Football Drives it Home in Homecoming Win


Isaiah Opatz

Team celebrates after LB Reginald Prince (#6) returns an interception for a touchdown in 40-14 Homecoming win.

Ian Caffarel, Staff Writer

After a shaky start, the Mesa Olympians returned to their winning ways from the previous season by first beating Golden West 27-21, then taking to the road to shut out L.A. Pierce, 29-0. Following this, they returned home to face their biggest test yet of the season: Taking on winless crosstown rival Grossmont in the Homecoming game.


And the Olympians drove it home hard. Very hard.


Quarterback Jake Dunninway said, “I’m glad we won, it feels good.” Aside from throwing a pick-six in the third quarter, Dunninway played a solid game, completing 21 out of 34 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns. Early in the fourth quarter, after being shaken up on a play, he left in favor of backup quarterback Laquan Williams, who took over for the rest of the game.


After Grossmont lost a fumble on a bad snap on the game’s opening drive, Dunninway completed a 26-yard pass to Dejon Smith to take an early 7-0 lead. After each team exchanged punts twice through the first quarter, Grossmont lost a fumble, but Mesa was forced to punt early in the second quarter. Grossmont took the ball deep in their own territory, but then Grossmont quarterback Jacob Siegfried was intercepted by linebacker Reginald Prince, who returned it 16 yards for a touchdown which, after a failed extra point, gave the Olympians a 13-0 lead. After the Griffins lost possession on fourth down at their own 10 (due to another bad snap on a punt), Dunninway threw another touchdown pass to Dejon Smith to give Mesa a 20-0 lead. On Mesa’s next drive, Dunninway led the team on a 12-play, 69-yard drive that chewed up four minutes and 15 seconds of the clock, but Mesa lost a fumble on the Griffins’ 25-yard line. Grossmont gave the ball back on their next drive, and Dunninway completed his third score of the night, this to Isaiah Williams, making the score 27-0 going into the half.


In the third quarter, Mesa took the opening kickoff, but Dunninway was picked off by Derek Sutherland, who returned it 49 yards to get the Griffins on the board. Mesa quickly responded to it with Dunninway’s fourth touchdown pass of the night, a 79-yard pass to Joseph Morein to once again take a 27-point lead. After Grossmont failed on fourth down in Mesa territory, Mesa moved the ball to the Griffins’ side of the field, setting up a first-and-goal; the drive stalled, and Mesa was forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Justin Kaplan, making the score 37-7. Grossmont’s next drive ended with their only offensive touchdown of the night, with running back Jarius Burnette taking it in from the one yard line. After a failed onside kick, Kaplan added a 36-yard field goal to make it 40-14 late in the quarter. Both teams’ defenses took over in the fourth quarter, ensuring this would be the final score. A muffed punt by Grossmont in the closing seconds iced the victory.


Mesa made a statement in the win, but there is still a long season ahead, yet players are still highly confident. Running back Tyler Tutt, the Olympians’ leading rusher with 11 carries for 35 yards said, “We still got a lot of work to do, but we’ll get there.”


Mesa and Grossmont have a hard rivalry, something Coach Gary Watkins didn’t want lost on his team. “I don’t want anyone going over there,” pointing to where the Grossmont players were on the field. He also wanted to make sure the team kept their focus: “This is just one game. We got a long season ahead of us.”


Mesa will take to the road on Sept. 29 to play against Riverside, then they will get their bye week, preceding their first conference game of the year against El Cerrito on Oct. 13.