Two late turnovers within 25 yards of the end zone, and a stingy Mesa defense doomed Westwood to its first loss of the season, a 27-7 defeat to the neighboring Jackrabbits.
Conspicuously involved in both turnovers was Mesa’s Dominic Stewart. Late in the second half, Westwood strung together a seven-play drive behind the legs of Dezmond Sueing and the arm of Kane Tieman. But when the Warriors took a shot at the end zone, Stewart picked off a pass within the 15.
“I couldn’t have done it without my line. ... They were getting pressure on the quarterback,” Stewart said. “I just concentrated on the ball, watched the ball, then after I got it, I ran as fast as I could and pumped my feet.”
After the turnover, Mesa marched into the first half with a 14-7 lead. A fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the second half allowed Mesa to tack on a 27-yard field goal. Then, after Mesa’s stingy defense — which allowed only 76 yards on the ground — held Westwood to a three-and-out, Mesa’s Noe Pereles booted a 46-yard field goal behind a smash-mouth offense.
“As soon as we kick a field goal, or as soon as we score, if we’re ahead, the air is coming out of the pocket,” said Mesa coach Kelley Moore. “We have to because our lineman go both ways. We’re not in any hurry to do anything.”
But Stewart’s final turnover was the dagger. This time Tieman hung a pass out for D.J. Bex, who came down just as the Jackrabbits speared him for a tackle. When the ball popped out on the 3, Stewart was there to clean up.
“Our defensive staff has been hammering those guys on takeaways, tackling with their feet, using their hands, things like that,” Moore said.
Complimenting Mesa’s defense was Turrell Pietz-Noble, who smoked the Warriors for 126 yards on the ground in his return from injury.
Pietz-Noble gave the Jackrabbits the ability to aim between the tackles by pounding in a one-yard touchdown after scampering 61 yards the play before.
Those points were the first points hung on Westwood in three games, after outscoring its first two opponents a combined 89-0.
“It was good to see this team in this position,” Westwood coach Spencer Stowers said. “My hope was we’d do a little bit better in the second half. Mesa’s a good football team and they punched us in the mouth.”
Ethan Johnson notched the Warriors’ only touchdown in the second quarter to knot the game at 7. But Samiuela Taueli bulldozed his way on the next drive to a 1-yard 14-7 lead to go into the half.
Pietz-Noble tallied the Jackrabbits’ final touchdown with 1:41 left in the game.
“We believe both teams have equal options to win, but we also believe that our guys, working hard, being in right spot at the right time — something we haven’t done in the last three years — we call that 'favor,'" Moore said. "We were there and we were there tonight.”
Mesa 27, Westwood 7
First Downs: Mesa 9, Westwood 10
Rushing: Mesa 41-208, Westwood 24-76
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): Mesa 4-8-41-0-0, Westwood 7-16-96-0-1
Fumbles-lost: Mesa 3-2, Westwood 2-2
Penalties-yards: Mesa 6-85, Westwood 8-50
Westwood 0 7 0 0 — 7
Mesa 7 7 6 7 —27
M-Pietz-Noble 1 run (Pereles kick)
W-Johnson 11 run (Chambers kick)
M-Taueli 1 run (Pereles kick)
M-Pereles 27 FG
M-Pereles 46 FG
M-Pietz-Noble 23 run (Pereles kick)