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Monsters Topple Mesa

THATCHER — After an overtime heartbreaker in Yuma last week, the Eastern Arizona College Gila Monsters had to win against the Mesa Thunderbirds on Saturday night to have a chance at postseason play. With excellent defense and a solid offensive performance, the Monsters did just that and finished off the Thunderbirds, 31-21.

“They got to us early with their run game,” EAC assistant coach Jeff Roebuck said. “We adjusted with our linebackers. Marcus (Gaddy) came up big in the second half for us.” With Eastern up, 24-14, after a Nathan Pierpont field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, Gaddy knocked the ball loose from Mesa, and Cameron Walton picked it up and ran it 30 yards for the touchdown to put the game out of reach. “I was doing my job,” Gaddy said. “I had to make up for last week and be there for the team. The key was my blitzing up the middle.” Gaddy had an outstanding night with a dozen tackles at the linebacker position and the forced fumble that turned into points. Led by Gaddy, the Eastern defense is rated number one in the league.

Eastern started off the scoring with 8:35 on the clock in the first quarter. Following a 19-yard run by quarterback Ryheem Dixon, that got EAC to the goal line, Tim Cook took into the end zone from 1 yard out. Pierpont was good to make the score 7-0.

Mesa then put together a 15-play offensive series, which finished with a short pass from Austin Apodaca to Marquis Coleman for a touchdown. Brian Franklin kicked the extra point to tie it, 7-7. After Eastern punted, Mesa marched back down the field in nine plays for the touchdown. Apodaca tossed a 12-yard pass to Tyler Eggers, and Franklin kicked the extra point to give Mesa the 14-7 lead.

The Monsters came right back with seven plays of their own to tie the game again on a 4-yard quarterback keeper by Dixon. Pierpont nailed the kick for the extra point to make it 14-14 with 10:52 to go in the half. Another EAC drive was stopped when Mesa’s Deron Williams-Brown intercepted a halfback pass from Detrick Clark. But Mesa could not capitalize and missed a field goal before halftime.

The Monsters came out firing in the second half with a quick score on a 20-yard run by Tim Cook up the middle. It was 21-14 after the Pierpont kick. From there it was the Pierpont field goal followed by the Walton fumble recovery for the touchdown that put the game out of reach for the Monsters. Mesa did score one last time, with 33 seconds left, on a 9-yard catch by Eggers. The extra point was good to make the final score 31-21.

“We got tired and they made adjustments at half,” Mesa assistant coach Chanell Jones said. “They have a lot of great athletes.” Jones is a former EAC and Safford High School coach

Silas Jefferson led EAC in rushing with 123 yards on 12 carries. Cook had 121 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, Nunnally had 83 yards on nine carries, and Dixon ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on 12 plays.

For Mesa, running back Carlton Williams ran 23 times for 169 yards, and Garette Craig rushed five times for 60 yards. Eggers caught five passes for 25 yards and two TDs, and Coleman had four catches for 46 yards.

EAC moves to 2-2 in conference and 3-2 overall. The Monsters will be at home again Saturday, Sept. 27, to host the Scottsdale Artichokes (3-1, 3-1) at 7 p.m. With a win, Eastern would move into the top four teams in the WSFL. Mesa drops to 2-3 in conference and 2-3 overall and plays New Mexico Military Institute on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Story written by Jay David Murphy, Sports Editor

Eastern Arizona Courier