaron Frankin kind of kept the ball rolling when we needed to keep rolling."

The second half presented Desert Pines with opportunities to close the gap, but once again the team couldn't convert any of its chances:

• The Jags' opening drive of the third quarter stalled after entering Wildcat territory thanks to a sack by the Las Vegas defense and a holding penalty.

• Tyrone Toney intercepted a Lopez pass in the end zone later that period, returning the ball to near midfield. However, Dalton Leilua returned the favor two plays later, throwing an interception under pressure.

• Senior punter Trevor Lowe was tackled for a 19-yard loss on fourth down after a bad snap flew over his head on Vegas' next possession, but Desert Pines receiver Anthony Ruiz was ruled to have trapped an apparent touchdown catch on third down, and the Jags turned the ball over on downs the next play.

• Sophomore running back Schaquawn Williams returned a Lowe punt 45 yards to the Wildcat 30-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, but — after leading the Jaguars into the red zone — Leilua was intercepted by Jonathan Tagle in the end zone with three minutes left in the game.

Part of the Jaguars' struggles were thanks to a Wildcat defense that had something to prove after giving up 116 points in its first three games this season. Las Vegas pestered Leilua into an eight-for-24 passing night -- holding him to just 25 yards through the air -- and shut down Desert Pines' running game, allowing only 2.4 yards per carry.

"Those kids on the defensive side, I think, were pretty affected by what's happened to us the past three weeks," Faircloth said. "It's been pretty horrendous, to say the least. They know what they need to do and they just need to play hard. We did what we had to do, at least for tonight."

Lopez finished 16-of-27 passing for 139 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, along with nine rushing yards and the game's first touchdown — an 11-yard run untouched up the middle.

Bullock carried the ball 13 times for 76 yards and caught passes for 37 yards. Kevin Cormier had 10 rushes for 54 yards, and Frankin had six receptions for 87 yards, four of them for first downs.

"He's become a much better player than he has in the past," Faircloth said of the senior wide receiver. "He's much more focused, does a much better job in the weight room. I think he took a lot more of this on his shoulders, where he was just hoping other kids made plays last year. He's really stepped up. He really did carry us."

Derrick Shaw led the Jaguars with 59 rushing yards on 15 carries, and Dennis Scott added five carries for 24 yards. Jakari Shumate was the only Desert Pines receiver with more than one catch, hauling in two passes for 5 yards. Ruiz and Leroy Bell each had one catch for 6 yards.

With its defense back on track, Las Vegas High will travel to Chaparral High next week. Whether the offense can return to the 40-point performances from earlier this season, rather than just one quarter of production like Friday night, remains to be seen.

"These kids have expectations on how efficient this offense is supposed to work," Faircloth said. "Sometimes when you get people on their heels, when you get the momentum, we were fortunate enough to take advantage of it. It was just that short spurt, but somehow we're going to need to bottle up that spurt and spread it out over the game."

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