DENVER — Mead was clinging to an eight-point lead and needed some momentum. So down at their own 25 early in the fourth, they kept handing the ball off to Christian Carrillo and Jake Muncy.

The drive stalled but the mission was accomplished. The Mavericks pinned Denver West near its goal line and then scored a safety to put away a 23-13 win Thursday night.

The Mavericks’ football program is still in its infancy, and they’ve taken their lumps over the first two years. But for the second straight season they delivered a victory at the expense of the Cowboys.

“We’re very young and we’re still learning how to play the ball,” Mead coach Martin Clark said. “Considering where we were a year ago to now, I feel pretty good about it. We’ll piece it together.”

For one night they did, and it was the defense that showed the way. Mead (1-3) held Denver West (0-4) to minus-30 yards on the ground and 46 total yards. The only reason the total was that high was due to a 55-yard pass play on the last snap of the first half.

Otherwise, the Mustangs’ defense was stingy.

“We never let up on defense,” linebacker Greg Rademacher said.

Rademacher set the tone early, getting the first of seven sacks and recovering a fumble on Denver West’s third possession.

Then, with the game scoreless, he broke the line and blocked a punt at midfield that Kyle Couch picked up at the 19 and ran in to give Mead an 8-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter.

“It surprised me. I didn’t think I made it all the way in,” Rademacher said. “It was a total shock. That’s what got our team going.”

The Mavericks’ offense managed just three first downs by midway through the second quarter, but they made them count. After getting the ball back at midfield, quarterback Griffin Nelson hooked up with Muncy down the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown.

“Coach had told me to throw the deep ball so I threw it up there,” Nelson said. “I didn’t actually get to see it because I was on the ground but I heard the crowd.”

After another Cowboys’ botched punt gave Mead the ball at the Denver West 15, Nelson hit Christian Carrillo with a flare pass and Carrillo took it into the end zone to make it 21-0.

The Mead defense didn’t take the field in the third quarter, which was a positive for Denver West. Twice the Cowboys intercepted Nelson deep in Mavericks territory and returned them for touchdowns to make it 21-13 just 3:05 into the second half.

But that was all Denver West could muster against Mead, which bled the clock and came away with the win.

The trick is to keep it going. The Mavericks take on Platte Canyon next week and hope to make it two straight.

“We’ve got to play some tough teams ahead,” Clark said. “This is certainly going to give us confidence going into that.”

MEAD 23, DENVER WEST 13

At All-City Stadium

Mead (1-3) 0 21 0 2 — 23

Denver West (0-4) 0 0 13 0 — 13

SCORING SUMMARY

Second Quarter

Mead — Kyle Couch 50 blocked punt return (Cody Heskett pass from Griffin Nelson).

Mead — Jake Muncy 47 pass from Nelson (Arthur kick).

Mead — Christian Carrillo 15 pass from Nelson (kick failed)

Third Quarter

Denver West — Antoine Martinez 15 interception return (Luis Lopez kick).

Denver West — Brandon Guildan 26 interception return (kick blocked). Fourth Quarter

Fourth Quarter

Mead — Safety, Martinez runs out of end zone

MHS DWHS

First downs 10 4

Rushes-yards 38-38 30-(-30)

Passing yards 104 76

Comp-Att-Int 7-17-3 4-10-0

Punts-Avg. 3-37.3 7-22.6

Fumbles-Lost 2-1 5-2

Penalties-Yards 4-48 9-74

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — Mead: Christian Carrillo 26-86, Kyle Couch 1-(-7), Griffin Nelson 3-(-12), TJ Stanchfield 2-(-33); Denver West: Brandon Guildan 7-7, Antoine Martinez 6-6, Brandon Arnold 2-(-4), Dylan Hoffman 6-(-8), Brandon Martinez 5-(-9), Jose Cruz 3-(-9), Luis Lopez 1-(-13).

PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) — Mead: Nelson 7-17-3, 104; Denver West: Hoffman 3-6-0, 21, A. Martinez 1-3-0, 55, Cruz 0-1-0, 0.

RECEIVING — Mead: Muncy 2-43, Tate Aragon 3-41, Carrillo 2-20; Denver West: A. B. Martinez 1-55, A. Martinez 2-19, Guildan 1-2.