Tyler Carlson
AIA Intern

Desert Mountain Visits Horizon in Battle for Playoff Position

October 12, 2017 by Tyler Carlson, AZPreps365

With just three weeks remaining in the high school football season, the Wolves of Desert Mountain visit Horizon Friday night in a 6A Desert Region clash as the playoff race heats up.

Desert Mountain (4-3, 1-1) enters Friday fresh off a shootout victory over Mountain Ridge, 45-35, last weekend. Quarterback Kendon Slovis continued his strong season, completing 21-of-31 pass attempts for 294 yards and five touchdowns.

Running back Nick Hill and receiver Josh Walker also got in on the offensive onslaught, as Hill gashed the Mountain Ridge defense for 217 yards rushing on just 19 carries and a touchdown. The senior also added 96 yards and another touchdown receiving. Walker, meanwhile, caught six passes for 91 yards and found the end zone three times.

The three led the offense to 511 yards in the victory.

The defensive side of the ball on the other hand proved to be a conundrum for the Wolves as Lions quarterback Justin Hintze threw for 265 yards and rushed for 180 more, leading Mountain View to five touchdowns. Along the way, the Wolves defense allowed four plays over 25 yards and two over 50 while conceding 578 yards and 30 first downs to the Lions.

Desert Mountain has had its struggles defensively this season, surrendering almost 42 points and 424.1 yards per game.

There have been several bright spots for the Wolves defensively however, most notably with junior linebacker Cole Daddario, whose 55 tackles lead the team. Additionally, safeties Luke Donovan and Riley Tucker have each contributed 49 tackles to go along with Tucker’s two interceptions.

Offensively, the Wolves have been solid. Led by Slovis and his playmaking cast of Walker and Hill, Desert Mountain has averaged 364.6 yards and just over three touchdowns a game.

Coming into Friday evening, Slovis has passed for 1,744 yards, good for sixth in 6A. Additionally, the junior has thrown 19 touchdowns against just one interception which he threw last weekend.

Walker and Hill have also been key to the Wolves’ offensive success. Walker has been on the receiving end of 53 of Slovis’ passes this season, accumulating 852 yards (7th in the State), and 11 touchdowns. The senior has also rushed for a touchdown and returned a kickoff for another. Hill meanwhile, has rushed for 487 yards this season while scoring five times.

Horizon (6-1, 2-0) will take the field Friday night also having won their previous contest, knocking off Sandra Day O’Connor in decisive fashion, 43-7, last week.

Junior quarterback Isaac Enriquez carried the Huskies going 12-of-18 for 152 yards and three touchdowns. The mobile Enriquez also added 42 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown.

Enriquez has been the offensive leader for the Huskies all season. Coming into Friday’s game with Desert Mountain, Enriquez has completed just under 70 percent of his pass attempts this season while throwing for 785 yards and nine touchdowns. But the signal caller also has the ability to make plays with his feet, having compiled 455 yards on the ground with six rushing touchdowns as well.

Enriquez is complimented offensively by running back Nash Giffin, who has averaged 6.6 yards per carry this season and has found the end zone five times for the Huskies.

Enriquez and Giffin lead a Horizon offense which averages 365.5 yards per game, including 199 yards rushing, while averaging 37.4 points per contest.

Giffin has been a force on the defensive side for Horizon as well. Last Friday, the linebacker combined with safety Nathan Bucko for 18 tackles and a sack each as the Huskies shut down the Eagles all night long.

Leading the team in both tackles (43) and rushing yards (558) this season, Giffin has proven himself to be a vital and versatile piece for the Huskies.

“Nash does about everything for us,” said Horizon head coach Ty Wisdom. “He packs a punch when he brings it on defense and we try to get him as many carries as we can on offense. He’s just so valuable to our team when he’s on the field.”

Giffin anchors a strong Horizon defense which is allowing just 9.1 points per game in seven contests this season. Nose guard Justin Segura has also made his presence felt, tallying 28 tackles of his own this season. Together, Giffin and Segura have made a difference in the pass rush as well, accounting for five of the Huskies’ 11 sacks this season.

Behind the performances of Giffin and Segura, the Huskies defense has been especially dominant over its last three games. During the stretch, Horizon has not allowed a point to opposing offenses while conceding under 200 yards per game and sacking opposing quarterbacks six times.

“(The defense has) really played great all year,” said Wisdom. I have a new defensive coordinator, Jason Luft and he’s done an outstanding job with them. They’ve just really bought into our new philosophy. We just preach attitude and effort and they’ve done a great job.”

On Friday, the Huskies find themselves in an eerily similar position to last season. Going into a week eight matchup with Desert Mountain a year ago, Horizon was 6-1 and in control of their own playoff destiny. But after the Huskies fell to the Wolves that week 49-42 on a late fourth quarter touchdown, Horizon’s season spiraled downward.

Losing each of their last two contests, including a heart-breaking overtime loss at home to Pinnacle, the Huskies ended the season 6-4 and missed the playoffs.

On Friday, Horizon will look to put the collapse behind them and finish what they were unable to complete last season.

“We’re not doing a whole lot differently, other than the kids know what’s at stake. said Wisdom, referencing the parallel circumstances. “We’re playing a good team on Friday night, they’re high school kids, they’re going to go out, play their tails off and it should be a fun atmosphere.”

Friday’s game kicks at 7 p.m. and can be streamed live at http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/azpreps365/9d3904d2e1 and heard on the Fanatic (1580 AM and 99.3 FM).