Big Schools football semifinals rewind

Big Schools football semifinals rewind


Big Schools football semifinals rewind


Phoenix Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan keeps things under the radar. He did in preseason, not getting carried away by a team oozing with potential.

He didn’t play up injuries during the season.

"We keep it in-house," Vaughan said of injuries. "We don’t advertise it."

Mountain Pointe pounced on a depleted Phoenix Brophy Prep bunch, winning the Division I semifinal 30-0 by simply being bigger, faster, looser, more athletic.

Mountain Pointe started its first three possessions from its 3, 20 and 13. During the second possession, Mountain Pointe punted from its 1. Brophy’s defense, led by linebacker Robert Relf, was playing lights out for much of the half.

But as soon as Brophy senior tailback Marche Dennard left with less than four minutes to play in the first quarter with an injury, Brophy’s offense went south. Coach Scooter Molander tried Relf and wide receiver Clarence Clark running the ball out of the backfield. Molander continued to try to run up the middle of Mountain Pointe’s defense, but to no avail.

Senior quarterback Tyler Bruggman, who was nursing a right thumb injury suffered before the quarterfinal game, was just 4 of 19 for 24 yards and an interception in the game. The Washington State commit’s first completion came with 3:47 left in the first half, and it for just 5 yards to Clark.

It didn’t appear the thumb bothered him. He had good velocity on his throws as he rolled out on most of his passes. But he wasn’t as accurate as he had been during a good stretch late in the season. He had three passes dropped and another knocked loosed by a great hit on receiver Ryan Castellani.

Senior receiver Devon Allen played the whole game on offense after missing last week’s quarterfinal game against Mesa Red Mountain with a sprained ankle. But he clearly was not himself. Brophy never used him to run the ball. And he was never targeted. He was basically a decoy. But Mountain Pointe didn’t bite.

By the time Dennard, his knee in a brace, and ankles heavily taped, returned to start the second half, his team was down 14-0, as Mountain Pointe mounted a long, time-consuming scoring drive to open the second half. On his first carry back, Dennard fumbled, giving Mountain Pointe a short field. Mountain Pointe put Brophy away with another touchdown, a Thomas Warren 3-yard run, and it went from leading 7-0 to 21-0 with Brophy running only one play..

Mountain Pointe’s big, athletic line, led by senior Kenny Lacy, was the difference. Mountain Pointe’s run game kept Brophy’s offense off the field for most of the third quarter. Brophy ran only seven plays for a total of five yards in the third quarter. Mountain Pointe’s defense doesn’t get enough credit. There is really no weakness on a defense led by the Payne brothers, linebackers Wesley and Landry.

Mountain Pointe has arguably the best 1-2 rushing punch in Division I in running backs Garette Craig and Thomas Warren. Little quarterback Antonio Hinojosa is fast and slippery enough to keep defenses honest.

Another key was no Mountain Pointe turnovers. In the 54-28 loss to Brophy in late September, Mountain Pointe turned it over three times on three successive touches in the third quarter and blew a 21-10 lead.

Mountain Pointe has great team chemistry. The players realize there is one more major obstacle in the way of the school’s first state football championship — Chandler Hamilton.

Mountain Pointe began its historic season with a last-second 17-14 victory over Hamilton that gave the Pride the belief it could win a championship.

Hamilton quarterback AJ Thigpen is capable of making up for mistakes with big plays. He will have to be dialed in for Hamilton to reclaim itself as the state’s top dog.

This is the second year in a row that Hamilton will have to go through an Ahwatukee school for the title. Last year, things ended badly for Hamilton in a loss to Phoenix Desert Vista at University of Phoenix Stadium.

This is the fifth consecutive year Hamilton will play for the championship, and the seventh time in eight years. That speaks volumes to how great the program has been in coach Steve Belles‘ hands. Belles will have his team ready, especially after last year’s final collapse. There is no worries about a defense that locked down Mesa Desert Ridge in its 21-7 semifinal win.

But that was a depleted Desert Ridge offense it just faced. Desert Ridge was without two 1,000-yard rushers, J.J. Husar and Tareq Morrison. And Desert Ridge was without starting tackle Josh Scow.

This will take an extreme effort in all facets of the game for Hamilton to avenge the Mountain Pointe loss.

I whiffed terribly on my Division II picks. I had Scottsdale Chaparral beating Tucson Salpointe in the final. Both are out. Peoria Centennial showed it is not the same team that lost to Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge during the regular season. Running back Jalen Ortiz suddenly has put himself in the Player of the Year conversation after he ran for more than 200 yards in 13 carries in a 28-14 semifinal win over top-seed Salpointe.

John Theriault, who has a son on the team, passed along this interesting note about Centennial. Since losing to Ironwood Ridge 28-24 in Week 6, Centennial has outscored seven opponents 354-35 with two touchdowns scored against the Coyotes late against backups. The combined record of those seven teams is 39-38. Centennial has outscored three playoff opponents (which had a combined 27-10 record) 123-21. That’s dominance.

And it should give Cetennial great confidence entering its championship game against Ironwood Ridge, which did what it did to Tempe Marcos de Niza the first time it played the Padres, and ran right down the guts of their defense en route to a 35-21 semifinal win. A lot has been written about dual-threat QB Tyler Williams, who had another big game with 143 rushing yards. But running back Anthony Braunreiter may be the team’s most valuable player on offense. He ran all over Marcos de Niza for a second time this season. He had 278 yards and four rushing touchdowns on 33 carries.

Ironwood Ridge’s defense is just as good. It constantly got into the backfield, and didn’t let mobile QB Josh Eckley make plays out of chaos. It did a good job wrapping him up and keeping his big plays to a mimimum.

It also held University of Arizona commit Paul Elvira without a catch. Elvira came into the game with more than 1,400 receiving yards, and he was coming off a big game against Chaparral with two first-half touchdown catches.

Centennial made countless mistakes in the 28-24 loss to Ironwood Ridge. Part of that was due to Ironwood Ridge’s quickness and play-making abilities on both sides of the ball.

Both big schools finals should be great, close games.It will be difficult to pick the winners.

It’s too bad they couldn’t be part of a double-header next Saturday at UOP. Hamilton and Mountain Pointe play at noon at UOP. Fans will then have to travel across the Valley to catch Centennial and Ironwood Ridge at 7 p.m. at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium.

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