ARLINGTON, Texas -- For Mesquite to reach the area round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs despite a .500 regular-season record, the Skeeters have needed a few bounces to go their way.
It was a bounce that went against them Friday at Cowboys Stadium, however, that forced the Skeeters into overtime against longtime rival Garland.
In the end, though, Mesquite bounced the Owls thanks to Anthony Canady's overtime interception and Jose Salas' game-winning field goal in a 24-21 victory.
With two seconds left in the fourth quarter and Mesquite clinging to a 21-14 lead, Garland quarterback Seth Russell dived toward the end zone on a keeper from the Skeeters 1, but the ball popped lose before he crossed the goal line. Garland tight end Dawson Hadnot was able to cover the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the game into overtime.
The Mesquite defense quickly rebounded. Canady picked off a Russell pass on the first overtime possession, setting the stage for Salas' 39-yard field goal to win it.
“I was nervous but it was all for the team,” Salas said. “I knew I had trust in my leg. Last time we could have gone for it against Horn and we didn’t do it. This time I proved to the team I could do it.”
Mesquite quarterback Alex Cooper sure-handedly led his team down field for three scoring drives in regulation, the first ending on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins in the first quarter.
Even with Garland defenders flying in to put him to the ground throughout the game, Cooper felt the most pressure holding what would be the game-winning kick.
“I wasn’t worried about my boy Jose,” Cooper said. “He’s a good kicker. I was just worried about the hold. My eyes were on the ball. I wasn’t looking at anything else but the ball.”
Mesquite (7-5) came out on fire in the second half, scoring at on the first drive of the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Junior Session.
Session scored again later in the quarter on a 4-yard run off a pitch to widen Mesquite’s lead to 21-7.
Garland (9-3) made its comeback in the fourth, scoring early in the frame on a 22-yard run by Ja’Taveon Green and tying it on the fumble recovery as time expired.
Mesquite is following the lead of city neighbor Mesquite Poteet, which made a deep Class 4A playoff run last year after two terrible seasons. Cooper said Poteet’s success pushed the Skeeters to work harder in the offseason to become the best team in Mesquite.
“Their winning disrespected us, so we came into the offseason working hard -- lifted weights and worked hard,” Cooper said. “We represent Mesquite now.”
Mesquite is the last Mesquite ISD school in the playoffs and will play the winner Saturday's The Woodlands-Round Rock Westwood game in the regional round.
For coach Robbie Robinson, this season brings back nostalgic memories of how football used to be played in Mesquite: the Skeeter way.
“I’ve been in Mesquite a long time,” Robinson said. “It’s been really disappointing the last couple of years, to be honest with you. The fact that we’re back and winning now, it’s really special. Old-time Mesquite.”