With tears in his eyes, senior running back Kris Jackson stood in front of his Mesa Jackrabbits team for the last time.
“I told them I was proud of the way they fought till the end,” Jackson said. “It was a message to the sophomores and juniors to leave their own legacy, we left ours now it’s their turn. We are a family, to see us all come together like this it shows we are good at carrying on.”
Jackson’s message came on a night where a lingering hamstring injury kept him out of the second half of Mesa’s 36-14 loss to Mountain View.
Mesa (4-7, 2-3) came in ranked No. 21 in the 6A rankings, meaning even a win wouldn’t have extended the Jackrabbits season. But, they had a chance to play spoiler as Mountain View was in a must-win position ranked No. 16.
While Mountain View (6-4, 3-2) only held a 3-0 lead after the first quarter, the Toros took advantage of good field position on two consecutive drives led by sophomore quarterback Brandon Nieto.
Nieto (7-7, 91 yards) filled in for junior Brandon Nuñez for an undisclosed reason in the first half, throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior Tate Allen and a 6-yard pass to senior Dax Hodges before halftime.
“We came in with several injuries,” Allen said. “We played through adversity and we got it done. As a team, this is a confidence booster for sure. It shows a lot about your team.”
The Toros rushing attack picked up in the second half, as junior Jeremiah Hollen (11 carries, 69 yards) found the end zone from 2-yards out to extend the lead to 24-7.
Mountain View found the end zone twice more on the night thanks to a Nuñez – who was under center the entire second half – score from 9-yards out and a senior Devin Waite (11 carries, 67 yards) score from 14 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Toros found a rhythm both on offense and defense, halting numerous Jackrabbits drives in the red zone.
Despite the stingy Toros defense, Mesa kept fighting, as senior quarterback Nate Hanna (16-28, 292 yards) led the offense to a fourth-quarter touchdown after finding senior Marcus Taylor for 64 yards.
“I am proud of them,” coach Kap Sikahema said of his team. “There is a lot of things we need to work on going forward. We have a lot of good kids coming in and I am excited to carry on that Jackrabbit legacy.”
As Mesa heads into the offseason, Mountain View awaits its fate.
Heading into the matchup with Mesa, the Toros needed not only to win, but to also have teams in front of them lose to have a chance. With both Anthem Boulder Creek (14) and Tucson (15) falling, the Toros chances increase at a postseason berth.
No matter the outcome, Fell remains appreciative of what his team could accomplish in his second year as coach.
“They played well on Senior Night and we have won three games in a row,” Fell said. “It is a good feeling to finish strong in the regular season. We will see what happens from here.”
Zach Alvira is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com
Mountain View 36, Mesa 14
MVT 3 14 13 6 – 36
MHS 0 7 0 7 – 14
MVT – Ryan 23 FG, 4:53
MVT – Nieto 24 pass to Allen (Ryan kick), 11:39
MVT – Nieto 6 pass to Hodges (Ryan kick), 3:41
MHS – Jackson 2 run (Alvarez kick), :05
MVT – Hollen 2 run (Ryan kick), 8:16
MVT – Nuñez 9 run, 3:17
MHS – Hanna 64 pass to Taylor (Alvarez kick), 5:46
MVT – Waite 14 run, 3:16
First downs 17 15
Rush-yards 33-234 30-134
Comp-Att-Int 16-23-0 16-28-1
Pass yard 205 292
Total yards 439 426
Fumbles/lost 1/0 1/0
Penalties 6-65 10-65
MVT – Nuñez 4-36, Dinwiddie 2-37, Waite 11-67, Hollen 11-69, Phillips 1-2, Clark 1-11, Talamantes 1-12; MHS – Jackson 15-106, Hanna 3-1, Pulotu 10-20, West 2-7
MVT – Nieto 7-7-91-0, Nuñez 9-16-114-0; MHS – Hanna 16-28-292-1
MVT – Dinwiddie 1-8, Allen 4-90, Hodges 3-20, Waite 1-10, Clark 5-54, Hollen 1-12; MHS – Taylor 2-80, Mcclendon 6-67, Mox 7-133, Gonzales 1-28