Sweet Seventh for Skeeters: Mesquite outslugs crosstown rival Horn to remain undefeated
There is always a lot on the line when crosstown rivals Mesquite and Horn lock horns.
On Friday, there was more than just bragging rights, though, as for the first time in the series history, they met with first place in district on the line.
The teams pulled out all the stops, combining for more than 1,000 yards of offense, but as has been the case all year long, Mesquite simply had too much as it pulled away late for a 56-41 victory at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.
The Skeeters remain perfect on the season, improving to 7-0 overall while taking over sole possession of the top spot in 12-5A at 3-0, while the Jaguars slip to 4-3 and 2-1.
"It was good; it was a rival game, so this was a big focus since the start. Of all the games, this was one of those we wanted the most," Mesquite quarterback Alex Cooper said. "This was big to set us for next week with North Mesquite and we have to go get that one now."
Cooper was the catalyst all night long for the Skeeter offense, as he threw for 448 yards and two touchdowns and added 106 yards and three scores on the ground.
He and the other playmakers on the field on both sides produced a furious scoring display in the second half in which the teams combined for 56 points in an 11-minute span, but it was a play that Cooper was not on the field for that might have been the biggest in the game.
Mesquite led 42-35 early in the fourth quarter when Horn made a big stop near midfield. After a delay of game penalty, the Skeeters lined up to punt on fourth-and-18, but wide receiver Jordan Bracy, who did handle the punting duties earlier in the season, took the snap and never hesitated, bolting up the sideline for a 48-yard touchdown that gave them a 49-35 lead with 10:55 left and the Jaguars never got any closer.
"I can't tell you what happened right there. It was on the other side of the field, and I couldn't tell, but it is astonishing that we can allow, on fourth and 18, a fake punt where a guy runs it 50 yards for a touchdown," Horn head coach Rodney Webb said. "We had gotten back into contention again with a chance to get the ball back down only one score and they get the touchdown to go up two scores. They turned the field and we got pinned right away and that was the ball game."
Horn had produced answer after answer in the second half. After trailing 21-7 at halftime, the Jaguars forced an early fumble that was recovered by Larry Bridges.
That led to an 11-yard scoring pass from Destri White to Brian O'Bannon and after forcing a Mesquite punt, Treyvon Marsh busted free for a 73-yard touchdown run on the very next play and the game was suddenly tied at 21-21.
For the first time in the game, the Skeeter offense looked out of sorts and after an incompletion and it was going to face third-and-12 before the Jaguars were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting.
Mesquite escaped the jam with the free first down and six plays later, they were back in the lead when Cooper weaved through the defense for a 27-yard run that made it 28-21.
"We pride ourselves on playing smart, we pride ourselves on being disciplined, and we let our guard down momentarily, let them out of a third and 12 hole and gave them a first down and you could feel the momentum shift," Webb said. "They may have converted that third and 12 anyway, but percentage wise, we felt like we had a good chance to get the ball back in a tie game."
The Jaguars were able to tie the game less than a minute later on a 1-yard run by Marsh, but the Skeeters came right back with a two-play drive that Cooper capped with a 3-yard scoring run that made it 35-28 with 4:40 left in the third.
After forcing a Horn punt, Mesquite landed a haymaker when Cooper threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Jackson to make it a two-score game.
The Jaguars fought through that blow when Marsh scored his fourth touchdown of the game to close to within 42-35 with 2:19 left in the third quarter, but they could not overcome the fake punt just a few minutes later.
Mesquite tacked on a 14-yard touchdown run from Christian Watson and Horn added an 11-yard scoring pass from White to Derell Bullocks in the final seconds to provide the final margin.
The Skeeters finished the night with 649 yards of total offense, with Jackson and Rashard Higgins being Cooper's main accomplices, combining for 11 catches for 299 yards and a pair of long touchdowns.
"Our defense is good, they just had a bad quarter, but we're a team and we have to look out for one another," Cooper said. "It was an offensive scoring game, so we needed to make sure we took care of our business."
Mesquite's defense was on its game early on, allowing only four yards in the opening quarter. The Skeeters took advantage, as Junior Session and Cooper scored on touchdown runs of 21 and 26 yards, respectively, to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Horn finally got things going late in the first half with a 14-play, 56-yard drive that Marsh capped with a 1-yard plunge with 1:51 left before halftime. But that was plenty of time for Mesquite, as Cooper hit Higgins on a 68-yard scoring strike just a minute later that made it 21-7 at halftime.
The second half featured a lot of positives and some negatives on both sides, but they each know they have to put this behind them as the playoff race heats up during the next month.
"They are a very good team. They are hands-down the best team we have played this year. They are tooled to make a long run and anybody who plays them is going to have some issues with their athleticism," Webb said. "But it is one of 10, it is Mesquite, so it is a big game, but it is just one of 10 and whether we would have won tonight or lost, Longview doesn't care, they are coming next week anyway and they'll be ready to play. It will be another big game and it's fun. I love these kids and we are going to learn from it. They are hurting right now, I am hurting right now, but we're going to come back."
The Skeeters are clearly in the driver's seat now with their three district victories coming over the other playoff favorites, but they know there is no time to relax with another crosstown battle coming next Friday.
"We have to keep practicing and stay humble," Cooper said. "We remember where we came from and that is 1-9 (Mesquite's record in 2010). We have a lot of talent on this squad that is unknown. We don't have a lot of (college) offers but we're just going to keep going and proving ourselves every week."