Opening the football season against two teams that were in the 5A playoffs last season was certainly going to be a challenge for the Mesquite Wildcats.
With back-to-back losses to start the year, the Wildcats haven't lived up to the demands. Friday, critical mistakes at the absolute worst moments cost Mesquite in a 28-6 loss to St. Mary's.
Interceptions, fumbles, penalties, missed tackles and other unfortunate problems cost the Wildcats (0-2) in their effort to pick up their first victory of the season at Phoenix College's Hoy Field.
Two interceptions by the Knights eventually led to touchdowns and an offside penalty on a fourth-down play kept another scoring drive alive for the Knights (2-0).
"We made too many mistakes," Mesquite coach Rich Iversen said. "We've got to get tougher and more disciplined."
On its first drive of the second half, Mesquite, which lost in the last seconds to Phoenix North last week, moved the football down to the Knights' 4-yard line where it faced second-and-goal. Scrambling around, quarterback Aaron Mendoza threw the ball into the end zone where it was intercepted by St. Mary's cornerback James Shipp.
"I saw him scrambling back there and I think he thought there was an opening,'' Shipp said. " I would have thrown it if I was the quarterback."
Five plays later, it was St. Mary's scoring a touchdown, a 5-yard run by Keaton Kristick. Instead of cutting into the Knights' lead, the Wildcats fell further behind.
"That took us out of the game that quick,'' Iversen said.
With a solid running game that netted 157 yards on the night, St. Mary's kept the football away from Mesquite for much of the second half. Another interception by Shipp, in the first quarter, led to the first touchdown of the game for St. Mary's. He returned the football down to the Mesquite 20-yard line. From there it took St. Mary's just four plays to get in the end zone. It was Kristick diving in from three yards out.
St. Mary's made it 14-0 in the first minute of the second quarter when quarterback Aaron Verlinde threw a short middle screen pass to Damarrice Green. Green turned the play into a 54-yard touchdown pass. Mesquite's only score came on a 1-yard run by Mendoza that capped a 10-play, 61 yard drive.
The Knights got a 16-yard scoring pass from Verlinde to Green in the final 30 seconds of the first half to take a 21-6 lead at halftime.