Football: Wacky pass helps Palm Springs beat Palm Desert

I expected a close game Friday between Palm Springs and Palm Desert, but I couldn’t have imagined the crazy turn of events late in the third quarter.

What looked like a sure interception return for a touchdown for Palm Desert cornerback Vinnie Gordon turned into a touchdown catch for Palm Springs running back Chris Hessler. Even Indians quarterback William Olvera believed his swing pass was destined to be a pick-six when Gordon broke in front of it, but instead of a 27-20 lead for Palm Desert, it was a 7-point lead for the Indians.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a play quite like that. I’ve seen plenty of deflected passes drop into receivers’ hands for touchdowns, most notably Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley’s last-second catch to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009. But the ball went right through Gordon’s hands, and Hessler was able to adjust, make the catch and follow his blockers into the end zone.

The funny thing is that I’ve thought a pick-six was possible against the Indians. I covered three of their games before tonight’s contest, and they love to throw swing passes and bubble screens to the outside. I thought it was only time before a defensive back tried to undercut a route and intercept a pass.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Aztecs, who are now 1-6 overall and 0-2 in the Desert Valley League. Cathedral City, La Quinta and Palm Springs are 2-0 in the DVL, and Palm Desert is tied with Coachella Valley and Indio at 0-2. The Aztecs can still make the playoffs, but they have to win their next three games. Consider this scenario:

  • Palm Springs beats La Quinta next week, followed by victories over Indio and Cathedral City to finish 5-0 in DVL. Palm Desert wins out, including a win over La Quinta. Cathedral City beats Coachella Valley next week, but loses to La Quinta and Palm Springs. Palm Springs finishes 5-0 with Palm Desert, Cathedral City and La Quinta in a three-way tie for second at 3-2.

Which two of the three teams would make the playoffs along with Palm Springs? I believe it would be decided by a coin flip since the three teams have no common non-league opponents, but I will have to verify this with Palm Springs athletic director Chris Calderwood, who is the tiebreaker expert. I believe that’s the best hope for Palm Desert to extend its season.