Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 | 2:16 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Steve Silver break down last week's high school football action and preview the upcoming games. They also discuss the latest recruiting and NIAA realignment news.
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Members of the Del Sol High football team couldn’t help thinking back to last year.
That’s when they surrendered 21 unanswered points in the final five minutes of the Sunrise Regional championship game against Las Vegas High to squander what appeared to be a safe 14-point lead and lose in the game’s final minute.
When the two schools met again Thursday night, some nine months after Las Vegas’ memorable rally, the devastation of the previous year was nearly relived.
The Dragons were playing the same opponent, on the same field and had a similar secure advantage.
Then again, as they learned last year, no lead is safe against Las Vegas.
Del Sol led by 27 points with nine minutes to play before Las Vegas rallied for three touchdowns in seven minutes and had the ball inside Del Sol’s 20-yard line with under a minute to play.
This time, however, Del Sol survived the last-quarter rally.
Two-way standout Dezerick Reed, who finished with two touchdowns, intercepted a pass as time expired and Del Sol held on for a 33-28 victory.
Reed was immediately swarmed by teammates to start a celebration three years in the making. Del Sol has lost to Las Vegas the last three years in the Sunrise finals, and even though Thursday’s game was a non-league contest in the first month of the season, the Dragons rejoiced as if they had just captured the state title.
“I’m so excited,” Reed said. “I can’t put words into my mouth to describe it. I have chills running all up my arm. I knew we could do it.”
In the middle of the chaos following the game, Del Sol coach Preston Goroff found graduate Jon Kirschbaum, one of the Dragons’ team leaders the last three years who attended the game with several other graduates.
Goroff lifted Kirschbaum off the ground with a hug and let him know this victory wasn’t just for the 30-plus players on the current roster. The win was for all of the players who suffered a career-ending setback in the regional finals to Las Vegas.
The win was the first time a team from Del Sol’s Henderson-based Southeast Division has defeated Las Vegas since 1998, a streak of more than 30 games. That includes a pair of teams Goroff was an assistant coach for at Foothill.
“Vegas has been on top of the mountain for so long,” Goroff said. “I’ve been chasing them for the last 10 years.”
Del Sol led 21-6 at halftime and opened the second half with two quick touchdowns, a Troy Miller 14-yard scoring strike to Evan Weinstock and a 33-yard touchdown run from Reed where the senior ran over a Las Vegas defender on the goal line.
Even with the momentum from Reed’s run and a 33-6 lead, there was still 18 minutes left in the game — plenty of time for Las Vegas.
Las Vegas quarterback Hassan Henderson scored on runs of 6 and 46 yards to start the rally and cut the Wildcats deficit to 33-21 with 5:45 to play.
Del Sol fumbled on its third play on the ensuing series and Las Vegas’ Ferrell Victor scored on a 5-yard run to trim the Dragons’ lead to 33-28 with 4:50 to play.
After scoring two touchdowns in less than a minute, the momentum was clearly with Las Vegas.
Just like last year.
“There is no doubt that I was thinking about last year,” Goroff said. “Starting midway through the third quarter, you keep looking at the clock and hoping it keeps ticking down.”
Del Sol was forced to punt with two minutes to play and Las Vegas immediately drove the ball deep into Dragons’ territory. This time, however, Las Vegas couldn’t finish the comeback.
“If we would have had 30 more seconds we would have had them,” Las Vegas linebacker David Prieto said. “But a football game lasts 48 minutes, not 48 minutes and 30 seconds.”
Las Vegas (2-1), the six-time defending regional champions, took an early lead when Henderson scored on a 2-yard touchdown run on the Wildcats’ first series.
But Las Vegas fumbled on the first play of two of its next three possessions and Del Sol scored 21 unanswered points to close the half. Reed had a 5-yard touchdown run and Miller threw a pair of touchdowns as the Dragons took the lead for good.
“We didn’t do a good job of holding onto the ball,” Las Vegas coach Chris Faircloth said. “But you have to give our kids credit. They hung in there. We just dug ourselves too big of a hole this year.”
Weinstock, a key contributor the past two years, didn’t disappoint in the rematch. He finished with five catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
“This game means more to me than anything,” Weinstock said. “This is what we worked hard for all summer.”
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.