Mason Crandell has a school-record 13 field goals in his two-year career at Mesa High. None were bigger than the one he hit Friday night to end the regular season and clinch a 5A-I playoff berth for the Jackrabbits.
But you’d never know it by talking to him.
“I just knew I was going to put it through,” Crandell said calmly, moments after he nailed the game-winner in a 13-10 overtime win over visiting Mesa Red Mountain.
“I don’t even think when I am out there kicking,” Crandell said. “I’m just in the game. I don’t really like to get all hyped up about it.”
The Mesa defense came up big again on Friday against the higher-ranked Lions but had to make one last stand in overtime to set up Crandell’s big kick.
After having tied the game with 1:33 left in regulation on Kyler Fackrell’s 19-yard scramble, the Jackrabbits had to go on defense first in the overtime.
Red Mountain, which found little success outside its two scoring drives, got seven yards on first down in the overtime and then Derek Mendoza threw two incompletions.
He was nearly sacked on third down and Mesa’s Vince Durazo almost intercepted the pass in the end zone.
On fourth down, the reliable Colten Sheley lined up for a 21-yard kick but the snap was low and although holder Julian Madison somehow got the ball to Craig Frum, he was stopped well short of the goal line.
Jackrabbit coach Kelley Moore said he didn’t have to think about his next move.
“He hasn’t missed in two years,” Moore said of his kicker. “If we held them we knew we were going to kick a field goal. There was just no question about it.”
Crandell hit the 27-yarder, completing Mesa’s four-game winning streak to end the year and get into the postseason. Last year, Mesa won its last three games to earn a playoff bid.
The Mesa defense held speedy Red Mountain running back Derek Molina to 63 yards on the ground and 28 of those came on his first rush. Red Mountain didn’t really get going into its second possession of the third quarter when Mendoza engineered a 70-yard drive, keyed by Molina’s 3-yard run on a fourth-and-inches play and a quarterback sneak for another first down on fourth-and-1. Mendoza hit Josh Lunsford on a 13-yard pass to give the Lions a 10-0 lead with 2:06 left in the third.
But Mesa held from there.
“They’ve carried us the whole season,” Moore said of his defense.
At 5-5, Red Mountain will end up having to travel for its first-round game next week while Mesa finishes 6-4.
“We don’t have an offense,” a frustrated Red Mountain coach Jim Jones said.