By Sara Beth Williams–
High school football teams from Mesa Verde and San Juan went head-to-head on Monday night in the annual Citrus Bowl.
The Mesa Verde Mavericks beat the San Juan Spartans 53 to 0 in the rescheduled Citrus Bowl, an annual intra-city competition held between the only two public high schools in Citrus Heights.
Despite a first quarter with scattered penalties, the Mavericks scored two quick touchdowns and set the tone for the rest of the game against the Spartans. Even with two missed extra-point kicks during the second quarter, Mesa Verde still scored 19 more unanswered points before the end of the first half.
The Spartans returned and fought hard during the second half in an attempt to hold the line against the Mavericks, but the Spartans’ defense was no match against Mesa Verde’s powerful offense. Mesa Verde scored another touchdown and capitalized on an interception by cornerback Matt Kozachenko, raising the Mavericks’ score to 45 by the end of the third quarter.
When the clock ran out, the Mavericks gathered together with coaching staff to celebrate their victory. Head Coach Leonard Casillas said he was proud of all of them. The rest of the coaching staff echoed Casillas’ sentiments and raised the Citrus Bowl trophy to cheers from the players and the crowd.
The team dedicated the game to their former teammate, Tony Rocha, who was killed over Memorial Day Weekend.
“It meant the world to [the team] playing hard for their teammate,” Casillas said in an interview. “They dedicated the season to him. It’s been an emotional season for us.”
Tony Rocha played junior varsity football with Mesa Verde during the 2021-22 school year and wore jersey number 20. Casillas confirmed that Rocha’s jersey number will be retired.
The Citrus Bowl game was previously scheduled to take place on Sept. 9, but was postponed at the last minute by San Juan High School administration due to poor air quality from wildfire smoke. With cooling temperatures and improved air quality, the game was rescheduled for Sept. 12.
The two teams face each other every year to compete for the Citrus Bowl trophy, which is awarded by the Citrus Heights Rotary Club, and the winner keeps it until the next time they meet.