A combination of big plays and an opportunistic defense carried Mesa Red Mountain to a 29-13 victory over host Mesa Skyline in the Division I, Section III regular season finale.
Red Mountain (5-5, 4-1) pinned Skyline deep on the opening kickoff, as an ill-advised return brought the ball out to the 5-yard line. Red Mountain would then score on the first play from scrimmage, as senior defensive lineman Diego Hernandez broke into the backfield to record a safety.
Senior quarterback Caleb Murray-Thomas got Red Mountain on the board the traditional way late in the first quarter, connecting with senior Terrell Tyler on a 46-yard touchdown. They would connect again in the second quarter, this time for 55 yards. Tyler finished the night with three catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
Murray-Thomas battled various injuries (ankle, hand) for most of the night and rotated with junior quarterback Colton Aurich throughout the game. Despite the limited time, Murray-Thomas still managed a very solid 8-for-10 passing night for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Skyline (6-4, 1-4) would join in on the big plays, with a 77-yard strike from senior quarterback Michael Amado to junior receiver Cory Anderson in the second quarter. Unfortunately for Skyline, the positive production for Amado ended there.
Amado threw three interceptions on the night, none bigger than the one junior defensive back Jeff Jackalone, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown with just 11 seconds left in the first half to give Red Mountain a 22-7 halftime lead. Amado finished the day with 181 yards on 8-of-17 passing and two touchdowns after hitting junior fullback Salvador Martinez-Sotelo for a 32-yard touchdown late in the fourth.
A first half of big plays tuned into a second half of grind-it-out offense for Red Mountain. Despite starting slowly, rushing 12 times for 50 yards in the first half, they finished up strong with 23 rushes for 109 yards in the second half.
More important than the 310 yards of total offense was the clock control, as junior Kiwan Lear was the main workhorse, chewing up 64 yards on 14 carries, with junior Jake Bialek closing it out with his six carries for 38 yards, all in the second half.