Prep football: Strong fourth quarter lifts West Mesa over Sandia - Albuquerque Journal

Prep football: Strong fourth quarter lifts West Mesa over Sandia

West Mesa’s Chris Johnson (3) holds up a peace sign as he scores a touchdown against Sandia at Wilson Stadium. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

This time, it was West Mesa’s turn to dole out a little bit of heartbreak. 

The Mustangs rallied for two fourth-quarter scores to take a 21-14 victory over Sandia at Wilson Stadium on Thursday night in the District 2-6A prep football opener for both teams. After being on the wrong end of a nail biter against Atrisco Heritage in its last game, West Mesa (3-3, 1-0 2-6A) was happy to return to the favor while spoiling the Matadors’ homecoming night in the process. 

“I tell my kids all the time, we’re battle tested,” Mustangs coach Landrick Brody said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really mean nothing if they come out on the wrong side of it every time. As battle tested as they are, they don’t flinch in situations like this. This is what, Week 6, and four of our six games have been just like this.”

Sandia (3-3, 0-1) took its first lead when senior running back Malachi Thymes rushed for a 14-yard TD for  a 14-7 edge midway through the third quarter. Thymes finished with 16 carries for 134 yards. 

Sandia’s Juanito Cruz
holds up the ball after causing a fumble and recovering it against West Mesa. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

The Matadors appeared ready to seize momentum completely when cornerback Juanito Cruz forced and recovered a fumble on the West Mesa 28 on the Mustangs’ next play from scrimmage. Four plays later, opportunity turned into disaster when a potential 24-yard TD pass from Cruz Rivera to Jacob Adcox was fumbled out of the end zone just before Adcox crossed the goal line. Rather than a 21-7 lead for the Sandia, the Mustangs were given new life. 

On its next drive, West Mesa quarterback Elijah Brody completed passes of 26 and 35 yards to help set up a 5-yard scoring run by Christopher Jinzo. A two-point conversion gave the Mustangs a 15-14 advantage. Sandia moved the ball well on its next drive, but a Rivera pass was intercepted in the end zone by West Mesa’s Zedekiah Thompson. 

The game was still in the balance with West Mesa facing a 3rd-and-15 on its own 15, but that’s when Brody connected with Chris Johnson for an 85-yard scoring pass over the top of the Matador defense with 2:36 remaining. 

“They played a lot of Cover 2 on us,” Landrick Brody said. “If you notice we meshed that, kind of ran a little play action to see if we can get a safety to come up a little bit, and he came up just enough for us to get behind him.”

After a failed two-point conversion by West Mesa, Sandia had one last opportunity. The final drive fizzled out at midfield when a Matadors’ completion on 4th-and-2 came up short of the first-down marker. According to Brody, the Mustangs were aware that Sandia might use Thymes as a decoy in that instance. 

“In situations like that, they’ve got a great back in Malachi Thymes. Probably one of the best backs in the state,” he said. “Of course, we kind of beefed our front up, but we knew they’d run a lot of play action off of it — a lot of RPO (run-pass option) type of stuff. We just kept our DBs low and they took a shot and made it.”

Now, West Mesa has a leg up in district and can make a serious push for a playoff bid in the weeks to come. 

“It’s huge,” Landrick Brody said. “I preach to my kids all the time, the first half’s over with. It’s 0-0 now. Every week counts, so this is big for us to open up district.”


West Mesa 7  0  0  14—21

Sandia 0  7  7  0—14

Scoring: WM, Robert Ramirez 36 pass from Elijah Brody (Lucas Molinar kick); S, Jacob Adcox 17 pass from Cruz Rivera (Rivera kick); S, Malachi Thymes 14 run (Rivera kick); WM, Christopher Jinzo 6 run (Chris Johnson pass from Brody); WM, Johnson 85 pass from Brody (pass failed). Rec.: WM 3-3, S 3-3. 

First Downs: WM 7, S 13. Rushes-yards: WM 21-43; S 29-165. Passing: WM 11-15-0—245; S 15-22-2—119. Total Offense: WM 288; S 284. Punts-avg.: WM 2-34.5; S 1-27. Penalties-yards: WM 9-95; S 8-66.
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