Desert Pines QB finds confidence, end zone

Desert Pines quarterback Dalton Leilua had a junior year he’d probably like to forget, even if he can’t: one touchdown pass, 13 interceptions and no 100-yard passing games.

But if the opening week is any indication, Leilua and his Desert Pines teammates are on their way to having a season to remember.

The Jaguars opened the season with a 50-6 victory over traditional power Cheyenne, and Leilua threw four touchdown passes and had his first 100-yard game since his sophomore season.

Desert Pines (1-0) will try to continue its success when it hosts Basic (1-0) at 7 tonight.

“I hadn’t felt that since my sophomore season,” said Leilua, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 186 yards. “I never had four touchdown passes in one game. Last year I had one the whole season.”

Leilua had a strong sophomore year, passing for 1,323 yards and 12 TDs and completing 52.2 percent of his passes. Last year he threw for just 390 yards and completed 38.6 percent of his attempts.

Desert Pines coach Paul Bennett said he thinks the win over Cheyenne could be a huge boost for Leilua and the rest of the Jaguars.

“The confidence of the team in general is just something that’s huge,” Bennett said. “And to get Dalton off on the right track, it’s a bonus. I see him with a different swagger.”

The team came into the season confident in its defense but less sure of how things would go on the offensive side of the ball.

“The defense was always good,” Leilua said. “We all believe in the defense. We just didn’t know what we had on offense.”

Now the defense has confidence in Leilua and the offense.

“The biggest thing I saw was just the trust that Dalton had in the receivers, the trust that he had in the offensive line,” senior linebacker Keorris Berry said. “It was phenomenal.”

Getting off to a fast start was key for the Jaguars, who scored just 20 points in the first four games last season. Doing it against a Cheyenne team that allowed only 97 points a year ago was special.

“I feel real strong about our offense,” Berry said. “Realistically I didn’t expect us to execute so well.”

With targets such as Eric Tuiloma, who had three catches for 145 yards and three TDs last week, there’s reason for confidence in the offense.

The defense, led by senior linebackers Berry and Julian Yearwood, is showing its experience.

“We’ve just all been playing together since we were little, so I think that adds a lot to our chemistry,” Yearwood said.

Now the key might be to make sure a season-opening win isn’t the high point of the season.

“We can’t get big headed because we got this big win,” Yearwood said. “It’s only one win. We just need to keep our heads straight and keep doing it how we’ve been doing it.”

Contact Prep Sports Editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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