When it comes to making a case that they’re the best team in East Valley Region, the Mesa Jackrabbits have a point. They only wish they’d had five more.
The Jackrabbits held East Valley Region champion Mesa Red Mountain to 71 net yards of offense Friday night and beat the host Mountain Lions 24-0 in a 5A-I football.
“This is a surprise to a lot of people,” Mesa coach Kelley Moore said. “But it’s not a surprise to us. The way we look at it, we were five points away from being the region champion.”
The Jackrabbits (6-4, 2-2 in region) dropped two heart-breakers, losing the region opener to Mesa Mountain View 14-10, then falling the next week to Mesa Dobson 15-14.
Friday night’s victory gave Mesa some vindication.The Mountain Lions (8-2, 3-1) finished second in the AIA power rankings and will open the playoffs at home against North Canyon on Friday.
Mesa was assured of a playoff spot win or lose. Mesa will travel to play Central Region champion Tempe Corona del Sol.
“We’re grateful for this,’’ Moore said. “This obviously gives us some momentum going into the playoffs.”
The Jackrabbits held Red Mountain star Jarison Johnson to 59 yards on 14 carries. Johnson came into the game with 1,436 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Our defensive coordinator, Kenny Wantland, did a great job of coming up with a game plan and our kids on defense executed it,” Moore said.
Mesa got on the board midway through the first quarter when Tony Gallegos hit Keelan Johnson with a pass over the middle that went 50 yards for a touchdown.
Red Mountain’s best opportunity to score came midway through the second quarter. Kolten Molina picked off a pass, giving Red Mountain the ball at the Mesa 35. Three strong runs by Johnson moved the ball to the 12.
Johnson fumbled but the Lions got it back. Taylor Perkins threw into the end zone and Kyree Hart intercepted it to kill the drive.