On a fall night that turned cold in a hurry, the Mesquite High School offense and defense remained as hot as Hades in the Wildcats' 30-0 senior-night win against Campo Verde on Friday night.
Coming a week after dropping Marcos de Niza, Mesquite showcased its offensive aptitude early with a 75-yard touchdown drive – which concluded with a 9-yard Jarrod James reception of a Payton Haslam pass – where the team converted all four of its third-down attempts. Three of the Wildcats' following four scoring drives followed a similar script, with Mesquite blending a consistent rushing attack with a wicked efficient and effective performance from Haslam, who completed 18 of 23 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 42 yards. The sole drive that butted against that trend came in early in the third quarter, when Haslam found an unoccupied Juan Giraldo for a 57-yard touchdown pass that gave Mesquite a 23-0 lead.
“Everything they did, we practiced for; we just didn't execute,” said Campo coach Max Ragsdale.
As the offense made the scoring disparity larger and larger, the Wildcats' defense snuffed out Campo Verde's offense, sacking quarterback Luke Pineda four times and allowing the Coyotes to gain 171 yards in all.
Although Giraldo made his most obvious mark on offense – he had 96 receiving yards and three touchdowns total – coach Jim Jones credited him for his play on the other side of the ball. Much of Giraldo's influence on defense came when the ball was in the air, as Giraldo accumulated numerous deflections that had a large role in limiting the Coyotes' passing attack.
“He's as good as a defensive back as there is,” Jones said.
The win gives Mesquite a 9-1 regular-season record this season, the Division II, Section 4 title, and a possible top-three seed in this year's playoff – a magnificent step forward from the 2-8 season the Wildcats shuffled through last year. Friday's win also tied the team for the most wins its had in a season; the 2010 squad finished the regular season 8-2 and won a playoff game to get to nine victories overall.
“We've never been here before; this is new for us,” Jones said.
On the other side of the field, Campo Verde concluded an 8-2 regular season that will guarantee a playoff trip and potentially a first-round home game – the Coyotes were ranked No. 7 heading into Friday-night's matchup. But Campo will enter next week's game with a few areas of concern, most prominently the loss of running back Gabe Ogbonnaya to a torn ACL for the rest of the season during last week's win against Poston Butte. Ragsdale said Ogbonnaya's absence eliminates a key weapon for the offense, one capable of breaking out for a 60- or 70-yard run whenever he touches the ball.
Friday's result provided additional worries for Ragsdale, who said his Campo Verde squad could be in for a short playoff trip if it doesn't rectify the offensive and defensive problem areas that popped up against Mesquite.
“We need to get better really fast,” he said.
Mesquite 30, Campo Verde 0
Campo Verde 0 0 0 0 – 0
Mesquite 7 10 6 7 – 30
First Downs: Campo Verde 9, Mesquite 18
Rushing: Campo Verde 15-75, Mesquite 38-154
Passing (Comp.-Att.-TD-INT): Campo Verde 13-26-123-0-0, Mesquite 19-25-234-3-0
Fumbles-lost: Campo Verde 2-1, Mesquite 1-0
Penalties-yards: Campo Verde 5-30, Mesquite 5-30
Mesquite – Jarrod James 9-yard reception from Payton Haslam (James kick)
Mesquite – James 46-yard field goal
Mesquite – Juan Giraldo 7-yard reception from Haslam (James kick)
Mesquite – Giraldo 57-yard reception from Haslam (James kick)
Mesquite – Giraldo 2-yard run (James kick)
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