By Head Coach Ernest Martinez

The Twentynine Palms High School varsity Wildcats football team lost a key DeAnza league game Friday at home against Rancho Mirage High School, 35-13.

The Wildcats matched the Rattlers’ offensive totals—with both teams gaining nearly identical yardage of 360 yards of offense—but missed scoring opportunities in the red zone. The loss of the Wildcats’ starting quarterback was a critical hurdle the team was unable to overcome. The Rattlers returned three injured starting captains from last week’s loss at Coachella Valley, including standout running back Marques Prior, who led the team in rushing for the game with 200 yards.

The Wildcats took the lead early and looked very impressive on the opening drive, marching 60 yards on five plays. D’Shaun Barrett found K.J. Morton open for a 34-yard reception for the key play of the drive. Senior running back Hunter Tygart ran around the left end, avoiding several defenders as the ’Cats started the scoring with a 7-0 lead.

Rancho Mirage quickly answered with a long drive, led by several big runs by Prior, to tie the score at 7 in the first quarter. A deflected pass interception on the ’Cats next series gave the Rattlers a short field and the visitors took a 14-7 lead to end the quarter.

The Wildcat’s responded with another long drive, as they went 70 yards on seven plays. D’Shaun Barrett found junior wide receiver Jonathan Carson on third and long for a 41-yard gain to put the ’Cats at the Rattler 21-yard line. Barrett raced around the left end for a 21-yard scoring run on the next play. However, the point-after attempt was blocked and the score was 14-13 with six minutes left in the first half.

The Rattlers marched for another long drive, to take the lead, 21-13 with 1:40 to play in the half.

Junior Cezar Hueso came into the game for injured quarterback D’Shaun Barrett and led the ’Cats down to the Rancho Mirage 9-yard line.

Hueso completed three of his first three passing attempts in his opening drive of the game.

K.J. Magwood Morton ran a sweep play down to the 9-yard line with only 4 seconds on the first half clock. The Wildcats failed on a fake field goal and went into halftime trailing by 8.

The ’Cats continued to battle in the second half moving the ball into the Rattlers’ red zone three times, but penalties and turnovers stopped the home team just short of the end zone. Rancho Mirage scored twice in the second half, once in the third quarter, and the final score with 4 minutes left to play in the contest.

Offensive leaders for the ’Cats were Hunter Tygart with 16 carries for 100 yards and a rushing touchdown. D’Shaun Barret had a rushing touchdown and was six of eight passing, for 110 yards before leaving the game with an injury early in the second quarter. Cezar Hueso was 10 of 16 passing for 114 yards on the game. Cody Landry caught three passes for 34 yards, and Isaiah Castaneda caught four passes for 57 yards.

Defensive leaders for the Wildcats were Finn O’Brien who led the team in tackles with 14. Hunter Tygart and Isaiah Castaneda had nine tackles each, and Mac Miller had an interception to set up a scoring drive.

The Wildcats will now travel to Desert Mirage for their third league contest of the season. The frosh-soph game will start at 4 and the varsity contest at 7:00 p.m.

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