The 2013 season was a chance for Mesquite High to start anew. With an old, new coach at the helm and gradual improvement week to week the Wildcats can say mission accomplished — for the regular season
Mesquite put the cap on a turnaround regular season Friday night, dominating sister school Campo Verde, 30-0, in the title game for Division II Section 6 at Mesquite High.
Senior quarterback Payton Haslam threw three touchdowns passes — two to receiver Juan Giraldo, who scored three times in the game. Haslam completed 18-of-24 passes for 229 yards. Giraldo had six receptions for 90 yards.
Mesquite (9-1 overall, 5-0 section) and Campo Verde (8-2, 4-1) are both heading to postseason so the game wasn't an elimination affair. Mesquite, which had won five games the last two seasons, should at least maintain its No. 3 seed when the D-II playoff pairings are announced Saturday morning. Campo Verde began the night at No. 7 in the rankings and waits to see if the loss drops them or not. Campo Verd is hopeful of staying in the top 8 to get a first-round home playoff game.
Mesquite played like a veteran team that had been in big games before. The Wildcats received the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 14 plays for a 7-0 lead. Senior quarterback Payton Haslam tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jarrod James that capped the 6 1/2 minute march. James added the extra point as well.
“This is a big win for our school,” Mesquite coach Jim Jones, who came out of retirement as a head coach last winter to attempt the rejuvenation. “This was against a sister school, a great team in Campo Verde. I'm happy for our kids.”
Mesquite's recipe has been ball control and defense, not unlike Campo Verde. Mesquite was simply better at both in this one. The Wildcats limited Campo Verde to a three-and-out in the first period while possessing the ball nearly 10 minutes of the quarter.
Mesquite's second possession stretched to the second period and ended with James booting a 46-yard field goala to boost the lead to 10-0. Campo Verde got three possessions in the second quarter, but managed only 112 yards of offense. The Coyotes' lone scoring chance in the opeining half was a 42-yard field goal attempt that was short and wide right.
Campo Verde coach Max Ragsdale decided to take a chance with 1:37 left in the first half by going for a fourth-and-4 at midfield. An incomplete pass ensued and Mesquite used just 40 seconds to complete four passes and drive 53 yards for a deflating TD just before the half. It was the first of Giraldo's three TDs — a 7-yard strike from Haslam.
“Going for it was one of those things where I thought we could catch one and we didn't,” Ragsdale said. “Even if we didn't make it, I felt our defense was good enough to hold them, but it didn't happen.”
Giraldo waited less than two minutes of the third period to score his second TD. He got behind his defender, took a 15-yard pass from Haslam and turned it into a 56-yard jaunt to paydirt. Giraldo capped the scoring with a 2-yard TD run early in the final period.
Campo Verde quarterback Luke Pineda was 13-of-25 passing for 134 yards. He was pressured often and sacked five times. Leading rusher Gabe Ogbonnaya missed the game with a knee injury. HIs replacement, Zac Wheeler, rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries. Campo Verde could not sustain drives and that allowed Mesquite to put the game away early in the second half with its ball control bent.
“They''re a darn good team,” Ragsdale said. “They took us out of everything. We have some things to clean up before next week…
“It's a good neighborhood battle. They moved down from Division I and we moved up from Division III and met in the middle. At the beginning of the season I don't think anyone would have scripted this as the (section) championship.”