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Desert Pines’ defense shuts out, shuts down opposing offenses

Desert Pines was on the verge of forcing a punt, placing Canyon Springs in the unfortunate situation of trying to convert a third-and-21 in the late August game.

Many coaches, OK most coaches, with such a huge advantage would have played it safe by keeping everything in front of the defense and all but taking away the possibility of a big play.

Not Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez. The Jaguars blitzed — and got the sack.

It’s not enough for the Jaguars to field one of the valley’s top defenses, they also are a relentless group that constantly attacks and dares opposing offenses to do something about it.

“Our default is aggressive,” Rodriguez said. “When we don’t know what to do, we’re going to be aggressive.”

With its offense often giving Desert Pines a comfortable lead, Rodriguez said he knows opponents are going to throw the ball. “So you can play a lot more games with your stunts. You can be more aggressive with your blitzes.”

The approach is highly effective. That Canyon Springs game? Desert Pines recorded 10 sacks that helped to limit an overmatched offense to minus-30 yards in the 42-0 victory.

Desert Pines, which plays at Green Valley at 6 p.m. Friday, went 11 consecutive quarters without giving up a point until Foothill scored a fourth-quarter touchdown against reserves Sept. 9.

The Jaguars allowed three touchdowns in their season-opening 21-14 loss to Orem (Utah) and only two TDs in the four games since then.

“Confidence is a big key to us,” defensive end Idgerrin Dean said. “We try not to let that affect us when we let guys get big yards and touchdowns. We have to focus on staying calm and staying confident in our defense. We know what to do when we get back out there on the next series.”

This is a defense playing so confidently that it can lose a top player and believe it won’t suffer a letdown. Cornerback Isaiah Rubin, rated by 247Sports as the No. 2 Nevada prospect in the 2024 class, withdrew last week to transfer to a program in Long Beach, California.

“We’re really talented on the back end,” Rodriguez said. “He was kind of in a rotation. We have other young players who are really talented that have really stepped up to fill the void.”

The Jaguars don’t just get it done on defense. Their offense has scored at least 37 points in each of the past four games.

Defense, though, sets the tone. The question is whether that defense is good enough to give Desert Pines a legitimate shot to beat fellow Mountain League member Liberty on Oct. 21 or Bishop Gorman should the Jaguars meet the Gaels in the playoffs.

No matter what happens, Desert Pines will be aggressive.

“I like the foot on the pedal,” linebacker Malik Stinnett said. “We’ve got to keep going.”

Rodriguez hasn’t forgotten how the Jaguars blew a 36-14 fourth-quarter lead and lost the 2014 Division I-A state championship to Moapa Valley 42-36 in overtime.

“I stopped being aggressive and went more in a prevent (defense),” he said. “So our philosophy is we want to make the offense uncomfortable and confused. So when you take the foot off the gas, then they’re comfortable, and bad things happen when offenses get comfortable.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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