The struggles were many - turnovers, penalties and a resurgent opponent - but it only made the outcome sweeter.
An early lead evaporated, but the Mesquite offense did what it's done best this season - just enough - and its defense did the dirty work again to earn a 21-15 victory at Mountain View and leap into first place in the 5A Division I Central Region.
Stats may not tell the whole story here, because not many teams that commit five turnovers and have 90 yards in penalties wind up victorious against a team like Mountain View. But nothing's been the norm so far in this region.
Sure enough, the Wildcats (6-1, 3-0) hopped on the bus home not in awe of their performance, but elated they quieted the home crowd.
"We just had to keep fighting through obstacles, whether it's ourselves or the other team," quarterback Stevan Bevan said. "We've learned to do that this season, and I think it's why we've been successful."
Anthony Lopez was Mesquite's offense in the first half, as the junior speedster broke tackles and used a stiffarm during his 77- and 78-yard touchdown sprints in the first half. Because of those, Lopez had 189 of his 222 rushing yards before intermission as Mesquite took a 14-7 halftime lead.
Mesquite's defense was stingy in the first half, but Mountain View (3-3, 2-1) welcomed the return of arguably its best player in D.J. Geroux after two weeks out (concussion). And after Geroux scored a touchdown, the Toros took advantage of one of those Mesquite turnovers to grab a 15-14 lead after three quarters.
But it wasn't enough. Mesquite went 80 yards in five minutes early in the fourth quarter. After six plays of fewer than 10 yards, a play-action pass to R.J. Rickert on third-and-1 went for 36 yards and moved Mesquite to Mountain View's 5-yard line. Rickert caught the next pass for the game-winning touchdown with nine minutes left.
"It was a perfect play call," Bevan said of the 3rd-and-1. "I just had to do my job because I knew (R.J.) would do his."
Rickert had seven catches for 109 yards and the score. Bevan threw for 204 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Mountain View threw two interceptions and couldn't convert on fourth down two other times in the second half.
Mesquite stuffed Mountain View's rushing attack and got hands on several of Jeremy Boatright's passes. But the Toros still had a final drive and moved the ball just past midfield in the game's final minute until three incompletions were sandwiched around a short running play.
"We had tons of opportunities to win this in the second half, but we didn't execute," Toros coach Tom Joseph said. "I thought we played really well in that third quarter but we had so many chances late and couldn't do anything."
The frustration in Joseph's voice was palpable given the chances that slipped away, but the Wildcats' goal has been a region championship all along. And its defense, running game and a couple timely passes were good enough to move them one game closer.
"I think there's no doubt we earned this because Mountain View sure didn't give it to us, they're too good for that," Mesquite coach Mike Reardon said. "I'm pleased at how we came back and our defense didn't back down."