SAN TAN VALLEY — The Poston Butte Broncos had a feeling Friday night was going to be a shootout with the Gilbert Mesquite Wildcats in town.
They weren’t wrong.
Combining for 15 touchdowns, the two teams battled back and forth all night, with the Wildcats taking a 54-52 win over the host Broncos on homecoming.
“It was an awesome battle. It’s what high school football is all about,” Broncos coach Dain Thompson said after the game. “The highs and lows of the game, the change in momentum, the passion that they play with and overcoming obstacles for both teams.
“It’s an emotional ending, especially for some of the seniors, but it doesn’t take away how proud I am of how passionately and how hard they play.”
The teams traded blows for most of the second half after the Wildcats grabbed a 28-24 lead at halftime.
They kept the momentum to start the second half, recovering a Broncos fumble and taking it 52 yards for the score. But even with three straight scores, the Broncos weren’t out of it.
While the Wildcats found success through the air behind the arm of junior quarterback Ty Thompson, the Broncos were the polar opposite, using a dynamic running game to stay with Mesquite.
Much of the damage done on the ground came from the three-headed monster of juniors Gavin Lloyd and Zion Burns and senior Khalil Cooper. The trio accounted for more than 400 yards, each over 100 yards, and six of the team’s seven scores.
“It was one of the best backfield efforts that I’ve got to coach,” Thompson said. “I knew we were never going to be out.”
The running game undoubtedly kept Poston Butte in the game as it trimmed a 10-point deficit to just two early on in the fourth quarter. But much like the first three quarters, Thompson wouldn’t be denied, scoring his seventh touchdown with 7:03 remaining.
With time still left to play, the Broncos drove down the field, methodically using their running backs and mobile quarterback to move the chains.
Then came power running from Burns, who capped the late drive with a 4-yard scamper to cut the Wildcats’ lead to two points, leaving a two-point conversion try to tie the score.
Going with what was working, Burns got the call again, running with a full head of steam into the open hole. But as he found his opening, the line collapsed on the running back, knocking him back just inches from the goal line and seemingly ending the Broncos’ night.
But even in defeat, the opposition saw the Broncos’ grit on the field, as Wildcats coach Scott Hare made it a point to let Thompson know how impressed he was with how hard Poston Butte played.