Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Mesquite's OT win over Garland provides 'unforgettable finish'
ARLINGTON — As Garland’s defense was toughening up in overtime Friday, Mesquite’s Jose Salas wasn’t tightening up on the sidelines. The senior kicker was actually hoping he would get sent onto the field at Cowboys Stadium for what could be his final play as a high school kicker.
“I wanted to prove to the coaches that I have the leg,” Salas said.
Salas proved he had the leg, and also the accuracy, as he nailed a 39-yard field goal that gave Mesquite a 24-21 victory over Garland in a Class 5A Division I area-round game. Mesquite (7-5) will next face the winner of Saturday’s matchup of The Woodlands and Round Rock Westwood.
“Jose has been money for us all year long,” Mesquite coach Robbie Robinson said. “What else can you say? He won the ballgame for us tonight.”
With a lot of help, of course. Garland (9-3), which had its nine-game winning streak snapped, got the ball first in overtime. On third-and-7 from the 22-yard line, Garland quarterback Seth Russell tried to connect with big-play receiver Ja’Taveon Green, but Mesquite cornerback Anthony Canady made a nice break on the pass to pick it off.
Canady is among many juniors who start for Mesquite, a young team that was expected to be a year away from a deep playoff run. But now the Skeeters are in the third round for the first time since 2004.
It’s a dramatic turnaround from the last two seasons, when Mesquite finished 1-9.
“It was ugly,” Robinson said. “We had about eight sophomores up last year. It’s been a rough couple of years.”
All of that was forgotten Friday in a game with an unforgettable finish. After managing only 59 yards of offense and punting six times in the first half, Mesquite drove for touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half to take a 21-7 lead.
Garland battled back with a 10-play, 87-yard drive to cut the lead to 21-14 early in the fourth quarter. Garland got the ball right back with an interception by defensive back Steven Britt, but after a drive to the Mesquite 18-yard line, the Owls turned the ball over on downs.
Garland got one final chance after another Mesquite punt, taking over at its 46 with 2:16 left and no timeouts. The Owls quickly moved down the field against Mesquite’s defense, which had been on the field for most of the second half.
Garland drove to the 1, and as the clock ran out, Russell tried to fight his way into the end zone. He fumbled, but it was recovered in the end zone by Garland tight end Dawson Hadnot. The successful point-after kick sent the game to overtime tied at 21-21.
That set the stage for the proud moments of the Mesquite defense and Salas, who said he’ll never forget the winning kick. Few players for Mesquite, which was the undefeated 5A Division I champion 10 years ago, will forget it.
When they were taking their lumps the last couple of years, this was what they were hoping for. They poured onto the field as Salas’ kick split the uprights.
“Our seniors haven’t had a lot of success down through the years,” Robinson said. “I want those kids to be able to savor this moment.”