Because last week didn't go the way the Mexico varsity football team was hoping, the squad was ready to take it to California at home on Friday.
Instead, the Pintos managed to keep the game scoreless in the first quarter and even took an 8-0 lead into halftime before the Bulldogs righted the ship by reeling off four-straight second-half touchdowns to come out ahead 28-14.
"We kept putting the ball on the ground and making mistakes offensively. Our defense played really well," said coach Steve Haag. "We gave up one slant pass, but we were playing field position all night, just like last week. They were playing on a short field and that's tough. Our defense played really well all night except maybe that one drive. We just kept giving them a short field. Offensively we can't wait until the second half to get going. We should have seen that kind of output in the first half."
Even though there was no scoring in the initial stanza of this contest, Mexico did fumble the ball away early before Cameron Holman stepped up to make an interception. It was the second where things truly went wrong for the Bulldogs, though, and it started at 8:55 when their punter was sacked in the endzone for a safety trying to punt the ball away on fourth down and 11 from inside their own three yard line.
"Cameron Holman is a player. He loves to run and he loves to hit, and that makes a great football player," Haag said. "Tonight he got going offensively and tonight he did a great job running our defense and getting our defensive backs going. That's what happens when you play together. Last week we had guys in different spots and they were missing their reads. Tonight defensively we were making all those reads, and it worked out."
Now up 2-0, California took over at its own 42 yard line on the ensuing possession and connected on a 53-yard pass play on the first play from scrimmage to make it first and goal on the Mexico five yard line. The Bulldogs defense then spent the next three plays stifling the Pintos attack, only to see Cory Friedmeyer turn a hard corner on a sweep left on fourth down and five to put his team up 8-0 after the two-point conversion attempt was no good.
Even though the rest of the second quarter was incredibly hard-hitting, it wasn't until Jasean White's interception for Mexico at 11:39 of the third put his team at the California 21-yard line that the tide truly began to turn. True to form, Cameron Holman then once again finished the drive off for the Bulldogs on a 14-yard scoring sprint at 6:59 that he followed with a successful two-point conversion jaunt to tie the score at 8-8.
"Jasean did another good job. He gets better every week. He's fast, tall and athletic," Haag said. "Defensively is where he shined last year and again this year. Now he's also running the ball a bit, so he's going to continue to improve and that's what we need."
The end of the third was almost as dynamic for Mexico because it drove all the way down to the four-yard line, but a late fumble allowed California to take over at it's own two and start the fourth at second down and eight. Fortunately, the Bulldogs were able to get the ball back with 10:26 left to play at the California 33-yard line and just kept blasting away. Finally, White was able to run the final two yards and score at 8:01 to give his squad their first lead at 15-8 after Gage Gilmore connected on the PAT.
Next up for Mexico was quarterback Jon Grubb with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Holman at 6:51 that made the score 22-8. While that was all set up by the Mexico special teams knocking down the punter on fourth down and recovering the fumble, shortly there after the Bulldogs defense then bullied the California offense deep in its own territory. That resulted in Tyler Talley sacking the Pintos quarterback in his own endzone to score Mexico's final touchdown of the night.
"Dillon Nichols is a tough kid. He's a wrestler and does a good job at that," Haag said. "He's just a phenomenal athlete. He plays low to the ground and is physical and quick. We're so glad he came out for football this year because he brings a whole other element to the defense when he's in there."
On the last play of the game California did post one final touchdown on a 23-yard pass, but it then failed to convert its two-point attempt and the game was over.
Mexico, 1-1 overall, begins North Central Missouri Conference competition at home on Friday against Marshall.
"We hope to get off to a better start next week. I don't know a whole lot about Marshall because I haven't seen them yet," said Haag. "We'll look at some film of them (Saturday) and see what they bring offensively and defensively, but when it comes down to it, it's about what we do. I told the kids at halftime it's not about them. It's about us."