In the wake of a three-hour scoring spree, three things were revealed: Mesa Red Mountain can run the ball, the Lions have a long way to go defensively and Mesa Westwood can make a habit of hanging around.The bottom line was that visiting Red Mountain outslugged smaller, thinner Westwood 47-24 on Friday night.
In the wake of a three-hour scoring spree, three things were revealed: Mesa Red Mountain can run the ball, the Lions have a long way to go defensively and Mesa Westwood can make a habit of hanging around.
The bottom line was that visiting Red Mountain outslugged smaller, thinner Westwood 47-24 on Friday night. The game never seemed to be in doubt for the final three quarters, yet Westwood kept it curious with its quick-strike, spread-'em-out offense.
Westwood considered that to be victory, not only because this game didn’t count for the Warriors in the power-point standings, but there were some pregame jitters about whether a 36-person team with little varsity experience would show up against the bigger-sized boys from Brown Road.
They did, as it took 45 minutes before turnovers and Lions running back Derek Molina helped Red Mountain (1-0) fully exhale.
Every time Red Mountain would march down the field and expand its lead to the brink of a blowout, Westwood’s collection of two-way players responded enough to stay within two touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Juan Zazueta, in his first start, displayed his speed with a 64-yard touchdown run, while Valencio Gray and Billy Sueing created a speedy trio that gave the Lions trouble for the final three quarters.
If not for a couple turnovers, a touchdown called back because of a penalty, and another ruled incomplete on what appeared to be a questionable call, the Warriors' second-half offense could have turned this one into a four-hour affair.
“Our first goal coming into the season was to play better, and if we get that kind of effort each Friday night, we’ll definitely compete,” Warriors coach Greg Mendez said. “We couldn’t ask for a better first game from these kids. I’ll take that every week.”
It was only 7-0 after the first quarter, but that’s when an Arena Football League game broke out.
Molina, fresh off a 1,600-yard season last year, zoomed through holes behind a large offensive line. Of his 24 carries, only one went for negative yardage, and his 36-yard touchdown run finally put the game rest in the closing minutes. He finished with 173 yards rushing and a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter that made it 21-8, and the Lions led by at least two touchdowns the rest of the way.
“I think that’s going to be typical Derek all season,” Lions coach Jim Jones said. “When the weather starts to cool off, I think he’s going to be even better.”
The Lions put up 297 rushing yards, slightly more than seven per carry, and new quarterback John O’Connor threw a touchdown pass to Elizha Cordova. Ben Betz and Dominic Smith also scored as the Lions survived a dozen penalties.
The problem was that the Warrior gashed the Lions’ defense in the second half with nearly equal abandon, and that made Jones scratch his head. It could make for some long, hard practices next week with another 5A Division I contender in Tempe Corona del Sol up next on the schedule.
“We’ve got a big one coming next week, and I was hoping for a little better performance,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of things on ‘D’ to work on. … It’s an issue we’ve got to get taken care of.”
LIVE IN-GAME UPDATES
Derek Molina's 91-yard kick return -- his second TD of the game -- has given Red Mountain a 21-8 lead in the second quarter.
It's 21-8 Red Mountain at the half, with Derek Molina doing most of the damage. Besides his kickoff return, he has 77 yards rushing and a TD on the ground.
Red Mountain has staked itself to a 41-24 lead with just under 2 minutes left in the game. Molina's 36-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was his third score of the game.
It's a final: Red Mountain 47, Westwood 24. More info coming shortly.
Red Mountain (0-0) at Westwood (0-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Address: 945 W. 8th St., Mesa
Key matchup: Westwood’s offensive line is one of the few facets which returns with any amount of tangible Varsity experience and their simplified style of offense means they’re going to run at Red Mountain’s defense.
Key stat: Red Mountain won 41-14 in this matchup of what used to be the East Valley Region last season.
The intrigue: Red Mountain would be wise to take advantage of games like this in which the team has had recent success again, but the Mountain Lions have arguably one of the five toughest schedules in Arizona football this season. Westwood did close last season with a win in its 2-9 campaign.