It appeared recent history would repeat itself when Mesquite ran off to a 17-0 lead against Campo Verde after the end of the first 24 minutes in the quarterfinal matchup of Friday night. Unfortunately for Mesquite, Campo Verde didn’t stay down this time, and came close to pulling off the comeback and the upset before ultimately ceding to the home team, 26-20.
The win extends Mesquite’s season for at least one more week, and the team will face No. 3 Chaparral next Friday in the Division II semifinals at Gilbert High School.
Similar to the 30-0 whitewashing the Wildcats put upon the Coyotes two weeks prior, Mesquite controlled the game on offense and defense in the first half. The defensive unit was particularly dominate, as Campo Verde recorded just one first down and 30 yards of total offense in the first two frames.
What happened once the second half began fell a few degrees shy of a 180, but it did have the teams swapping sides on the effectiveness spectrum. The switch started with Campo Verde’s first possession in the second half, when junior halfback Zac Wheeler rebooted a rushing attack that had stalled since Gabe Ogbonnaya’s injury in week 9 with a 56 yard run that finally got the Coyotes onto their opponent’s side of the field.
“It was a jump start, a kick start for our offense,” said coach Max Ragsdale.
Wide receiver Alex Madrid finished the drive shortly thereafter with a 10-yard catch touchdown reception courtesy of quarterback Luke Pineda. That touchdown ended a 47-0, two game scoring spree by Mesquite over Campo Verde.
From there, the Coyotes’ held what was a powerful Mesquite offense at bay, which allowed their offensive counterparts to ring up an additional 10 points to tie things up at 17 with five minutes left in the game.
After receiving the ball from its own 44-yard line, Mesquite advanced up the field step by step while causing the clock to keep ticking. The Wildcats were helped by a 15-yard penalty called on Campo Verde defensive back Luke Fickas for a late hit that pushed the ball up to the Coyotes’ 25-yard line. Mesquite would only gain another three yards on the series, which was close enough for Jarrod James to convert a 39-yard field goal attempt to give the home team a 20-17 lead.
And then things started to get interesting.
The ensuing kickoff provided the Coyotes 1:23 to either march 80 yards for the win, or slightly closer for the game-tying field goal. But even a successful play would hurt Campo Verde, as the team used its final timeout to stop the clock on Mesquite’s last possession.
As the time kept falling closer to zero, the senior Pineda continued to dodge the impressive Mesquite pass rush just long enough to find an open receiver and pick up chunks of yardage. A 10-yard completion here, a 14-yarder there, and a 15-yard reception by Fickas in which the receiver got out of bounds. The play put the Coyotes within realistic field-goal range for kicker Austin Wells with eight seconds left.
Realistic didn’t equate to easy, though; the kick in question was a 42-yarder, which tied for the longest Wells had converted all season.
In his second attempt at a 42-yard kick this season, Wells got into it just enough for the ball to linger through the air and fall through the uprights. The game was tied once again, and the action would continue outside the confines of regulation.
Campo Verde was given the first crack with the ball in overtime, but two unsuccessful runs put the Coyotes at third-and-long and in need of points. Pineda tried to find a receiver at the back corner of the end zone, only to have defensive back Jordan Robinson rip the ball from the air for an interception.
“That was a heck of a play, I tell you what,” said coach Jim Jones.
Jones said afterward it was effectively game over from there, as the coaching staff debated whether to go for a 27-yard field goal attempt or take a shot at the end zone. The Wildcats went with the latter option, a decision fueled by their faith in halfback Paul Perry – the war horse who carried the ball 32 times for 159 yards on Friday.
“One thing Paul doesn’t do is fumble, so we said ‘Hey guys, here we go,’” Jones said.
Perry rewarded his coach’s faith by running through the Campo Verde defense for nine yards, which set up Haslam’s 1-yard touchdown plunge for the 26-20 win.
On the other side of the field, the loss concluded Campo Verde’s inaugural season in the upper level, one in which the squad’s only three defeats came to either current or former Division-I teams.
“I’m pretty happy with what our kids have done and our staff,” Ragsdale said.
Mesquite 26, Campo Verde 20
First Downs: Campo Verde 13, Mesquite 18
Rushing: Campo Verde 19-168, Mesquite 41-232
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): Campo Verde 15-27-176-2-1, Mesquite 11-18-110-1-0
Fumbles-lost: Campo Verde 0-0, Mesquite 1-0
Penalties-yards: Campo Verde 5-50, Mesquite 4-30
Campo Verde 0 0 10 10 0 – 20
Mesquite 7 10 0 3 6 – 26
Mesquite – Payton Haslam 42 run (Jarrod James kick)
Mesquite – James 22 FG
Mesquite – Paul Perry 20 pass from Haslam (James kick)
Campo Verde – Alex Madrid 10 pass from Luke Pineda (Austin Wells kick)
Campo Verde – Wells 21 FG
Campo Verde – Madrid 5 pass from Pineda (Wells kick)
Mesquite – James 39 FG
Campo Verde – Wells 42 FG
Mesquite – Haslam 1 run
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