A failed two-point conversion attempt by second-ranked Cactus helped No. 6 Mesquite clinch a 28-27 victory to advance to its first-ever championship game.
The game got off to a slow start with both teams tied at 0 after the first quarter. However, Cactus went into the half with a 7-6 lead over Mesquite.
When they entered the locker room, Mesquite knew it needed to buckle down and come out strong in the second half both offensively and defensively to keep their dreams of going to the championship game alive.
“We sat down and we knew we had to play Mesquite football. It’s simple,” Mesquite senior wide receiver Jacob Walker said.
Both teams made adjustments and saw a lot more productivity on the field after the half, but Mesquite’s defense was able to make a crucial stop when it was needed the most. With less than a minute left in the game, Cactus quarterback Connor Cordts went for two and came within inches of crossing the goal line, but a wall of Wildcats pushed him back, keeping the ball from crossing the plane.
Mesquite quarterback Ty Thompson also had himself quite a night out, passing for 358 yards and completing 27-of-43 pass attempts. Just under 200 of his passing yards came in the second half of the game, where he also threw for all three touchdowns.
When the final buzzer rang, Mesquite had racked up about 450 total offensive yards on the night, with a majority of their attack coming in the passing game. However, Thompson also was using his legs to move the ball, and even punched it into the end zone in the second quarter of the game from about 3 yards out.
While Mesquite was able to generate nearly 100 more total yards in the game than Cactus, it all came down to the two-point conversion attempt at the end. Mesquite coach Scott Hare said there was no panic in his team in that moment, which he said shows the maturity of the players on the field.
“We know how to play these tight games. We aren’t panicking at the end of these games so it allows us to just keep going,” Hare said. “We said don’t quit, play it all the way to the whistle, and that’s what they did. I mean, it came all the way down to the one-inch line. That’s the difference between going to state and going home.
“I had faith in my team," Thompson added. "I knew we’d come out on top."
For the offensive players on the sideline like Walker and Thompson, they also remained composed because they both said they had complete trust in the defense to do its job. As soon as they made the stop, the Mesquite sidelines exploded with excitement, as they knew they had just made history.
“It’s just great to trust the process,” Thompson said. “I’m just proud of my team, what we’ve been doing. We’ve worked since spring. We’ve put in so much work, Coach Hare put in so many hours, I’m just proud of us.”
Thompson’s comments were echoed by Walker.
“Since freshman year we’ve been working for this, and our dreams have come true," Walker said. "So we’re just gonna work these next two weeks and we’re gonna get after it.”
As they were celebrating on the field after the game, the boys dumped the water bucket on Hare to celebrate. Sopping wet on the sidelines in the chilly November weather, he still couldn’t look more elated about the moment.
“It’s huge. This is unchartered territory for Mesquite," Hare said. "They’ve never been to a state title, so there’s a lot of excitement around that."
Meanwhile, with the failure to convert on the 2-point conversion comes the end to another season for Cactus football. Dropped passes and fumbles ultimately came down to be the difference-maker for the Cobras, but coach Joseph Ortiz said he’s proud of his young team and what they were able to accomplish this year.
“For my second year being a coach here and this transition, to make it to the semifinals is a great start for our program. We exceeded expectations, we just came up one point short,” Ortiz said.
Mesquite will take on No. 4 Desert Edge in the 4A Conference championship on Friday, Dec. 6 at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
CACTUS 0 7 6 14 -- 27
MESQUITE 0 6 14 8 -- 28
MESQUITE – Ty Thompson 2-yard TD Run 9:33
CACTUS – Connor Cordts 12-yard TD Run (Jonas Kurok kick) 1:56
MESQUITE – Tompson 7-yard TD pass to Jacob Walker 5:47
CACTUS – Nic Quinones 88-yard kickoff return for TD 5:34
MESQUITE – Thompson 26-yard TD pass to Andrew Morris (2-point conversion) 3:39
CACTUS – Anthony Flores 9-yard TD run (2-point conversion) 5:02
MESQUITE – Thompson 12-yard TD pass to Jordan Wollangk (2-point conversion) 2:18
CACTUS – Flores 8-yard TD Run 0:38