Originally Published: August 19, 2017 7:15 a.m.
SPRING VALLEY — Mayer’s football team enjoyed this particular dose of déjà vu on Friday night.
Nearly a year to the day that the 1A Wildcats pounded Greyhills Academy in their 2016 opener, Mayer routed the Fightin’ Knights, 56-0, in a Week Zero non-region game to begin the 2017 season at Mathern Field.
Last fall, the Wildcats cruised to a 66-22 victory in Tuba City. Only this time, Mayer pitched a convincing shutout. Wildcats senior quarterback Dylan Wilhide impressed, completing 5 of 5 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran five times for 43 yards and four TDs. With a win in hand early in the second half, Wilhide rested on the sideline for most of the final 24 minutes of regulation.
The athletic, shifty and speedy Wilhide, responsible for six scores, was understandably thrilled afterward.
“I felt good [coming into the game],” Wilhide said. “I’m pretty proud of how my line did for me. I just came in and tried to work on the little things – help my team buy time for my wide receivers to get downfield and find some open lanes. I was feeling confident about my team, and I feel real comfortable with this team this year.”
Beefy senior fullback Dacodah Jensen also had a productive evening, running for 65 yards on five carries, including a 31-yard touchdown scamper. He hauled in a 37-yard TD catch from Wilhide on a gorgeous pass play underneath to begin the second quarter. Jensen credited the coaching staff, led by Mike Gutierrez, for putting the Wildcats in a position to succeed this season.
“Our team effort’s really great – our team enthusiasm is really great,” Jensen said. “I gotta say that we can’t work together without being a team.”
Garrett Urquides, who relieved Wilhide at quarterback with five minutes left in the third quarter, completed a 52-yard pass to Cody Colquitt.
He primarily paced the Wildcats at the receiver position, however, making three catches for 93 yards, including an 18-yard TD grab. Backup tailback Wyatt Frye had five carries for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Mayer led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 42-0 by halftime. The Wildcats’ sizeable lead allowed for a running clock in the second half.
Greyhills committed eight penalties for 40 yards in losses. The Fightin’ Knights’ option offense was whistled for six false starts and their defense went offsides twice. Greyhills fumbled seven times and was fortunate to lose only three of them, surrendering 18 points off turnovers.
“Tonight, our chemistry was off,” said Fightin’ Knights coach Kyle Blackrock, whose team took a three-hour bus ride from Tuba City to Mayer on Friday. “So, we’re looking into come back Tuesday and building that chemistry. We’ve got to execute.”
The Wildcats’ defense played well, too. Mayer sacked Greyhills quarterback Tyrique Bartlett twice and limited the Fightin’ Knights offense to 13 yards passing and 190 yards rushing.
On Greyhills’ final drive, tailback Vincent Serrano busted free from the Mayer defense for an 81-yard rush and nearly scored. But Mayer’s Clinton Swink caught up with Serrano and pulled him down at the Wildcats’ 14-yard line. Mayer would later clinch the shutout, as the fourth-quarter clock expired.
On Friday, Mayer fought for yards, hounded the ball carrier and, above all, looked like a seasoned group – thanks in large part to its regularly scheduled offseason workouts. The Wildcats are bigger, stronger and faster than last fall, and it showed.
“We’ve been preaching second and third effort – playing whistle to whistle,” said coach Gutierrez, whose 2016 squad finished with a 6-3 overall record and lost in the first round of the 1A state playoffs. “And sometimes last year we would stop too early on our plays. We’re doing a better job with that.”
Mayer travels to traditional eight-man power St. David for its Week 1 contest next Friday, Aug. 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. In 2016, St. David reached the 1A state semifinals, losing to defending state champion Bagdad, 54-12, last November at Maricopa High School. Mayer lost to St. David, 69-20, this past September on the road.
Wilhide and Jensen said that they and the rest of the team are up for the challenge. They want to keep improving.
“We’ve got little things that we need to fix and we’ve got to work harder each and every week,” Wilhide said. “We can’t take them [St. David] as a joke no more. We got beat by them last year pretty bad. We need to do our thing.”
Added Jensen, “Don’t settle. Work harder on what we do. We need to get better at our routes we’re running. We need to get better at the little things and, overall, become a better team – become closer, because we’re a close-knit team. I just want to be closer with everyone and I want to go out there and have fun.”