Monsters Drop Heartbreaker to Mesa
Thatcher, AZ --
It was déjà vu all over again . . . almost. Eastern Arizona College had a chance to claim a last-second victory two weeks in a row Saturday. But unlike last week’s win over Scottsdale, Mesa was able to break through the EAC defense for a 26-21 victory. “We stayed together when things looked bleak,” EAC head coach John O’Mera said. “The defense got us the ball back with a chance to win. We had the ball when we wanted it, at the end of the game.” Down five with just under three minutes left to play, the Gila Monster defense stopped the Thunderbirds on a fourth and one at the EAC 7 yard line.
EAC quarterback Ryheem Dixon hit Brice Queener to move the ball to the 25-yard line. But the offense stalled and on a fourth and eight, Queener dropped the pass for a first down with 1:21 left on the clock. The Thunderbirds took over, took two knees and won the game 26-21. Mesa came in with a game plan to stop what EAC had done against Scottsdale the week before, shutting down the big play.
“I recruited (Serge) Trezy (to EAC) and we forced the play to eliminate the dive, react to the quarterback and then run to the pitch,” said Channelle Jones, defensive coordinator for Mesa. Jones coached the previous four years at EAC. Last week, Monsters’ tail back Trezy had runs of 73 and 75 yards for scores. He was mostly quiet against Mesa.
Mesa scored first on a field goal in the first quarter to make it 3-0. They scored a touchdown late in the quarter to make it 10-0 on an 8 yard run up the middle by Cedric Simmons. With 10:45 to go in the first half, Monsters’ defensive back Chris Sanders grabbed the first of two interceptions off Mesa quarterback Blake Kemp, advancing the ball to Mesa’s 33 yard line. The Gila Monster’s worked the ball down to the 15 yard line before Ker Sean Wilson hit Trezy for the catch and run for the touchdown to make it 10-7. EAC’s defensive back Corey Hall grabbed a second interception off of Kemp on the next possession. Mesa had troubles with penalties, but was able to score with 2:03 left in the first half on a 14-yard pass from Kemp to Omar Rodriguez. With the good extra point kick Mesa went to the locker rooms at half with a 17-7 lead.
To open the third quarter, Queener grabbed a 52 yard pass from Wilson, setting up a 1-yard run by Silas Jefferson to make it 17-14. Mesa marched right back down the field and capped off its scoring drive with a 10-yard pass to make it 24-14 Thunderbirds. “We went after their quarterback,” O’Mera said. “But he was real good. You got to give him credit.”
EAC received the ball with their backs against the goal line and Mesa sacked Dixon for a safety to make it 26-14. After another defensive stop, the Monsters marched down the field in 10 yard chunks and, with 6:30 to go in the game, Jefferson ran another one in from one yard out for the game’s final score to make it 26-21.
Both Jones and Mesa head coach Ryan Felker came out of the EAC coaching staff. “We were both taught by Bob O’Mera (EAC assistant coach and father to head coach John O’Mera),” Jones said. “He was the guy I followed out from Kansas. He’s the guy who taught me the core values of the game.”
Next up for the Gila Monsters (1-1) will be the Matadors of Arizona Western (1-1), on the road in Yuma, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m.
Arizona Western lost to Scottsdale, 45-23, Saturday.
Jay David Murphy firstname.lastname@example.org
Eastern Arizona Courier