Lightning struck twice at Mesa High Friday night. The first time — a real one — gave everyone a scare. The second was the impetus for Mesa Red Mountain ending Mesa's unbeaten streak.
Red Mountain running back Jarison Johnson bolted 45 yards for a touchdown with 2:33 left in the third period to boost the Mountain Lions’ lead to 14-3, and ultimately to a 20-9 victory over previously unbeaten and third-ranked Mesa at Jackrabbit Stadium.
A lightning strike carried over the top of Jackrabbit Stadium and brought paramedics out to check on a shaken spectator with 2:52 left in the third period and Red Mountain leading Mesa 8-3. That prompted game officials to delay the game. The delay lasted 35 minutes. When Red Mountain (5-2, 2-0) returned, nursing its narrow lead, the Mountain Lions continued the tactic that had shown promise in the late stages of the first half: A running game that churned out big chunks of yardage.
The first play after the lightning delay was a 14-yard pass from quarterback Taylor Perkins to Taylor Sare at the Mesa 45. The next play, Johnson took a handoff, broke to the outside and outraced defenders to the end zone to complete the TD run.
"He was the only player we had at that position except for a junior that hadn't played yet, so we had to go with him more than we wanted to,’’ Red Mountain coach Jim Jones said. "He was the only guy we had left. He did a nice job.’’
Johnson began the game sharing time with David Marinacci, but Marinacci went down with a high-ankle sprain on the first play of the second quarter. Johnson became a workhorse and with Red Mountain's offensive line continuing to show improvement of late, he benefitted. Johnson finished with 21 carries and 150 yards. Red Mountain rushed for 302 yards overall.
Mesa (6-1, 1-1), which had won eight games in a row dating back to the final game of 2005, ran into its toughest defensive foe to date. The Jackrabbits mustered just 67 yards of offense in the first half.
In the third period, Mesa's first drive ate nearly half the period and ended with an 18-yard field goal by David Garcia. That pulled Mesa within 8-3 despite being outgained 214-67 in the opening 24 minutes. Mesa again was outplayed at the point of attack as it was the previous week against Westwood.
Red Mountain improved the lead to 20-3 with 9:49 remaining. The Mountain Lions marched 97 yards in 11 plays, helped by a roughing the punter penalty that kept the drive alive. Perkins threw a 48-yard TD strike to wing back Alex Schultz, playing in his first game in a month, returning from a knee injury.
Mesa scored its only touchdown with 6:02 to play on a 4-yard run by Keelan Johnson. Mesa covered 81 yards in nine plays, keyed by a 24-yard pass from quarterback Tony Gallegos to A.J. Hill.