Some might have thought Mesquite was limping into the playoffs after losses to a pair of state-ranked teams in Rockwall (No. 22) and Longview (No. 4) in their final regular season games.
But the Skeeters not only shoved the outcomes into the rear view mirror, they also took positives from those nights and that played out last week with a 52-6 rout of Killeen Shoemaker in a Class 6A Division I bi-district playoff game at Mansfield’s Vernon Newsom Stadium.
Next up for Mesquite (8-3), who won its first playoff game since 2012, is a tough challenge against Prosper (9-2), a 24-0 winner over Wylie, in an area round playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday at Allen’s Eagle Stadium.
A week ago, the Skeeters had their way with Shoemaker in a dominant effort and their largest margin of victory since a 51-0 playoff win over Molina in 2007.
Dylan Hillard-McGill rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns and also threw a 37-yard scoring strike to Ja’Darion Smith. K.B. Frazier, RJ Bonner and Smith also ran for touchdowns and the defense slammed the door, allowing only 151 yards.
Hillard McGill has accounted for 2,135 yards and 24 touchdowns passing and rushing. LaDarius Turner has 156 carries for 1,160 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per carry, and 14 scores.
Smith is averaging 20.5 yards per catch (28-573, 8 TDs), while Frazier and Bonner have also been solid targets.
Mesquite’s playmakers have produced a full highlight reel’s worth of touchdowns, with 28 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer.
That has carried over into special teams, as well, where Tyler Raleigh-O’Neal has three blocked punt returns for touchdowns and Gary Green and Smith have each returned kickoffs for scores.
The Mesquite defense has seen its share of star power but has done a pretty good job of limiting big performances, yielding six 100-yard rushing games and only two 200-yard passing games.
They will need that to continue against a Prosper offense that can be prolific both on the ground and through the air.
Quarterback Jackson Berry has completed better than 50 percent of his passes in all 11 games this season. Overall, he has a 65 percent completion rate with 2,227 yards and 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Running back JT Land has rushed for 1,053 yards and 14 touchdowns with six 100-yard performances.
The Eagles have several capable receivers, but their 1-2 punch of Hayden Metcalf (41-772, 10 TDs) and Tyler Bailey (50-509, 11 TDs) is one of the most dangerous in the area.
The X-factor could be turnovers. Mesquite has 27 takeaways on the season, including five last week, and is plus-12 in turnover margin overall. Prosper, conversely, has only 16 takeaways and is even on turnover margin for the season.