Scottsdale Chaparral’s Davonte Neal had the hat trick of touchdowns Thursday.
He nearly had a plus-one on his versatile performance in the Division II second-ranked Firebirds' 52-27 romp of Gilbert Mesquite at Chaparral.
Neal rushed, received and passed for touchdowns in the win. In fact, he nearly had one on special teams, too, but his 50-yard punt return for a score was called back due to a penalty.
“He’s the best player in the state,” said Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle. “We’ve got a good football team with a lot of good players, but (Neal) is the best in the state.”
After dropping a sure-touchdown pass from Connor Brewer – who didn’t have too bad of a night either with four touchdown tosses – Neal didn’t do much wrong.
In the second quarter, he caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brewer to put the Firebirds up 17-6. He scored on a 9-yard run to start the second half and later threw a third-quarter TD strike – from the team’s Wildcat formation – to tight end Trevor Wood.
He wrapped up the game’s scoring on the receiving end of Brewer’s fourth TD-strike, a 27-yard connection after a long scramble on fourth-and-3.
Neal has upped his season touchdown total to 18. He had 12 carries for 122 yards, including a 42-yard run and two other rushes for 20 or more yards. Brewer has thrown 24 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.
Mesquite (3-4) put up a strong fight behind the running of Anthony Lopez and Steven Itaaehau.
Lopez had a 90-yard touchdown run early in the second half. Itaaehau scored on a 59-yard run. The Wildcats’ option attack accumulated 346 rushing yards. They were also aided by 104 yards in Firebird penalties, six of the 15-yard variety.
“It was a sloppy game, too many penalties,” said Ragle, who lamented his team’s mistakes, but praised the Mesquite team’s play. “They’re a tough team.”
The Wildcats took a 6-3 lead in the first quarter. After Neal’s early drop, Chaparral settled for a Dylan Audsley 33-yard field goal and a 3-0 advantage. Mesquite’s Lopez scored on a 1-yard run, set up by quarterback Steven Bevan’s 59-yard run.
Brewer answered with the first of two touchdown passes to Jake Roh, from 35 yards away. Chaparral extended the lead to 24-6 when Brian Zurek blocked a punt, then picked up the loose ball at the Mesquite 14 and went untouched for a score.
Lopez’s 90-yard run cut it 31-19 early in the second half, but Neal’s TD toss was followed by the second Brewer-to-Roh score – this one from 22 yards – to give the Firebirds their biggest lead, 45-19.
“We had a lot of good plays offensively,” said Brewer, “but, we know we have to go back to work.
“We need to be more disciplined on offense and defense. There were a lot of flags and we have to change the way we play.”
It was Chaparral’s seventh straight win after an opening season loss to Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman.