Uhl, Johnson, Thompson Help Mesa Improve Record to 3-1

Murrieta Mesa's Blake Johnson (5) heads up the field on his way to a school-record 80-yard interception return for a touchdown. By A...

Murrieta Mesa's Blake Johnson (5) heads up the field on his way to a school-record 80-yard interception return for a touchdown.

By Aaron Rachman

Peyton Uhl led the Murrieta Mesa High School Rams to a 31-27 victory over Palm Springs in their homecoming game Friday night. Uhl passed for three touchdowns in the game to help Mesa to a 3-1 record.

Uhl's last touchdown pass covered 40 yards to Rodrick Futrell with less than five minutes left in the game to put the Rams back on top for good. Palm Springs (3-1) had taken a 27-24 lead by marching 80 yards to a touchdown after the Rams' Mateo Thompson missed a 56-yard field goal attempt.

Earlier in the game, Thompson booted a 53-yard field goal, trying his own school record.

"I looked up at the flags and they were laying flat," coach Justin Schaeffer said about the decision to let Thompson try the 56-yard field goal. "I knew if he missed, they would just get the ball at the 20 anyway. I hoped he'd get a little bit of gust. But hey, he made the 53-yarder, and he had a good eight to 10 yards to spare."

Uhl, who passed for 202 yards, said a good week of practice and coaching tips put him in position to have a good game.

"The last couple weeks, I haven't been making my reads the way I should," Uhl said. "All week, coach Schaeffer really worked with me on that. I got some technique back that I'd lost a little bit."

(At right, Mesa linebacker Jorge Arrelano tries to take down Palm Springs receiver Ray Mullen).

Mesa jumped out of the gate early when Uhl hooked up with Joseph Pinkava on a touchdown pass only 1:53 into the first quarter. Palm Springs marched down the field to tie the game at 7-7, however.

Palm Springs got the ball back and on a third-down play, the Rams' Blake Johnson picked off a pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown. The 80-yard interception return for a touchdown is a Murrieta Mesa school record.

Schaeffer said that was a huge momentum lift for his team.

"It certainly set the tempo for the first of that first half," he said. "That was huge for us. We've been traditionally slow starters, so that was a real big jump start for us."

(At left, players touch the Ram statue before heading onto the field).

Early in the second quarter, quarterback Riley Hagar ran the ball for a Palm Springs touchdown, tying the game at 14. But Thompson was at it again for the Rams, kicking a school record-tying field goal of 53 yards to give the Rams a 17-14 lead. Late in the second quarter, Uhl hooked up with Austin Salcedo on a touchdown, giving the Rams a 24-14 lead going into halftime.

Palm Springs scored a rushing touchdown late in the third quarter but missed the extra point, leaving the Rams with a narrow 24-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter. McKinley Ross and Uhl each rushed for 70 yards for Mesa, which plays at Jurupa Hills of Fontana next weekend.

"We watched them on film, told our team they were going to be tough, and they were," Schaeffer said about Palm Springs. "They were real tough. We made some key plays at some key moments. "Peyton played an excellent game tonight. His first touchdown pass was just a beautiful, very patient, big-time throw. When he threw that, I knew he was going to be dialed up. We also ran the ball very well tonight. We contributed in all phases of the game. We scored on defense, we scored on special teams, we scored on offense. We needed it all tonight; you saw how tight it was."

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