Mesquite pulls out win with dominant second half - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Mesquite pulls out win with dominant second half

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Posted: Friday, September 2, 2011 11:27 pm

No starting quarterback? No problem.

No starting punter? Also no problem.

No points scored by the offense for 44 minutes? No problem.

Yes, it's a football score: Mesquite defeated Red Mountain, 8-7, on Friday night, and all it took was a fake punt by backup punter Karai Keil in the shadow of Mesquite's own end zone.

Then, with hardly a passing game because of quarterback Steven Bevan's injury, it took a bunch of predictable Anthony Lopez runs the Mountain Lions couldn't stop, including one for 5 yards on fourth-and-4 to keep the Wildcats alive. Lopez ran for 70 of his 144 yards in the final quarter.

Lastly, it took backup quarterback Ryan Diedrick to roll out and hit backup fullback Steven Ittaihua (normally a starting linebacker) for the winning touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the Red Mountain 7-yard line.

"He caught it like a bear cub grabbing at honey, but we'll let him get away with this one," Mesquite coach Matt Gracey said.

The deciding, late-game drive lasted eight minutes beginning late in the third quarter. Red Mountain's first possession of the fourth quarter came, trailing by one point, with 4 1/2 minutes left.

In the end, Mesquite (2-0) and Chandler will meet next week in a battle of undefeateds and Red Mountain (1-1) knows it had a win for 3 3/4 quarters with Brophy coming up next.

"Guys that came in picked up the slack and did a fantastic job," Gracey said. "A bunch of guys who'll never show up on a stat sheet or may not be household names came in and were unbelievable."

Red Mountain couldn't believe it either, especially since the Lions - who disciplined 17 players, including three starters, for the first quarter after they violated team rules this week - felt they had a bushel of chances.

Neither offense had success moving the ball, but when Red Mountain linebacker Juan Zuniga picked off a Bevan pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown with three minutes left in the second quarter, the Lions were in control at halftime.

Shortly thereafter, Bevan left the game with what Gracey later said was a concussion, and didn't return to the field. Gracey said Bevan felt better by game's end, but his status for next week is questionable.

Red Mountain hampered itself with penalties and at least a half-dozen dropped passes by its young wide receivers.

"We were this close on making so many plays," Lions coach Ron Wisniewski said with his finger two inches apart. "We didn't make them. Credit them, they made the plays and it's a game of individual big plays. They made them all."

A punt snap that went out of the end zone gave Mesquite a safety in the third quarter, and though Mesquite missed a 38-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, the Wildcats forced Red Mountain turnovers on three of the Lions' final four possessions of the game.

The most important came at the end, as Mesquite's tired front line sacked Mason Thorman twice and both Keil and Carlos Carabello deflected deep passes away from the Lions' speedy receivers when they initially appeared to be open.

"We got our butts whooped by their defensive backs," Wisniewski said. "We can go two ways from this, but we're only really going one way: We' re going to get better from this."

"Our defense was lights out," Gracey said.

The Mesquite stadium lights went out a minute after Gracey said those words. He walked off the field in darkness, then stopped to check on Bevan in the training room while his team's celebration in the nearby locker room could be heard outside.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]