Gavin Mack threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brock Hogan with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining, and the Mesa Red Mountain defense held on for a 26-21 victory over Mesa Westwood Friday night in a 5A East Valley Region game at Westwood.
The Warriors (3-7, 1-4 East Valley) rallied from 13 points down in the third quarter to take a 21-20 lead early in the fourth when Jordan Bingham fell on a Brandon Large fumble in the end zone. But the Warriors came up short on their final drive, as Large's fourth-down pass was swatted down by the Mountain Lions' Bryant Williams with 20 seconds left in the game.
Jarison Johnson had 13 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns to pace Red Mountain (7-3, 4-1), who now must wait to find out who they'll play in the first round of the playoffs.
In addition to the game-winning TD pass, Mack also had a 23-yard TD run on an end around in the second quarter that put Red Mountain up 13-7. The Lions increased the lead just two plays into the second half, as Johnson outran the Westwood defense on a 64-yard scamper to put the Lions up 20-7.
Westwood's running back tandem of Ben Ochoa and Jeron Beaton rushed for 254 yards combined, including a 64-yard burst by Beaton on the third play of the game to give the Warriors an early 7-0 lead. But the Warriors were plagued by fumbles all night, putting the ball on the ground seven times and losing two.
"I think I did pretty good," Johnson said after the game. "I could've stepped it up and did a little bit better, but there's always next game."
Mountain Lions coach Jim Jones attributed the close game to good coaching by the Westwood staff and a banged-up Red Mountain offensive line. “We're trying to glue an offensive line together,” Jones said.
When asked about the upcoming playoffs, Jones was cautiously optimistic. “We're going to be a high enough seed that we get a decent low seed, so we'd like to think that we can at least get to the second round, but you never know,” Jones said. “That's why we play the football games.”