Mendoza's mad dash gives Trojans 36-35 OT win
After a second half fueled by both offenses, the game came down to a big special teams’ play in the first overtime as senior receiver/holder Blake Mendoza raced to the corner of the home side of the end zone to give Dyersburg a 36-35 win over visiting Bolivar on Friday night at J.C. Sawyers Stadium.
“I am truly proud of all three phases of the game tonight,” Dyersburg head coach Bart Stowe said. “It was a total team win.
“Offense, defense and special teams – it took all three phases to win. We knew we had to do good in all three – we couldn’t just do well in two. We had to do well in all three and make plays in all three.”
The extra frame began ominously for the Trojans as Bolivar quarterback Trey Lowe scored on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, covering all 10 yards for the score. Things went from bad to worse on the extra-point attempt as not only did Tiger kicker Josh Sturgis hit his fifth PAT of the night, but the Trojans were flagged for roughing the kicker, resulting in a 15-yard penalty being assessed on Dyersburg to start their possession in the first overtime.
Beginning at the 25-yard line, the Trojan offense came out looking unphased as Chris Russell covered almost half the distance to the goal on the first play down the left side of the offensive line. Still needing 13 yards to go, the Trojans got it on the next play, getting a Tavarius Currie run to the right to get Dyersburg into the end zone and cut the Tiger lead to 35-34.
The Trojans lined up as though they would go for the extra point and extend it into another overtime frame. But, after the ball was snapped, Mendoza pulled off an effective fake on Daniel Gutierrez’s kick, picking up the ball then racing around the left side of the offense as he beat the defenders into the end zone for the two-point conversion to give the Trojans the one-point win and erupt the black and gold crowd.
“It’s something coach (Randy) Newsome has been working on all year long,” Stowe said. “We would get the look and we had people in the box telling us it was there.
“Our kids executed it. It’s one thing to run it, but our kids executed it and I was so proud of them.”
Bolivar took their only lead of the game late in the first quarter, getting a 14-yard run by Lowe to cap off a 61-yard, five-play drive with 3:02 left in the stanza. The extra point put Central up 7-0.
Dyersburg answered on its next drive, highlighted by a 33-yard pass from Preston Seyl to Mendoza to take the Trojans into the red zone. On the first play of the second quarter, Seyl followed the surge of his line into the end zone for the touchdown from one yard out. Gutierrez’s extra point tied the score at 7-7 five seconds into the frame.
The Trojans completed a bookend of second-quarter scores late in the frame as Dyersburg marched 80 yards on 13 plays as Mendoza got the ball on an end around to score from 12 yards out to put the Trojans on top. The PAT gave Dyersburg a 14-7 lead heading into the half.
The Trojans looked as though they would go up by two touchdowns early in the second half as Seyl broke free on a keeper. But, a hard hit near the Bolivar sideline caused the quarterback to fumble and the Tigers fell on the ball at the 4-yard line.
Bolivar mimicked the Trojans’ second-quarter drive, covering 96 yards on 13 plays – aided by 25 yards in Trojan penalties – as Corey Brown scored from three yards out. The extra point tied the score at 14-14 with 3:57 left in the frame.
“It shouldn’t have been as close as it was,” Stowe said. “That fumble down there in the third quarter really hurt us.
“But, I am proud of our team. They bounced back from it, matured and found a way to win.”
The Trojans answered on their next drive, as Dyersburg covered 82 yards on nine plays, capped by a Seyl pass to Mendoza for six yards to put Dyersburg back on top with nine seconds left in the frame. The PAT pushed the Dyersburg lead to 21-14.
Bolivar though, answered with a quick drive, scoring on the third play with a 52-yard touchdown from Lowe to Sturgis with 10:29 left in the game. The extra point tied the game for the second time of the half at 21-21.
The offense continued to dominate the game as Dyersburg’s next drive covered 53 yards before ending on a four-yard Mendoza run. The extra point put the Trojans up 28-21 with 7:42 left.
Again, the Tigers were quick to answer, getting a Lowe pass to K.J. Murden for 35-yards and a score with 7:02 left in regulation. The extra point tied the game up again at 28-28.
The score remained knotted up at four scores apiece as both defenses were finally able to stop the opposing offenses, setting up the overtime frame.
All totaled, Dyersburg rushed for 260 yards and got 121 more through the air while the Tigers covered 204 yards on the ground, but threw for 222 yards.
“We’ve both got a different approach to how we do it,” Stowe said of the opposing offenses on Friday. “Two high-octane offenses doing well.
“I am really proud of our defense – they did a lot of good things too. I know offense scores a lot of points but defense played well and special teams played well.”
Currie paced the Trojan running game with 127 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Mendoza had two catches for 57 yards and a touchdown while rushing for two more scores and the game-winning two-pointer.
The win moves the Trojans overall record to 5-2 on the year as they prepare for a very important Region 7-4A game next Friday night when Dyersburg welcomes Ripley to town with both teams needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“The momentum you build now and how you get better, takes you through,” the Trojan head coach said. “We want to take momentum into the playoffs and into next week.
“It’s a big homecoming game with playoff implications on that game.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday night at J.C. Sawyers Stadium.