2023 High School Football

Mica Mountain overpowers Mesquite to earn seventh straight victory dating to last year

Mesquite quarterback Phillip Jones II (12) was on the constant lookout for Mica Mountain defensive end Jimmy Leon, who was in the backfield causing havoc (D’Andre Davis/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

“Hey, Mr. Morales, we saw that they picked us to lose?” a Mica Mountain player said on the sidelines in the waning minutes of Friday night’s game.

“Who?” I answered.

“AZCentralwhat were they thinking?”

I was as stumped as Mesquite’s offense going against the likes of defensive end Jimmy Leon, middle linebacker Kason Colbert and safety Josiah Thornwell in the Thunderbolts’ 34-12 victory at home.

“In my opinion, that was a dominant football game right there; there was no question who was winning that game tonight,” Mica Mountain coach Pat Nugent said. “That’s what we showed and hopefully the Phoenix schools realize what we have and now it’s back to Tucson and we’re ready to play bigger football.”

The 2-0 Thunderbolts, of the 4A Kino, will host 3A South power Sabino (3-0) on Friday in one of this season’s most anticipated games.

The showcase game highlights the gradual emergence of football in Southern Arizona, often criticized for lacking competitive teams because of perceived dwindling interest and participation.

Downtrodden programs Rincon/University, Cholla and Catalina are each 2-0 to start the season after going a combined 21-97 over the last five seasons.

Mica Mountain is only in its third year of existence at the varsity level and the Thunderbolts are on a seven-game winning streak dating to last year, when they won all five of their 4A Kino games to win the region championship.

“This whole team has grown overall,” said junior quarterback Jayden Thoreson, who experienced considerable playing time as a freshman in the Thunderbolt’s inaugural season in 2021. “We returned our whole offense from last year. Two weeks in, I’ve only been sacked once. Our whole team’s growing as a whole.”

Conversely, Mica Mountain’s defense, led by Leon and Colbert in the front seven, is producing sacks at a high rate.

In convincing wins over Poston Butte and Mesquite, the Thunderbolts have tallied eight sacks, including six against Mesquite’s elusive quarterback Phillip Jones II on Friday night.

Leon, a junior who was offered a scholarship by ASU during the summer, has three sacks in the first two games.

“We were back there (in Mesquite’s backfield) … most of the D-line were back there,” Leon said. “When (Jones was) throwing the ball, the receivers are dropping it. When we’re in the throwing lane, he’s cussing. He’s clearly frustrated.

“That’s telling us that we’re doing our job.”

Of Mesquite’s 31 rushing attempts, 19 were for 2 yards or less.

The Wildcats finished with only 66 yards on 31 attempts.

Jones completed 20 of 33 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns and an interception (that was returned 64 yards by Thornwell, setting up a touchdown for the Thunderbolts).

Most of those yards for Jones were in the fourth quarter, when Nugent replaced a majority of his first-team defense.

Jones was 12 of 22 for 94 yards with no touchdowns and the interception heading into the fourth quarter.

“Our defense, I mean, we shut them out, until the 2’s got in,” Nugent said. “We gave up some yardage, but the old bend but don’t break. We figured a way to contain him (Jones) a little bit and we made some tackles.

“Defense was tough tonight.”

Mica Mountain faced disaster early after a fumble on a punt return resulted in Mesquite having the ball at the Thunderbolt 30 with 8:22 left in the first quarter.

The defense forced a turnover on downs in a four-and-out that included a sack of Jones by Colbert, who was the AllSportsTucson.com APS Digital Print/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week for his 16-tackle and 137-yard rushing performance at Poston Butte last week.

After that defensive stop, Mica Mountain seemed invincible.

The Thunderbolts scored a touchdown on three of their last four possessions of the first half to take a 21-0 lead.

— Thoreson completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Garcia with 3:42 left in the first quarter.

— After Thornwell’s interception, returned to the Mesquite 8, Conner Hangarner rushed twice to the 1, where Colbert ran it in with 10:24 left in the half.

— Colbert scored on a 10-yard run with 47.9 seconds left to halftime. He rushed four times for 40 yards in that 76-yard drive that took only 1:22. Thoreson, operating Mica Mountain’s no-huddle, fast-tempo offense to perfection, completed 4 of 5 passes for 36 yards.

Thoreson was again impeccable in Mica Mountain’s opening drive of the second half that went 69 yards in 2:40, capped by Thornwell’s 10-yard touchdown run. Thoreson was 3 of 4 for 64 yards in the possession.

“As a whole, it’s hard to stop us when we get going,” said Thoreson, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

He spread the ball to seven different receivers, with Jack Bradley having four receptions for 48 yards and Garcia making two catches for 50 yards.

Colbert was the leading rusher with 67 yards on eight carries.

Next up: The Sabercats, who are 3-0 after defeating Crismon 53-20 on Friday night.

No predictions here.

AllSportsTucson.com only previews games and does not predict.

“Tunnel vision,” Leon said about the team’s mindset preparing for the Sabercats. “We’re 0-0 this week. Stay locked in. Another tough team.”


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top