Throughout most of the second half, this very much had the feel of a game where the team that had the ball last would get out of Nusenda Community Stadium with a win.
That proved to be exactly the case — just not in the way you might have imagined.
It was visiting Farmington, in a crucial District 2-6A road game, that burned the final 4½ minutes of the clock with West Mesa breathing down its neck, and the Scorpions protected its lead and ultimately clinched a 48-41 victory over the Mustangs on Thursday night.
The victory was not secured for Farmington until quarterback Trel Griego threw a bold 24-yard completion to Jevon Smith with about a minute remaining on a third-and-long that meant the Scorpions didn’t have to punt the ball back to the Mustangs (3-4, 1-1), who were out of timeouts.
“West Mesa’s offense is a hell of an offense,” said Griego, who finished 20-of-29 for 287 yards and four touchdowns versus one interception. He also ran for a second-half TD. “So we expected to come out here and try to score with them all night.”
It was actually more the other way around on a chilly evening on the West Side, as the Mustangs were trying to keep pace.
Farmington (3-4, 1-0 in 2-6A) was efficient right from the start. The Scorpions, in fact, bolted out to a commanding 27-6 lead in the first half, scoring touchdowns on their first four drives.
“We were ready for anything, honestly,” said Farmington coach Jeff Dalton. “We really feel like we’re in a place where we’re good enough where we can start controlling the games. In the first half, we were able to control the pace and we were controlling the scoreboard.”
Griego had TD passes of 11 yards to Josiyah Archuleta, 20 yards to Smith and 13 yards to Senecca Charley, plus Archuleta added a TD run in that first half. But the Scorpions knew West Mesa possessed the firepower to come back.
And the Mustangs did. West Mesa — which had rallied from a 27-point deficit a couple of weeks earlier against Atrisco Heritage, a game the Mustangs eventually lost 59-54 — was persistent. Its up-tempo offense, guided by junior QB Elijah Brody, kept the Scorpions in their sights.
West Mesa cut the deficit to 27-13 by halftime on a late second quarter TD pass to Chris Johnson. And the Mustangs, after a pick of Griego, even had a chance to get closer before half, but Farmington sacked Brody on fourth down from the 11.
Still, the Mustangs hit Farmington for two quick scores in the first 2:40 of the second half and tied the game at 27. Brody hooked up with Christopher Jinzo on a 35-yard TD pass just 67 seconds into the second half, and after a punt and a terrific return by Johnson, Brody scored on a 6-yard run to square things.
The teams traded scores for another tie at 34-34, but Farmington had the next two touchdowns.
Griego scored on a 2-yard keeper — Farmington had rolled the dice earlier on that drive, going for a 4th-and-3, and converting it, from its own 30 — and Archuleta’s third score of the night, a 5-yard run, put Farmington’s lead at 48-34 early in the fourth quarter.
“It gets to a point where we’re rolling, they’re rolling, and it’s just who ends up with the ball at the end of the game,” Griego said.
The Mustangs pulled within seven at 48-41 on a 43-yard, fourth-and-12 touchdown pass to Johnson with 4:46 remaining. That was West Mesa’s final offensive snap the Scorpions played keepaway.
Farmington gained 488 yards of total offense, and only punted once. The Scorpions are home to Sandia next week.
Farmington had squandered some second-half leads in recent weeks at home to both Cibola and Rio Rancho, putting added emphasis on Thursday night, Dalton said.
“We were up at halftime and let Cibola and Rio Rancho come back on us and get us,” he said. “So the word of the day was ‘finish.’ We had to finish a game. We hadn’t finished one.”
West Mesa faces La Cueva next Thursday at Community Stadium.
Brody threw for 228 yards and four touchdowns in the loss for the Mustangs.