In a tremendous defensive performance, the sixth-ranked Mesquite Wildcats have advanced to the 4A quarterfinals with their 21-6 rout of the 11-seeded Pueblo Magnet Warriors on Friday night.
The Warriors put up a good fight in the first quarter, as they were able to keep it tied at zero with 12 minutes off the clock. However, Mesquite opened up the second quarter of play with a bang, scoring two touchdowns within a little over a minute of each other to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
Pueblo was able to reach the end zone with just 35 seconds left to avoid going into the half scoreless, but a missed extra point attempt kept the score at 14-6. That would be the last time the Warriors reached the end zone, let alone got inside Mesquite's 20-yard line the rest of the night as Mesquite's defense put on a show in the second half.
Coming out of the half, Mesquite had a number of explosive rushing plays to move the ball down the field, capping the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run from Chris Hintze.
From then on out, it was a defensive battle.
Mesquite’s defense was able to come up with three interceptions in the second half of the game by forcing Pueblo's normally-dominant ground game to rely on the pass.
“I was just thinking about doing my job, because I really trust my teammates,” Hintze said. “It was our great game plan. We knew if we could stop the run we would force them to throw. And with our great athletes, they were not going to be able to throw against us.”
Mesquite first-year coach Scott Hare praised his defense for their effort against Pueblo.
“Obviously any time your force a running team to pass the ball, it’s going to be a good situation for us,” Hare said. “I really am proud of the guys because a few weeks ago, our defense was something we really were trying to get going.”
Two of those interceptions in the second half were by Hintze, who was dominant on both sides of the ball. He helped lead the defense in their impressive second-half performance, where the Wildcats held the Warriors to only 70 yards of total offense.
“Chris is kind of our do it all, jack of all trades guy. He returns kicks as well, both offense and defense, he really never comes off the field,” Coach Hare said. “He’s just a little Tasmanian devil. He finds his way into the hole. His feet are always moving and he gets those extra yards for us.”
Both teams got off to a bit of a rough start on the night offensively. Wildcats’ quarterback Ty Thompson threw a pick on his first play of the game, but he didn’t let that impact the rest of his night. He went on to pass for more than 175 yards, completing 13 of his 24 passes.
“It’s just staying focused on the sidelines. Staying in the game and not letting one play define the whole game. Just coming back and being ready for the next play,” Thompson said.
Mesquite managed to grind out a win to advance to the 4A quarterfinals next week. The Wildcats will host No. 14 Marcos de Niza, who knocked off third-ranked Canyon Del Oro Friday night.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Mesquite High School.
Mesquite 0 14 7 0 – 21
Pueblo 0 6 0 0 – 6
Mesquite - Thompson 15 pass to Wollangk (Salisbury kick), 9:20
Mesquite – Thompson 10 pass to Walker (Salisbury kick), 8:16
Pueblo – Lopez 1 run, 0:35
Mesquite – Hintze 2 run (Salisbury kick), 9:34