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Sunrise Mountain survives Mesquite’s huge second half comeback at home

The first half and second half in Peoria Sunrise Mountain’s 46-40 home victory Friday over defending 4A conference state champion Gilbert Mesquite (1-1) seemed like two separate games.

It was all Sunrise Mountain (2-0) in the first until the Mustangs woke up a sleeping giant in Mesquite’s quarterback Ty Thompson at halftime, who totaled five touchdowns (four TD passes, one rushing) in the game.

The Oregon-committed QB threw three of his TDs in the second half and connected with senior wide receiver Eric Lira for three throughout the contest. 

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“We gave them the ball too many times,” Sunrise Mountain head coach Steve Decker said. “A couple fumbles, picks and you can’t give a great quarterback and a great football team that many opportunities or they’re gonna take advantage like they did.”

The first half score 33-12 reflected the Wildcats playing with their proverbial fluffed tails between their legs. 

Thompson went 11-for-25 on his passes, threw for 146 yards before the intermission, and Mesquite’s offensive line couldn’t contain the Mustangs defense that sacked Thompson four times for a loss of 14 yards. That included Mesquite’s odd decision to go for it on 4th-and-10 from its own 23 where Thompson was sacked and gave Sunrise Mountain the field position to settle for an 11-yd field goal after not being able to get a touchdown.

Sunrise Mountain senior running back Tommy Arnold broke loose for 160 rushing yards and three TDs, including his 49-yard TD run through a gap up the middle in the second quarter which looked like it made the game out of reach. 

“The game for us is never out of reach,” Thompson said. “That’s really what we preached in the locker room coming out for the second half. We came out with a little chip on our shoulder because we know we can be in this game with this team and it showed at the end that we can come back and we can be right in this game.”

Then the reversal of fortune occurred for Sunrise Mountain as Mesquite outscored the Mustangs, 28-13 in the second half.

The Wildcats’ massive comeback and Thompson’s quarterback shootout against Sunrise Mountain’s senior QB Travis Ward began with Mesquite making a 77-yard play around the four-minute mark in the third quarter. Thompson threw a 29-yd pass to senior WR/DB Riales Hopper, who added an additional 48 yards down field before he was tackled at the 1. Mesquite then rushed the ball into the end zone for the TD two plays later, but missed the extra point, cutting the lead to 33-18.

Mesquite’s next scoring play was Thompson throwing his second TD pass of the game to Lira for 45 yards and making their first 2-point conversion to chip the margin down, 33-26 with 8:10 left.

Then on Mustang’s following possession with 8:01 left, Mesquite senior free safety Lavontae Trotter intercepted Ward’s pass from Sunrise Mountain’s own 39 and the Mustangs received a personal foul penalty to move the chains an additional 15 yards. Thompson then completed a 12-yard pass to put Mesquite in the red zone, setting up a 5-yard TD pass to Lira, but the team couldn’t connect on its third 2-point conversion attempt, chipping Sunrise Mountain’s lead to 33-32. 

Sunrise Mountain’s subsequent possession was a 10-yard TD pass and successful extra point to push the score to 40-32. Then Mesquite’s Trotter returned a kick for 99 yards and Mesquite scored its second two-point conversion to tie the game at 40 with 5:42 left in the game.

The Mustangs offensive strike wasn’t done as senior WR Ezekiel Marshall caught a 60-yard touchdown bomb from Ward, but didn’t score on its two-point conversion to push the score up, 46-40, over Mesquite.

Mesquite had one final drive to score with under two minutes left. The Wildcats couldn’t make it happen as Thompson made an incomplete pass on 4th down from their own 23.

Following the turnover on downs, that enabled the Mustangs to milk the clock to seal the win.

“I think we played a little down in the second half,” Arnold said. “We thought we had a big lead and we played down on ourselves. And then towards the fourth quarter our team really picked it up. We’re a fourth quarter-team and our defense rallied up, made a great stop in the end and we rallied down to score and ended up winning the game.”

Up next

Sunrise Mountain travels just over two miles to face defending 6A champion Peoria Liberty, Friday at 7 p.m. Mesquite faces American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek, the Wildcats’ second home game of the season, also Friday at 7 p.m.

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Sunrise Mountain survives Mesquite’s huge second half comeback at home

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