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Last-minute drive foiled

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Colorado Mesa stuffed what would’ve been a game-winning drive at its own 3-yard line with 17 seconds left Saturday, sealing a critical victory over New Mexico Highlands, 22-17, before a crowd of 2,000 at Perkins Stadium.

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After falling to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in league play, the Cowboys and head coach Eric Young now face an uphill battle in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference football chase.

NMHU will play at Western State on Saturday in Gunnison, Colo., then return to the Perk to host Adams State for homecoming on Oct. 19.

Despite several miscues over the course of the contest, Highlands had a good shot at taking the win. The Cowboys took possession with 2:25 left and marched 72 yards in 11 plays before stalling.

Brandon Johnson’s run on fourth-and-goal from the CMU 3 was met with a crunching stop from Ryan Lendrum and Travis McRae, and the Mavericks took over on downs.

NMHU trailed 19-10 at halftime.

Jake Cimolino began the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run at the 7:42 mark of the first quarter. The Cowboys blocked the extra point attempt, keeping it 6-0.

A Highlands turnover gave the ball back to Mesa not long thereafter. Notably, the Cowboy defense managed to keep the Mavs out of the end zone.

Eli Williams converted a 21-yard field goal to pad Mesa’s lead to 9-0 with 4:27 left in the period.

Then Emmanuel Lewis led the Cowboys on an eight-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a strong catch-and-run by Michael Harrison for a 38-yard touchdown. With 9:56 to go before halftime, Highlands had cut the gap to 9-7.

Mesa’s Tanner Donahue booted a 22-yard field goal that made it 12-7 with 8:30 left in the half.

Highlands’ kicker Zach Tapia replied, drilling an improbable 56-yard field goal to get his team within two points, 12-10, with 5:03 on the clock.

But the Cowboy defense failed to seal off the edges on Jason Haferman’s pass to D.J. Hubbard, and Hubbard found daylight for a 44-yard TD with just 34 seconds remaining.

The Cowboys drove quickly downfield but ran out of time, although Young protested that one second should’ve been left on the clock, a second that would’ve allowed for a field goal try.

Akeelie Mustafa’s 44-yard TD rush, part of his 103-yard rushing day, cut the margin to 19-17 with 11:08 left in the third quarter.

Donahue hit a key 31-yard field goal fro Mesa with 2:25 remaining, forcing the Cowboys to drive the length of the field.
Lewis finished 34 for 54 for 427 yards passing.