Badgers blast Mesa, 59-36
By John Hales
Sept. 21, 2017
MESA, Arizona—When the Snow College Badgers walked into John D. Riggs Stadium at Mesa Community College last Saturday, they could have done so with revenge on their collective mind. Not only did the Thunderbirds provide a 33-19 drubbing on Badger turf when the two teams met last year, but they stole a national No. 1 ranking away from Snow as well.
But they didn’t. They didn’t have any particular message to give to the Thunderbirds any more so than to other teams throughout the entire NJCAA.
No. 10-ranked Snow’s 59-36 demolition of Mesa, the NJCAA’s No. 6 team, sent that message loud and clear.
“We were trying to set the tone,” sophomore quarterback Shane Johnson said Monday, “let other teams know, just set the standard—and we really mean it.”
In their first four games this year, the Badgers are putting up an average of 58 points on the scoreboard per game.
“I think it’s pretty scary that we put points like that with the mistakes we make,” Johnson said. “Just wait until we play a complete game.”
Apart from a wealth of penalties (19, for which 158 penalty yards were assessed against Snow), it would be difficult for all but the very well-versed to see how the Badgers did not play a complete game against Mesa.
Complementing the Badgers’ perennial strong defense—which has been the teams “bread and butter” for years, says coach Paul Peterson—the Badgers demonstrated an aggressive, no let-up style of play that surged them ahead almost from the start.
For the first time this season, the Badgers fell behind their opponents at the outset. At only two minutes into the first quarter, Mesa scored after having the ball only 19 seconds—and only one play—off a Snow College punt.
Never again would Snow give the T-Birds that kind of chance. Although the Badgers had five more fourth downs during the game, a gutsy coach Peterson directed them to go for it every time. They converted twice.
That kind of aggressive hustle, also shown by liberal use of no-huddle offense, helped the Badgers to the win, and is what Peterson is building into his offense.
Speaking of those fourth-down attempts, Peterson said, “We’re always gonna do that, go for it,” at least when the ball is in the 50- to 30-yard-line opposing territory.
Of the team’s offensive style generally, “We’re going to attack, attack, attack.”
After Mesa’s first touchdown, Snow scored five unanswered touchdowns of their own, led by running back D’Arman Notoa (last week’s Western States Football League’s Offensive Player of the Week), whose capable legs ran the ball three times in under 15 minutes.
After those first two minutes, Snow’s offense was unstoppable (they trekked their way to 698 yards total offense), while the defense found Mesa to be quite stoppable.
Those two minutes were what have passed as the Badgers’ only real challenge so far this season.
“Our guys didn’t even flinch at that,” Peterson said. “They just kept going and going and going. It was a great test of adversity that we haven’t had very much of yet.”
The second half was much more subdued, with Snow scoring twice, but still maintaining possession of the ball for nearly as much time as Mesa did, keeping the T-Bird defenders on the field and tired.
“We were gassing them,” Peterson said.
But he admitted that, with a 45-21 lead by halftime, his players had perhaps become too comfortable for comfort. “We’re not gonna be complacent. We’ve got to address that, and stay in our attack mentality.”
Stats-wise, Notoa accounted for 141 yards and three touchdowns; quarterback Johnson ran for 120, threw for 244, and scored three touchdowns himself.
Despite those impressive numbers, it was wide receiver Leon Morgan (playing on quasi-home turf, being from Mesa himself) who was gainer of game—yet not through receptions. Morgan ran six different kickoff returns for 154 total yards.
When the Badgers walked off Riggs Field at the end of the game, it was, perhaps surprisingly, not with the satisfaction of revenge served cold, but only elation that might follow any win.
Peterson wasn’t at Snow last year when Mesa served up a heaping ladleful of disappointment; neither was quarterback Johnson. Neither, the coach said, were all but maybe 12 members of the Badger squad. He didn’t buy into any of that “revenge” talk.
“Our team is so new,” Peterson said. “We’re kinda setting a tone for what this era is going to be like.”
That era, if the first month of it is any indication, is going to be one of player-led, player-driven, cohesive teams. “They’ve bought into that, and they want it,” Peterson said. “They’re playing hard, and they’re playing for each other.”