Desert Edge has a chance to cap its tremendous football season with a championship, as the Scorpions face Gilbert Mesquite in the 2019 AIA Football 4A Conference Championship Final on Friday.
The Scorpions boast a 10-3 record, losing only to Saguaro and Salpointe Catholic – both played in the newly-formed Open Division this season made up of the top eight teams in the entire state, regardless of division – and 5A quarterfinalist Millennium.
As talented as any team in the conference, Desert Edge is young, with starters and contributors at all positions with years of football left in their high school careers. Even still, coach Jose Lucero believes his players have the experience to compete in the game.
“As young as we were this season, we had a lot of kids that had played a lot of football. So that was the thing we knew coming in,” Lucero said.
One of those young studs is sophomore quarterback Adryan Lara, a key cog in an offense that should be a strength for the Scorpions in this game. He leads Arizona with 3,703 passing yards. He’s also tallied 39 touchdowns. With a stable of quality receivers – senior Jihad Marks and junior Andrew Patterson are among the 4A leaders in yards for 2019 – the Scorpions can put up points in a hurry.
“The coaching I get, the players I’m around, everything around me has gotten us to this point. I’m just trying to do my part and it’s exciting to be able to air it around,” Lara said.
Passing success opens up lanes and running room for the Scorpions, who can create holes with a solid offensive line. The secret to Desert Edge’s offensive success is no secret, either. Mesquite defensive coordinator Cory Hare knows exactly what the Wildcats are going up against.
“They're big, they're fast, they have an amazing quarterback and they have an amazing receiver who is probably one of the best in the state. It really is going to take all 11 guys, all the time. I don't think we can take any plays off,” Hare said.
But, while the Scorpions boast one of the state’s top passing offenses, Mesquite (10-3) is not far behind. Wildcat junior quarterback Ty Thompson was No. 2 in passing yards, just 15 behind Lara with 3,688, and threw for a big-school high 42 scores.
Desert Edge defenders want to avoid a shootout if possible.
“We’re getting our DB’s ready going against a quarterback like him. It’s going to be a good challenge,” said junior corner Steven Ortiz.
The Scorpions, while young, are relishing the chance to hoist the golden ball in celebration as a fine bookend to a successful season, especially for their seniors that have helped build the culture around the football team.
A title would be the school’s first since 2015, and first for Lucero as head coach. He was an assistant when the Scorpions defeated Paradise Valley 29-27 in the D3 championship game.
But, regardless of score in this year’s final, Desert Edge has put itself in a position to contend for many wins and trophies in years to come.
“Being a young team, we’re losing some guys to graduation after the season, but we will have a lot of the same group of guys coming back again,” Ortiz said.
“And we’re going to be bigger, stronger and faster next year, so to get to this point is something to build on.”
No. 4 Desert Edge vs. No. 6 Mesquite is set to kick off Dec. 6, 7 p.m., at Willow Canyon High School.