Despite a significantly reduced schedule, West Mesa High School’s football team equaled its combined win total from the previous two seasons.
The Mustangs scored on all four of their first-half possessions, and finished a perfect abbreviated spring campaign by beating Sandia, 37-26, at Wilson Stadium on Friday night.
West Mesa (3-0) and Sandia (1-1) are not regular opponents in most seasons, but second-year West Mesa head coach Anthony Ansotigue said it was the school’s first victory over Sandia since 1988.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Ansotigue said. “We just focused on playing our game, and executing the way that we have. Up to this point, we played well enough to win, but knew there was room for improvement. We played pretty well tonight.”
The Matadors, down 24-12 at halftime, closed to within 24-18 with just over 8½ minutes left in the third quarter.
After forcing a West Mesa fumble, Sandia took over at the Mustangs’ 22, and cashed in on Malachi Thymes’ 9-yard TD run.
Thymes, a sophomore, had three scoring runs, and rushed for a game-high 152 yards.
Still, Sandia was unable to overcome the lack of repetitions in the short season, and West Mesa’s better overall execution.
“I thought it looked like a second game,” said Sandia coach Chad Adcox. “West Mesa got three games, and they definitely looked a game sharper than us. (West Mesa) came out ready to play, and I felt we were still kind of in that preseason mode.”
West Mesa responded to Sandia’s third-quarter touchdown with a 55-yard drive that ended on Elijah Espinoza’s 35-yard field goal, and a 27-18 lead.
Three plays after the field goal, the Mustangs forced a huge turnover and soon thereafter extended their advantage. Zedekiah Thompson hauled in a tipped pass at the Sandia 43, and raced down to Sandia 5.
Two plays later, West Mesa auarterback Daniel Ayala capped the short drive with his fourth TD pass of the game, hooking up with Joseph Thompson on a 1-yard score to make it 34-18.
Two of Ayala’s three, first-half touchdowns came in third-and-long situations. He hit Tim Drennan on a 22-yard score late in the first, and then found a wide open Chris Johnson on a 39-yard connection which upped the West Mesa lead at the time to 21-12 with one minute left in the first half.
The Mustangs then forced a late first-half turnover – the first stop by either defense to that point – when Mark Gutierrez intercepted a Gestic Marquez pass, and returned it to the Sandia 30.
Four plays later, West Mesa kicker Elijah Espinoza connected on a 30-yard field goal on final play of the half giving his club a 24-12 halftime lead. Espinoza finished with three field goals Friday.
– Patrick Newell
WEST MESA 37, SANDIA 26
West Mesa 14 10 10 3 — 37
Sandia 6 6 6 8 — 26
Scoring: WM, Chris Johnson 20 pass from Daniel Ayala (Elijah Espinoza kick); S, Malachi Thymes 28 run (run failed); WM, Tim Drennan 22 pass from Ayala (Espinoza kick); S, Thymes 4 run (run failed): WM, Johnson 39 pass from Ayala (Espinoza kick); WM, Espinoza 30 FG; S, Thymes 9 run (run failed); WM, Espinoza 35 FG; WM, Joseph Thompson 1 pass from Ayala (Espinoza kick); S, Gestic Marquez 1 run (Marquez pass to Dalton Speis); WM, Espinoza 25 FG. Records: WM 3-0; S 1-1.
First downs: WM 14; S 15. Rushes-yards: WM 29-126; S 39-223. Passing: WM 14-21-0—210; S 11-22-2—129. Total offense: WM 336; S 352. Punts-avg.: WM 1-39; S 1-43. Fumbles-lost: WM 1-1; S 1-0. Penalties-yards: WM 4-35; S 8-55.
ALSO FRIDAY: There were two more games at University Stadium. On Friday afternoon, Eunice beat Texico 26-19 in a Class 2A matchup. In the evening, Farmington scored 34 points in the first half and downed Mayfiield 48-28 in Class 5A. … In Grants, in a showdown of unbeaten teams, visiting Bernalillo escaped with a 7-6 victory over the Pirates to cap the spring season. The Spartans (4-0) got a touchdown pass from Adam Salazar to Sonny Mitchell in the third quarter to tie the game 6-all, and Ayden Madrid’s PAT proved to be the game-winning point. The Pirates (3-1) missed their PAT after scoring in the first quarter … At Milne Stadium, Albuquerque High doubled up Manzano, 24-12, as the young Bulldogs won two of their three games this spring. The Monarchs finished 0-3. … Menaul (1-3) won its final game of the spring, defeating Cloudcroft 38-8 in 8-Man action.
SATURDAY: The top game of the day is at University Stadium, where unbeaten Cleveland (3-0) meets undefeated Las Cruces (3-0) at 4 p.m.
All three Albuquerque Public Schools football venues will be occupied at 5 p.m.
Volcano Vista and La Cueva meet at Wilson, Cibola takes on Eldorado at Nusenda Community Stadium, and Del Norte faces Highland at Milne Stadium.
Also Saturday, Valley visits Valencia, Rio Rancho travels to Goddard, and St. Pius is at Portales. The annual Los Lunas-Belen showdown takes place in Belen at 1 p.m.