“It’s pretty cool,” first-year Mesquite football coach Scott Hare said of the No. 6 Wildcats’ 28-23 defeat of No. 4 Desert Edge in the AIA 4A championship game Friday, in as nonchalant a fashion as he could muster.
“And I don’t want this to happen right now. I’m not very excited about this,” he added as a pair of players dumped a bucket of cold water on him in celebration.
The win, much like the semifinal victory – a win that Mesquite scored on a potential game-winning two-point conversion attempt by Cactus – came via a defensive stop late in the fourth quarter. Down just five points, Desert Edge sophomore quarterback Adryan Lara had the Scorpions driving with a chance to take the lead, but the Wildcats made a key stop and hoisted the trophy.
“Most of our wins have been in the last two minutes of the game, so this is really is no different than what we’ve done all season long,” Hare said.
Mesquite had led most the game before mid-way through the fourth quarter. The Wildcats came out hot on offense, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal on their first three offensive drives. The biggest play of the first half came on a 44-yard touchdown reception by Jacob Walker on just the team’s second offensive snap of the evening.
“As soon as they called the play, I knew I was going to score,” Walker said. “It’s the state championship, and to score in two plays like that, it means everything.”
The Wildcats forced three stops on fourth downs and went into halftime up 16-3.
But, Desert Edge held tough, tightening up on defense and executing their pass plays more efficiently. A 51-yard touchdown pass to senior Jihad Marks on the first play of the fourth quarter, followed by a short touchdown run on their next drive game the Scorpions their first lead of the game with 6:59 remaining.
The Scorpions intercepted a pass on the ensuing defensive possession and tried to run the clock out. However, they turned the ball over on fourth down with 2:26 remaining in the game.
Quarterback Ty Thompson led the Wildcats down the field in just 26 seconds. His third touchdown pass of the night, a 33-yarder to Michael Sterling with 2:00 remaining, gave them the lead again.
Then, after a couple Scorpion offensive plays to try and win the game late, with just over a minute left in regulation, Lara threw a pass that floated in the air. Mesquite senior defensive back Jordan Wollangk positioned himself perfectly, and seemed to even have a second or two to think about what a potential interception might mean.
“All I’m thinking is that if I make this, we win the game. I’m putting my body on the line for this game and this team,” Wollangk said.
He picked the ball off, and the Wildcats were able to run out the game clock to secure the championship.
“I’m a senior. This is probably my last game, so what a way to go out,” Walker said.
The Wildcats’ celebration of their first football title comes on the heels of a 5-5 season in which they did not make the playoffs, and the team’s first campaign under Hare. Though the Wildcats will lose many important seniors, including Wollangk, and they will enjoy this moment for as long as possible, there is no reason to think Mesquite is not set up for success in the years to come.
Thompson, who led 4A in touchdown passes this year, returns as a senior in 2020. So do several other key players on the roster.
“These young guys know what they’re doing, and these coaches are fantastic,” Wollangk said. “I have so much trust that this team is going to be good for a long time.”
MES – Walker 44 pass from Thompson (Salisbury kick), 11:13
MES – Salisbury 26 FG, 4:53
MES – Sterling 6 pass from Thompson (kick failed), 10:34
DE – Alcerreca 22 FG, 0:00
DE – Marks 15 pass from Lara (Alcerreca kick), 5:16
MES – Hintze – 1 run (conversion failed), 2:58
DE – Marks 51 pass from Lara (Alcerreca kick), 11:52
DE – Mcintosh 2 run (conversion failed), 2:58
MES – Sterling 33 pass from Thompson (conversion failed), 2:00