Mesquite played arguably the toughest schedule in the state this season.
Despite its 3-6 record coming into their season finale matchup with Glendale Deer Valley, the Wildcats had a chance to sneak into the playoffs with a win over the Skyhawks.
On Friday night at Mesquite, the Wildcats' season came to an end with a 34-30 loss in a non-division matchup.
Deer Valley used a strong passing game all night. Skyhawks quarterback Auston Hillman finished 15-of-29 passing for 297 yards with four touchdown passes.
The most important one came with 1:21 left in the game with Mesquite leading 30-27. On a drive that started from their own 28-yard line with two and a half minutes left in the game, the Skyhawks sealed the win with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Hillman to Luke Doyle.
Hillman had started to get some pressure and had been sacked on back-to-back plays on the Skyhawks' previous drive. But with the game on the line, Hillman scrabbled and found Doyle wide open in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning score.
Mesquite had little option but to throw the ball with no timeouts and just over a minute left in the game. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the passing game is not their strong suit.
Mesquite had only thrown the ball seven times in the game before its final drive. The final drive of the season for the Wildcats resulted in four passes, three incompletions, and a turnover on downs on 4th-and-6.
"Deer Valley played a very good game tonight," Mesquite coach Matt Gracey said. "This (the East Valley) is where the best football is played in this state. It's pretty tough over here and it is unfortunate that things turned out the way they did for us. But if we don't drop a few games that we did early in the season, then we are not having the problem that we have right now. I want to thank our seniors, they did a tremendous job and I am sorry for them. They are a great group of kids."
The Wildcats had matchups against Hamilton, Chaparral and Chandler this season. All three teams are considered among the top teams in the state.
"We played one of the toughest schedules in the state, half the games we lost we should have won," Mesquite running back Anthony Lopez said.
Lopez, a senior, is one of the best running backs in the state and is headed to the University of Arizona next season. He finished the night with 20 carries for 181 yards with three touchdowns.
"These four years at Mesquite were the greatest four years of my life." Lopez said.
The Skyhawks (9-1) led 17-16 at halftime with the difference being a missed extra point by the Wildcats.
Lopez had 106 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first half.