Prior to Friday's varsity football Homecoming game against North Central Missouri Conference rival Boonville, Mexico appeared primed to take yet another step towards claiming a league championship.
Instead, with 1:08 left in regulation, the Bulldogs were down 24-21 and had the ball at first down and 10 on their own 21 yard line. Two plays and 10 seconds later, in an attempt to move the ball downfield, quarterback Jon Grubb looked to throw the ball down the left sideline. But, while that's exactly what he did, the end result was an interception by the Pirates' Josh Polk at the Mexico 40-yard line that sealed this upset victory for the visitors.
"We're not a passing team. They knew we were going to pass. We had people around the ball, but that's just part of the game," said coach Steve Haag. "We didn't play with any emotion. We let Homecoming and the Hannibal game (a 28-14 road victory last Friday) take over. We took Boonville for granted like we were going to win the game automatically. When that's how you play, you lose the ballgame and you move on with life."
On the drive immediately preceding Mexico's final stand, Boonville was trailing 21-16 and had the ball at its own 15-yard line with 3:37 left in the game. Shortly there after on third down and six Pirates' signal caller Kole Ficken overthrew his receiver down the right sideline. The problem was, after bouncing off the chest of a Bulldogs defensive back, Boonville's Brandon Johnson snatched the ball out of midair and rumbled all the way down to the Mexico 28 yard line.
Several plays later and it was Ficken that reached the endzone for the Pirates on a four-yard burst up the middle to make it a one-point game at 22-21. Ficken then capped off this drive for Boonville by connecting on the two-point pass to Johnson to make it a three-point game with just 78 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The scoring in this contest began towards the end of the first quarter after a fumble gave Boonville a first down and 10 at the Mexico 16-yard line at 6:22. That set up a short scoring blast by Ficken at 5:13 that gave the Pirates a 7-0 lead, which only lasted until 2:52 when Avion Williams charted the equalizer for the Bulldogs on a 31-yard sprint on third down and three with the help of a well-timed offsides call.
Fast forward to 10:39 of the second and Boonville got back in the drivers seat 10-7 on a 32-yard field goal by Thomas Simmons. While most of the rest of this stanza went back-and-forth without any scoring, when the Pirates took possession at 2:03 on their own 38 yard line, they quickly moved their way to the Mexico 20. After converting a close third down and one from the Mexico 11-yard line, Ficken threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Adam Edler that made it a 16-7 contest going into halftime.
"(When Holman ran the fake punt from the Mexico 30 yard line to the Boonville 28 yard line on fourth down and five at 2:42 of the third), we talked about that at halftime. In was a little nervous about where we were when he did it but he's a playmaker," said Haag. "Cameron can make it happen , so he did."
The action in the third didn't truly start rolling until 9:56 when Terrese Aaron forced his way through the offensive line to block a punt for Mexico. When Dillon Nichols then recovered the ball to give the team first down and 10 at the Boonville 27 yard line, that set up several Cameron Holman touchdown jaunts, the first of which came at 6:26 and cut the deficit to 16-14. When Holman repeated that feat on fourth down and six from the 10-yard line at :20, the Bulldogs finally had the lead at 21-16.
"We called a blocked punt and we got after it. They got through, got a hand on the ball and it was a big play for us," Haag said. "We ended up scoring after. You hope things will work out like that, and they did that time."
Mexico, 3-2 overall, has a non-league game next Friday at Centralia.
Boonville, 3-2 overall, hosts Kirksville for a NCMC game on Sept. 22.