Olympians Extinguish Comets to Close Season

Ian Caffarel, Staff Writer

All good things must come to an end. Mesa Olympians Football season being one of them. Before the game, the sophomores on the team, in their final season of eligibility, were recognized, prior to them and the rest of Coach Gary Watkins’ squad administering a 41-21 steamrolling against Palomar College’s Comets to close out the season in style. Two of the sophomores, quarterback Jake Dunninway and wide receiver Dejon Smith, when asked if they enjoyed the game, had the same thing to say: “Yeah.”


Dunninway completed 31 of his 47 passes for 463 yards, six touchdowns, and an interception, and was Mesa’s–and the game’s–leading rusher with 36 yards on 14 carries. Smith was Dunninway’s top target of the night, catching a dozen passes for 213 yards and two scores.


Palomar’s first drive ended in a three-and-out, and Mesa took the ball; they drove well into Comets territory, but kicker Justin Kaplan missed a 40-yard field goal. The Comets capitalized on the early miscue when quarterback Connor Curry threw a 77-yard strike to Mikel Barkley on the very next play, putting the visitors up by a touchdown. Both teams’ next drives ended in punts; Mesa once again drove into Palomar territory, but lost a fumble on a botched field goal attempt early in the second quarter. The Comets were forced to punt once again; five plays into Mesa’s next drive, Dunninway found Rashaun Brown for a 56-yard score to tie things up at seven apiece. Mesa then tried an onside kick, which worked out for two reasons: first, they recovered it and second, Dunninway ended the drive with a 19-yard pass to Smith to make the score 14-7, which it would remain going into halftime.


Mesa’s first drive of the second half ended in a punt, then Curry was picked off by defensive back Damurier Palmer, who took it to the Comets’ 12. Three plays later, Dunninway found tight end Austin Rumbo for a 12-yard touchdown to extend Mesa’s lead even further to 21-7. The Comets were forced to punt, and Dunninway, on the fourth play of the drive, found Smith again for a 71-yard pass to increase Mesa’s lead even more, this time to 28-7. Palomar drove to Mesa’s 21-yard line and threatened to cut into Mesa’s lead, but defensive back Anthony Barksdale, another sophomore, picked off Curry’s pass in the end zone to preserve the lead. Dunninway lead the offense from their own 20 on a 14-play drive that had three third-down conversions and used much of the rest of the quarter to set up his fifth touchdown pass, this time to Dominic McManus, to even further widen the lead to 35-7. Early in the fourth quarter, after an interception on a failed fake punt, Dunninway found Isaiah Williams for his sixth and last touchdown pass of the night, to make the score 41-7 (after a missed extra point.) Curry would then find Barkley and Anthony Russell for a pair of garbage time touchdowns to make the final 41-21.


After the game, Coach Watkins told the team, “All of them thinking it was a good idea to go to Palomar, you showed them they were wrong!”


Mesa finishes the season with a 4-6 record, with the win against Palomar being the lone win in conference play.

(Note: This was originally written for November; it is being published now due to some slight delays.)