Mesa, AZ - In their biggest matchup of the season, the #6 Mesa Thunderbirds just couldn't keep up with the #2 Arizona Western Matadors. The Matadors defeated the T-Birds 45-21 Saturday night at John D. Riggs Stadium in front of a packed house.
Mesa started off good, getting an 18 yard touchdown run from Rathen Ricedorff to put Mesa ahead first, 7-0.
But the achilles heel all night for Mesa was its kick return coverage. The Matadors Kiesean Nixon had not one but two kickoff returns for touchdowns, all in the first quarter. He alone totalled over 200 yards on kickoff return.
After Nixon tied it at seven, the T-Birds again put together a nice drive, capped off with 12 yard catch and run touchdown from DeShawn Jones, putting Mesa back ahead, 14-7.
But Nixon returned his second touchdown, this time from goal line to goal line, tying the game at 14.
From there, Mesa's offense wouldn't score till late in the third quarter. The Matadors put 10 points on the board in the second quarter and scored first to begin the third quarter, putting Mesa's back to the wall, 31-14.
Ricedorff did connect with Darius Aguirre for a 34 yard touchdown but that's all Mesa had for points. Western added two more touchdowns to seal the deal and take the Western States Football League's best record for 2016.
Mesa however has nothing to hang their heads about. They will host the Valley of the Sun Bowl December 3rd because they had the best record out of all valley schools. The T-Birds haven't hosted a Valley of the Sun Game since 2007.
The T-Birds will be on the road for its season finale in Tucson next Saturday with kickoff at 7 p.m.