With head coach Tim Rutt on paid administrative leave after allegations surfaced that he misappropriated items worth roughly $2,000, the Tigers rallied around replacement coach Jared Baker to beat Mesquite 27-14 on Thursday night.
“The first couple of days it was a little issue because it kind of catches you off guard,” Baker said of preparing the team without Rutt. ”These kids are physically and mentally tough and they did an awesome job.”
Quarterback Nick Nezami, a transfer from Texas, was on point for the Tigers going 17-for-27 for 205 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Nezami found wide receiver Rico Yanez for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 5:39 left in the first quarter to give Gilbert a 6-0 lead after the extra point was missed.
The Tigers would extend their lead in the second quarter when Nezami connected with Yanez again, this time for a 25-yard score, and hit wide receiver Jamian Maes to put the Tigers up 20-0 going into halftime.
Gilbert would score once more on a six-yard run from running back Mario Meza, but Mesquite wasn’t ready to roll over and play dead. With less than four minutes left, the Wildcats got on the board on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Austin Brice to cut the lead to 27-7. The Wildcats Ryne Miller then intercepted a pass from Gilbert backup quarterback Dane Stankiewicz and returned it 55 yards for a score.
“I would lie if I said I didn’t get worried, I mean, but that’s football,” Baker said.
Mesquite made a deep playoff run last season due to a stellar senior class and a strong ground game, but they struggled to get much of anything going against the Tigers. Running back Michael Premraj led the Wildcats with 41 rushing yards on 19 carries.
“Our big emphasis was shut down the run and force them to pass,” Baker said.
The passing game for Mesquite didn’t have much success either. Brice was fairly accurate, finishing 10-for-16, but struggled to find anything downfield by passing for only 75 yards.
Gilbert 27 Mesquite 14
Rushing – Gilbert 25-100, Mesquite 27-33
Passing (Comp.-Att.-TD-INT) Gilbert 17-28-205-3-3, Mesquite 10-17-0-0
Fumbles-Lost Gilbert 1-1, Mesquite 1-1
Gilbert 6 14 0 7 - 27
Mesquite 0 0 0 14 - 14
Gilbert: Yanez 7 pass from Nezami (kick failed)
Gilbert: Yanez 25 pass from Nezami (Kell kick)
Gilbert: Maes 10 pass from Nezami (Kell kick)
Gilbert: Meza 6 run (Kell kick)
Mesquite: Brice 1 run (kick good)
Mesquite: Ryne Miller 55 interception return (kick good)
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