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Matadors score 78 points in win over Mesa
Running back J.C. Baker threw for a touchdown. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy ran for a touchdown. Defensive lineman Sam Wren scored a touchdown and a safety.
Pretty much everything ended in points for the Arizona Western football team Saturday against Mesa in the Matadors' homecoming game, a 78-20 win at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“You want to score any way you can,” AWC coach Tom Minnick said. “Coach (Michael) Orthmann does a great job calling plays and we set up a bunch of different things.”
Already with a 41-14 halftime lead, the Matadors (6-0 overall, 5-0 Western States Football League) showed how many different ways they could score in the third quarter. The first score of the half was a halfback option, with Baker pulling up and finding a wide open Andre O'Neil for a 15-yard pass.
After Jonas Clark got the Matadors the ball back on an interception, McEvoy capped a three-play drive with a 6-yard run, his first rushing touchdown of the year. On the first play of the next drive, Wren sacked Blake Kemp in the end zone for a safety, then O'Neil returned the free kick 75 yards for a touchdown and a 64-14 lead.
“It makes us dynamic,” McEvoy said. “We know who we are, we just have to go out there and do it. That's my first rushing touchdown here; in high school I ran the ball more than I passed it. Here it's my first one which is kind of surprising. We have a lot of weapons on our team and we got to show a couple of them here tonight, especially defense and special teams.”
Playing starters into the fourth quarter, Minnick said his team hasn't received any national attention this year, with no first place votes and currently sitting fourth in the NJCAA poll. But he said pollsters notice 78-point performances.
“We're not even getting our regional director's vote,” Minncik said. “We're not getting our coach's vote in our league. There's two votes in our league we're not getting, so we have to start running the score up which is not good to get a vote. And that's not fair and that says something about our league. We only lost two games in two years, and one was a national championship game and we can't even get a first place vote, which is ridiculous. Are we even that good? I don't know, but you have to give us the benefit of the doubt. ... So now we have to run the score up like everybody else around the country, they're all scoring 70 and 80 points against teams, and somehow we have to start trying to do that. It is what it is. We could have kneeled on it and not scored a couple more times, but it's leading up to this cause people are doing it to other people and we only beat somebody by 20 than we drop. That's not fair. I guess our regional director, he feels like East Mississippi is still No. 1, and they've played one team that's any good, and that's this past Thursday. Other than that they haven't played anybody worth anything. Giving them first place points isn't right. Same with our coaches rep too. But it is what it is.”
The Thunderbirds (4-4 overall, 3-3 WSFL) struck first, rattling off a 16-play, 75-yard drive to open the game. They were aided by a personal foul on AWC after the Matadors stopped them on fourth-and-15 from the 29.
AWC followed with a three-and-out and Mesa started to a mount a drive, but Nathan Bartley sacked Jaymason Lee to stop the momentum of the drive. The Matadors tied the game on the next possession when McEvoy found Shaquon Cureton on a 9-yard slant for a score.
The defense stepped up, forcing its first three-and-out, then on the first play of the next drive Cureton made a fully-extended diving catch of a McEvoy pass and slid into the end zone on the first play of the drive.
That's when Wren came up with his momentum-changing touchdown, recovering a fumble in the end zone. Kemp could have kicked it out the back of the end zone but did a hook slide around it and failed, allowing Wren to recover.
The Matadors didn't let up in the second quarter, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions, capping a stretch of six straight drives with a touchdown and a 41-14 halftime lead.
AWC is back at home Saturday against Glendale. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.