It was pretty clear which team had the experience on the Mesquite football field Friday night.
Veteran and visiting Red Mountain set the tone early and took advantage of an underclassman’s key mistake to secure a 36-0 victory in the non-region season opener for both teams.
The Mountain Lions (1-0) built a 13-0 lead before Mesquite, which returned only four starters from last season’s playoff team, began to move the ball. And when the Wildcats moved it, mistakes followed, including one critical miscue when the momentum of the game appeared to be changing.
With Mesquite driving near midfield, sophomore quarterback Erik Archuletta lobbed a screen pass toward the left side. Red Mountain defensive back Greg Bird grabbed the ball and raced 53 yards into the end zone for a 20-0 lead. The Wildcats’ momentum deflated until the latter stages of the game when the outcome had been determined.
"Erik is just a sophomore," Mesquite coach Rich Iversen said. "He made his commitment way too early.
The Mountain Lions’ defensive line put pressure on Archuletta all night. The Wildcats (0-1) were forced to throw much of the evening as the Mountain Lions held Mesquite to 26 yards rushing on 27 carries, including four sacks.
James Faccio picked off an Archuletta pass and returned it to the Red Mountain 47 on the first drive of the game. Montrell Boyston (seven attempts, 60 yards) carried for 21 yards to the Mesquite 32, one play before Jason Argos (5-of-10, 102 yards) hit Jake Johnson on a 31-yard pass play for a 6-0 lead.
The Mountain Lions extended the lead to 13-0 on Boyston’s 29-yard run through the right side of the line on the next drive, but Red Mountain coach Jim Jones wasn’t particularly pleased with his running game throughout the night.
"We’ve got a little bit to do with our backs," Jones said. "Our passing game was good, but we won this on the line of scrimmage tonight."
Before the key interception, Archuletta (8-of-23, 92 yards), brought Mesquite to the Red Mountain 32 late in the first quarter after a 20-yard pass to Austin Knoll. But, Bird sacked Archuletta on fourth down, giving the ball back to Red Mountain.
Argos extended the lead to 26-0 with 3:28 to play in the third on a 4-yard run. Jones substituted Argos for Cody Boaz (3-of-4, 62 yards). Boaz hit Kris Quintana on a 51-yard pass in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 36-0.