For the first time in three years, Sunnyvale was looking to bounce back from a regular season loss.
The Raiders had their chances, but Melissa was opportunistic in its own right, and backed by a huge throwing night by quarterback Sam Fennegan, they pulled away for a 58-28 victory on Friday at Cardinal Stadium.
Melissa improves to 2-0 on the young season, while Sunnyvale falls to 0-2, albeit against two teams who are expected to make some noise in the playoffs.
The Raiders dug themselves an early hole, as Melissa’s Damon Youngblood picked off a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
Sunnyvale had a swift response, as Obi Arinze, who tallied more than 200 yards on the ground, ripped off a huge run and Max McAda then found Noah McDill for a 20-yard scoring strike to even it at 7-7.
The Cardinals started to take control during the remainder of the first quarter.
Though both teams hurt themselves with mistakes, Melissa regained the advantage with a field goal and Fennegan then found Antonio Robinson for a touchdown pass to push the lead to 16-7.
Fennegan hooked up with Damon Youngblood for a touchdown pass early in the second quarter as the Cardinals threatened to run away with it.
The Raiders temporarily stemmed the tide, as McAda hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jake Taylor to draw to within 23-14, but Melissa used the big play to regain momentum, as Fennegan threw a 81-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Kusano to take a 30-14 advantage into halftime.
The Cardinals got the ball to start the second half and methodically drove the field, with Jaylen Williams finding the end zone on a short run as the lead swelled to 37-14.
Sunnyvale tried to hang around, as Arinze broke free for a 68-yard touchdown run, but Melissa again had an immediate answer, with Ashton Mitchell-Johnson scoring on a short run to make it 44-21 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Raiders would get back within striking distance early in the final frame when Rigdon Yates threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to McAda, but Fennegan would add two more scoring strikes to put the game away.
The non-district road gets no easier for Sunnyvale as it hits the road for the third consecutive week to take on Kennedale at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
The Wildcats return 14 starters from last year’s team, which went 7-4 and won a district championship.
The key for the Raiders could be containing Kennedale’s run-oriented offene with running back Keirahyn Brown, Marlete Joyner and Ife Adeyemi.
After surrendering nearly 600 rushing yards in the opener against Waco Connally, Sunnyvale did a much better job against the run last week, allowing less than three yards per carry.
In addition to their work on offense, Taylor and McAda have been active on the other side of the ball, as well. Taylor has a team-high 27 tackles, with five for loss, while McAda has 25 stops. Taylor, Landry Laird, Joey Bruszer and Hudson Smith also have interceptions this season.