Mesa T-Birds football beat the New Mexico Military Institute Broncos 48-31 on Nov. 2 at John D. Riggs Stadium.
It was the second time the T-Birds defeated the Broncos, but the stakes were higher as this win gets Mesa to the final game of the tournament in ACCAC play.
“We’re super excited and we’re ready to come to work because Scottsdale beat us before,” sophomore linebacker Taylor Hansen said.
Scottsdale was the only team to beat the T-Birds this season in what was a high-scoring shootout, but getting to this point was the goal from the beginning of the year.
“I can see it in the players’ eyes that we want this win more than anything and we’ve been working for this all year,” Hansen said.
Mesa was off to a fast start scoring 31 unanswered points and went into halftime with a 31-7 lead with sophomore quarterback Blake Kemp throwing three touchdowns, sophomore running back Michael Allen rushing for a score, and a field goal from freshman kicker Brian Franklin.
Sophomore wide receivers Omar Rodriguez, Cody Saul, and Torrance Carr were the players who caught those Kemp touchdown passes in the first half.
Rodriguez led all T-Birds and finished the game with two receiving touchdowns.
“My coach always tells me he expects big nights from me and he has taught me so much,” Rodriguez said.
Kemp was busy all night as he completed 48 of 67 passes, 445 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
Ten T-Birds had receptions and Carr led all with 15 followed by Rodriguez’s 11.
The offense amassed a total of 560 yards and was efficient for nearly the entire game despite two Kemp interceptions.
Even the defense was dominant as the Broncos could only manage 185 yards passing and were forced to punt six times.
Sophomore defensive end Toni Pulu led all T-Birds with 9 tackles, and sophomores Demarlon Morris and Claudeson Pelon each had 8 tackles.
The defense also put pressure on Bronco’s quarterback Quinn Billerman throughout the game led by sophomore defensive end Whitney Richardson’s 3.5 sacks.
Richardson and Franklin earned WSFL player of the week honors for their performance.
Mesa also moved up in the NJCAA rankings to 7th from 11th.
Coach Ryan Felker’s two seasons with Mesa have been succesful.
This season also is the second consecutive visit in the Valley of the Sun Bowl and 2012 Mesa finished runner-up to Glendale.
2007 was the last time the team was Valley of the Sun Bowl champions when Mesa defeated Fort Scott, Kan.
The T-Birds will meet their rival and 5th ranked Scottsdale 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Round Valley Dome in Eager, Ariz.