Mesquite and Coppell returned to the football field for the first time in more than nine months on Friday and parts of the night looked much like one might expect.
There were penalties and there were mistakes, but it was also football and everybody in the stadium was happy to be there.
Both teams enjoyed their share of highlights, but the Cowboys were a little sharper and that proved to be the difference in a 36-21 victory at E.H. Hanby Stadium.
“I was proud of the kids’ effort, their physicality,” Coppell head coach Mike DeWitt said. “It has been a long, long offseason to try to get to Week 1 and I’m super excited we got here and I’m proud of the effort.”
Coppell scored on its opening possession and opened a 19-0 lead in the first half.
The Cowboys were in complete control when Ryan Walker hit KJ Liggins for a 30-yard scoring strike to make it 26-7, but Mesquite threatened to change the course of the night late in the third quarter.
The Skeeters got a safety when a snap sailed over the head of the punter and then hit on their biggest play of the night when Chance Edwards found Jacolby Thomas for a 39-yard touchdown pass to draw to within 29-15.
After forcing a punt, Mesquite drove down inside the red zone, but Coppell’s Charlie Barker came up with a huge interception in the end zone to squash the chance.
The Cowboys then embarked on a 77-yard drive that Jason Ngwu capped with his third touchdown run of the night, this one on a 15-yard run on third-and-10, to give them a 36-15 advantage with 8:02 left.
The Skeeters would find the end zone one more time on a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Rodriguez, but by that time, there were only nine seconds left and Coppell was already celebrating on the sideline.
“They are a great football team, they do a lot of good things offensively, defensively, they are big up front so we just decided we are going to concentrate on us. We weren’t going to put a lot of stock into what they were going to do, we’re just going to try to get better and go execute,” DeWitt said. “We want to be able to run the football, obviously, but we also want to take shots, we feel like we have the weapons to do that and the coaches came up with a great game plan and the kids executed.”
Walker finished the night with an efficient 17-of-25 performance, going for 225 yards and a touchdown, with Liggins hauling in five catches for 101 yards.
Ngwu was the workhorse with 30 carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
Mesquite used both Hunter Nucci and Edwards under center, with Edwards passing for 107 yards and a pair of scores. Anthony Roberts shouldered the load in the ground game, with 20 carries for 91 yards.
The first half looked like a typical season opener. There were dropped passes, missed blocks and the teams were whistled for a combined 15 penalties for 181 yards during the first two quarters alone.
But it was the Cowboys who were able to take advantage of their opportunities and it started on their first drive, as they marched 83 yards in 12 plays, with Ngwu bulling in from a yard out to take a 7-0 lead with 7:51 left in the first quarter.
The Skeeters quickly went three-and-out and disaster struck when they snap to the punter was high, resulting in a safety and a 9-0 margin.
Coppell got good field position at the Mesquite 48 and went right back to work. The Cowboys twice converted on fourth down—once on a 2-yard run by Ngwu and again on a 13-yard completion from Walker to Anthony Black—and Ngwu again capped it with a 3-yard run to push the lead to16-0.
The Skeeters picked up a first down on a nice 38-yard hookup from Hunter Nucci to Thomas, but turned the ball over on downs. Coppell then got a big passing play of its own, when Walker found Dylan Nelson for a 52-yard gain and that led to a 26-yard field goal by Tyler Reid to make it 19-0.
Mesquite finally got untracked with a 14-play, 66-yard drive, with Edwards finding Gervin McCarthy for a 10-yard scoring strike to cut it to 19-7.
But the Skeeters’ inability to stop Coppell continued and Reid added a 42-yard field goal to make it 22-7 going into halftime.
While Mesquite threatened to close the gap to a one-score game and make in interesting, the Cowboys were able to maintain their lead until the end.
“It was awesome,” DeWitt said. “Just to be back in football mode, be around the kids this week in practice, be able to get on the bus and come play a game, it was awesome.”