Once Mesquite junior running back Anthony Lopez can harness his energy in a compact football mode, that increased talent will likely translate into more poison for opponents.
Right now, Lopez appears to be running on sheer speed and an ability to dart through openings at a very high level. His raw talent was clearly on display Friday night as the Wildcats defeated Dobson 42-7 in a 5A-I Central Region game and prepared for the opening round of the playoffs.
Mesquite is projected as the No. 8 seed in the 5A-I state tournament, and will host No. 9 Phoenix North Canyon.
Lopez picked up three touchdowns, two on running plays and the other on a pass reception. His moves right now are deadly and his speed lethal, but what Lopez currently delivers may pale in comparison to future efforts.
“There’s no question we build our offense around him,” said Wildcats coach Mike Readon. “He is a big play guy right now, but he will likely get much better once he develops a football sense.”
Lopez was devastating as he sliced through the Mustangs defense for 184 yards on the ground on just 13 carries. He ripped off runs of 57 and 54 yards in the second half, scored on a 23-yard touchdown bolt up the middle in the first half, and showed his speed by catching a swing pass from quarterback Steven Bevan and racing down the right sideline on his way to a 44-touchdown in the second quarter.
The win was highlighted by a balanced attack. With Lopez dominating the ground game, Bevan was busy filling the air with footballs. In the first half alone, he completed 8-of-14 passes for 140 yards and finished with a 12-of-16 night for 183 yards and one touchdown.
Mesquite held a 21-7 margin at intermission, but mistakes compromised their ability to score more points.
“We had a long talk at halftime, and said forget about touchdowns,” Bevan said. “Let’s take this one play a time, and get it down.”
The Wildcats responded and three third-quarter rushing touchdowns broke this open. Lopez scored on a 9-yard touchdown run, Austin Curtis on a 3-yard run, and Bevan’s 5-yard touchdown run with 2:14 left in the third period sealed the deal.
While Lopez and Bevan dominated the stat sheet for the Wildcats, they had help. Curtis added 30 yards on eight carries, and Alec Vogel chipped in with 32 yards on six carries.
Though Dobson was limited to a net of 25 rushing yards on 15 carries, quarterback Gabe Martinez finished 18-of-35 for 111 yards and a touchdown.