It’s hard to stand out when a team puts together a near-perfect performance in all phases of the game, but running back Christopher Cordero was impossible to miss Friday night in playoff action.
The junior workhorse kept the chains moving to the tune of 174 yards rushing on 18 carries, plus two touchdowns, as Desert Edge advanced to the 5A state quarterfinals with a 43-7 win over an outmatched Canyon View Jaguars team in Goodyear.
The Scorpions — the bracket’s 3-seed — are seeking a trip to the Final Four when they host another game in Goodyear next week as 6-seed Desert View, out of Tucson, makes its way up.
Not that scheming is too complicated this time of year with everything on the line.
“Just go at it,” Cordero said after Friday night’s win. “That’s how we make each other better.”
Boy did they.
While Cordero had the ground game in total control, Desert Edge’s four-year starting quarterback Adryan Lara handled most everything else on offense. The Washington State-bound QB completed 16 of 24 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, as the Scorpions scored on six of their eight possessions on this playoff night.
“Before it was drop back and stop Adryan. Can’t do that no more,” Desert Edge co-head coach Mark Carter said afterward, before he clearly got emotional as he reflected on Cordero’s growth — both on and off the field.
“This young man is the reason that I coach,” he continued. “This man has been through a lot. And last year I wanted to fight him every single day. Me and him was gonna fight every single day. But then over the summer, and just, you know, maturity-wise, he balled out. Ever since he’s been in the game, it changed.”
The 1-2 offensive punch of Cordero and Lara had lots of help in their Round 1 matchup with Waddell’s Canyon View.
The Scorpions picked up a touchdown on special teams when sophomore Aundre Gibson galloped 90 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown with three minutes to play in the first half. Desert Edge also put points on the board through its defense when senior Camren Foster returned a pick-six 30 yards early in the third quarter.
Senior Cris Contreras later picked off a pass in a scrum when the D-line hit CV junior quarterback Ashton Zacher as he threw the ball. Contreras snatched the errant ball out of the air to seal the deal with 6:16 left to play in the fourth.
“We work on all phases every single day,” co-head coach Marcus Carter said. Of the twin brother co-coaches, Marcus focuses on the D and special teams, and got points from both Friday night. The Scorpions’ defense also allowed just four total yards to the Jaguars in the first quarter, and only eight passing yards the entire first half.
“Last year I thought that one of our deficiencies was Phase 3, special teams,” Marcus continued. “So I took it upon myself to make sure we got the special teams right. We got the best returner in the state. You see why people don’t kick it to him. We practice hard on that. Any way we can get a touchdown.”
Canyon View couldn’t get much going throughout the night, with the exception of senior running back Matthew Flores. Rushing the ball 24 times for 100 yards and adding a six-yard pass reception, he individually out-gained the rest of the Jaguars’ offense on the night.
CV got its only score of the game on a wild sequence.
Forced to punt on fourth and 10 in their own territory with 3:17 left in the first quarter, the Jaguars’ kicker shanked a punt that wobbled to the right without much distance. When the ball looked like it had only traveled a couple yards, the high-arced punt eventually landed in bounds, and took a sudden bounce backwards even deeper into Canyon View territory.
While players on both sides kept away from the ball, and even appeared to head toward their respective sidelines thinking the play was over when the ball came to a stop, the ball was still in bounds and was just sitting there as no officials blew their whistle. Recognizing the live ball that had squibbed back behind the original line of scrimmage and no one on either side going after it, Jaguars senior Deonne McClelland scooped it up and ran 75 yards to the end zone while players on both sides suddenly snapped their attention back to the still-live play and gave chase.
The surprising twist tied the game 7-7 and charged up the Jaguars fans. But the celebration would be brief, as Gibson took the ensuing CV kickoff all the way to the house in a sequence that saw both teams scoring touchdowns on consecutive plays over a span of 22 seconds.
The kickoff return was the beginning of 36 unanswered points from Desert Edge.
The loss brought to an end Canyon View’s season, but it was a season that marked the young school’s first year with a senior class. The promising team got better with experience all year long, riding a six-game winning streak into the postseason.
The Desert Edge defense, meanwhile, has tightened up at the right time of year. The Scorpions have allowed a total of 20 points over the last three weeks, and all against playoff-qualifying teams.
Desert Edge High School will celebrate its 20th year next year, and the football program is looking for its first state championship game berth since a 2019 appearance in the 4A title tilt. The program won its only football state championship to date while competing in the Division III final in 2015.
The winner of the Scorpions’ second-round bout with Desert View will face the winner of 2-seed Salpointe Catholic against 7-seed Notre Dame Prep in the Final Four on Nov. 26.
The state championship takes place Dec. 10 at Sun Devil Stadium.
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