Third-quarter Stampede: Wranglers explode in second half to run away from Newman Smith
There are moments during the course of the season where everything comes together and potentially turns a good season into a great one.
West Mesquite is hoping the third quarter of Friday's 10-4A contest against Carrollton Newman Smith is one of those turning points.
After a tightly-contested first half, the Wranglers outscored the Trojans 27-0 in the third to turn the game into a 48-7 rout at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.
West Mesquite (6-2) improves to 3-1 in district play as they got the bitter taste out of their mouths after last week's 41-21 loss to Highland Park.
"That was the message all week, we talked about it after last week's second half collapse against Highland Park, we're going to finish the game and we preached to our kids all we week we're going to play for four quarters," West Mesquite head coach Mike Overton said. "At halftime, we said it's time to either put up or shut up, and the kids, I can't be more proud of the intensity they came out with in the second half and we had about as good a third quarter as you can play."
Newman Smith went toe-to-toe through two quarters but simply could not keep up in the second half, as the Wranglers scored on all four possessions in the third quarter. The Trojans went from having designs on an upset to falling back into fifth place in 10-4A with a 2-3 record.
"We were getting our quarterback read running game going (in the first half), Cole (Brewer) was able to make some plays when we needed to on third down and I think our effort was much better," Newman Smith head coach Paul Ressa said. "This is the first time we haven't come out of the locker room ready to play. Poteet got us pretty good in the second half but it wasn't from a lack of effort or passion. Not taking anything away from Mike (Overton) or West Mesquite because they are a good football team, well-coached and have athletes all over the field, but I was just a little disappointed in the second half. The kids didn't answer the bell for the first time this season and that is on me and something I need to look inside myself and see how to fix."
The West Mesquite offense is loaded with potential but has had a habit of shooting itself in the foot at times this season.
That was anything but the case coming out of the locker room for the second half. They quickly moved 63 yards in eight plays, with Raashaan Reason scoring on a 2-yard run to give them some breathing room at 21-7.
Newman Smith coughed up the football on a bad snap on its next play and Nathaniel Rosenburrow recovered. That led to a 6-yard touchdown run by William Stanley to make it 28-7.
The Wranglers did not let up, as Chason Virgil scored on a 13-yard keeper and Stanley added an 11-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead to 41-7 with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
While the offense was unstoppable, the defense was just as impressive. In addition to the fumble recovery, they forced a three-and-out and Traveon Jones ended another drive with an interception during the scoring surge. In all, West Mesquite held Newman Smith to 37 yards in the second half.
"They were aggressive, especially in the second half. Our defense was flying to the football, making big plays and that was it. They couldn't gain anything. It was as dominant a performance as I've seen and it was really our kids playing to their capabilities," Overton said. "I told them this is what our football team should look like and this is how we should play. That is the expectation for this football team and how we need to play every week."
Reason had a big all-around game, finishing with 12 carries for 132 yards. His 25-yard touchdown run gave the Wranglers the lead in the first quarter and he added a 32-yard scoring catch later to make it 14-0.
Virgil was efficient, completing 10-of-15 passes for 163 yards and spreading the ball around to six different receivers.
Brewer was under pressure for much of the night, but was 13-of-31 for 120 yards while earning 77 tough yards on 18 carries.
Late in the first quarter, Brewer converted two third downs and a fourth down, capping a 68-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Zach Rasmussen to close to within 14-7.
Newman Smith grabbed some momentum just before halftime when its defense held West Mesquite in the red zone and the Wranglers missed a field goal as time expired, but it would be short-lived, as it was a different story in the second half.
The road gets no easier for the Trojans as they must travel to face district-leader Highland Park next week. But despite some struggles, Newman Smith is still in the thick of the playoff race, and it could have a postseason berth on the line in the season finale against Forney.
"Two weeks, we're still in position. If the favorites do what they are supposed to do there might be a week 10 situation, but we need to regroup, this one is over, and it is up to me to find out a way to get that enthusiasm and get that passion back," Ressa said. "(They) did some good things in the second half and took some things away offense but the defense was an effort thing. We missed tackles we should have had, didn't take advantage of situations we had. But when we watch film and grade it up, we'll see we did and we'll work toward fixing those things and getting back on track."
West Mesquite has a season-ending date with Poteet in two weeks that could have major playoff seeding implications as they are currently tied for second place in 10-4A. But the Wranglers know better than to look past a scrappy Forney team next week.
" You always want momentum going into the last game, it is against a rival and going on into the playoffs," Overton said. "But if you look at our history with Forney, it is always a barn burner and they always play us tough no matter the records are. They are playing a lot better football right now, so we're going to need to be ready."