Mesa Ridge's football team entered Week 6 with two losses on the season.
But the Grizzlies knew they were better than their 3-2 record.
So what better way to prove the doubters wrong than lock in a decisive win over your archrival in a 4A Southern Football Conference opener?
Saturday Mesa Ridge did just that with a 42-30 win over Widefield, for its third-straight win over the Gladiators.
“I can’t try to explain the feeling,” Mesa Ridge coach Rob Braaten said. “This is a big game in this community, and we talk about it for 12 months. So to come away with a win is just great. We dropped a couple early that we thought we were better than that, and they’re just playing good football lately.”
The first two minutes looked like it was going to be a race to the finish between the Grizzlies and Gladiators, with Mesa Ridge scoring in the first 20 seconds thanks to a 55-yard race to the end zone by John Hubbard-Johnson. Widefield responded a minute later with a stunning 61-yard pass from TJ Davis to Myreik Goodwin, who dashed for the end zone breaking two tackles with a spin move at the goal line.
“We wanted to catch them off guard with a couple different formations that they haven’t seen,” Widefield coach Nic Olney said. “We know they wanted to stay in their 4-3 defense and we wanted to mess with it and stretch it out. So we drew up a wheel-route for Myreik and it was a great throw and a great catch.”
But from there, Mesa Ridge (3-2, 1-0) adjusted its defense and took over.
The Grizzlies scored three touchdowns in the next eight minutes, but Widefield tacked on a score of its own in the final three minutes of the half with a 26-yard keep by Davis.
But just as the Gladiators (3-2, 0-1) looked to gain momentum in the final seconds, Hubbard-Johnson pulled down an interception and ran it back 45 yards to put Mesa Ridge up 35-12 at the half.
Hubbard-Johnson had three touchdowns on the day including the pick-6 and the opening score. He also had a 1-yard rush early in the second quarter.
Widefield scored three touchdowns in the second half to pressure the Grizzlies’ lead, but four failed 2-point conversions and a blocked extra-point attempt gave Mesa Ridge a comfortable 12-point win.
Davis, who is a fierce threat on the ground, ran in two touchdowns, and found three receivers in the end zone in Goodwin, Frankie Ingraldi and Joquez Addison.
“We won’t see another quarterback like him,” Braaten said. “He’s the best we will see, and anything we did today that worked against him will work against anybody. He’s just a great athlete. I was pleased, we did an OK job of bottling him up even though he still got loose some.”
Davis got loose for 41 yards and threw for 255 off 13 completions.
Elijah Valdez earned some valuable yardage for the Grizzlies with a 52-yard rushing touchdown, and toughed out short gains early in the fourth quarter. Mesa Ridge quarterback Tj King had a 10-yard keep of his own and later found Arnell Henry in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown late in the fourth.