Huntington Beach, Calif. - It was a tough second half for the Golden West Rustlers in their 2019 home opener as they threw three interceptions in a 51-33 loss to San Diego Mesa.
The Ruslters (0-2) started the game with the ball and after one first down, the Olympians (2-0) forced a punt in which they blocked to setup their first drive at the Golden West 5 yard line. Two plays later, SD Mesa punched it in the endzone on a 6 yard pass from quarterback Thomas Yam to Dom McManus for an early 7-0 lead. The Rustlers would answer right back on their next drive as they put together an impressive nine play, 72 yard drive ending with a 34 yard pass from Nathaniel Espinoza to Adam Armstrong to tie it up 7-7.
SD Mesa had a quick repsonse themselves to take the lead right back 13-7 on a short six play, 45 yard drive that lasted all of 1 minute and 55 seconds. The rest of the first quarter stayed quiet as both teams traded quick negative yardage drives until Golden West started their march at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter. Tahje Morant got the rushing game going for Golden West with a couple of nice first down runs and then Espinoza capped the drive with a 5 yard pylon diving rushing TD to take the lead 14-13 following Jose Arredondo's made extra point try.
The specials teams play of the Olympians struck again as they blocked another punt, this time Isaiah Sayles scooped the ball and scored as he rumbled 33 yards to give Mesa the lead at 20-14.
The ensuing drive saw the Espinoza to Armstrong connection strike again, this time a 30 yard touchdown pass to take the lead back at 21-20. Not to be out done before halftime, Mesa sustained it's longest drive of the game going for 10 plays and 60 yards culminating with an impressive 41 yard field goal off the foot of Raul Reyes as time expired in the first half for a Mesa lead 23-21.
Mesa received the ball to start the second half and drove 75 yards on nine plays to extend their lead to 30-21.
The next drive for Golden West ended with the first of three interceptions thrown in the second half that led to Mesa building on their lead. Zach Lewis got thrusted into the game towards the end of the third quarter for a series and on his second play from scrimmage, he threw an interception at Mesa's 13 yard line.
Golden West would cut the lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter when Espinzoa would rush for his second touchdown of the game from five yards out to make a 37-27 ball game. Unfortunately, Mesa would score on their next two possessions and take a big lead late into the fourth quarter 51-27. The Rustlers would use their third quarterback of the game in the fourth quarter when Richard Wagner connected with Jeremiah Wright for a 26 yard touchdown strike to make it 51-33.
Morant led all rushers on the day with 54 yards on 14 attempts and Armstrong led the Rustlers receiving corps with four catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
NEXT: Golden West will be on the road in week three's contest at West LA College for a 1pm kickoff.