Mesquite used its potent ground attack to steamroll North Canyon 49-7 in a 5A-I state playoff first-round game Friday at Mesquite.
The No. 8-seeded Wildcats (9-2) didn’t look very dangerous on their first two possessions; punting the ball away on the first drive and then turning it over on downs on the second. But running back Anthony Lopez only touched the ball three times on those first two drives.
Once he got the ball, though, Mesquite grabbed the lead and kept on rolling.
“It started slow, but we expected that,” Mesquite coach Mike Reardon said. “(North Canyon) came out and came here to play. They did a good job in the first half and we had to make some adjustments.”
Lopez rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
“They were coming hard in the first quarter, then we adjusted to it,” Lopez said. “We found holes and we got there.”
It wasn’t just all offense for Lopez. He also had a solid game at defensive back and came up with a monster hit on Tyler Ellenberger that brought the crowd to its collective feet and got the defense riled up.
“He had the best defensive game he’s had all year,” Reardon said.
Five plays later, the Wildcats defense forced and recovered a North Canyon (7-4) fumble that eventually lead to a 50-yard touchdown run by Lopez.
In all, the Mesquite defense forced and recovered four fumbles. Three of those recoveries led to touchdowns. The fourth recovered fumble occurred in the Mesquite end zone as North Canyon quarterback John Hansen fumbled before he crossed the goal line with just seconds left in the game.
With the win, Mesquite advances to the second round where it faces a big test on the road as it takes on No. 1 Hamilton on Friday.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Reardon said. “We take it one game at a time. That’s our third draw we’ve had them in the playoffs and we’re going to do the best we can.”