Many teams faced with an uphill climb after starting a season 1-4 would likely not make the playoffs or finish the season strongly.
Ninth-seeded Mesa Red Mountain has been a whole different story and has won five of its last six, including a 34-7 win over Gilbert Highland in the first round of the Division I state playoffs on Friday. Red Mountain will meet No. 1 Phoenix Mountain Pointe in next week’s quarterfinals.
“I can’t say enough about our leadership and we were 1-4 at one point in the season,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said. “It’s taken us 11 games to have a winning record and here we are.”
Red Mountain’s defense played a large part in helping the team come together.
As a unit, they forced No. 8 Highland to punt on its first series and then the quarterback duo of Brennen Dobson and Caleb Murray-Thomas went to work.
Together, the two quarterbacks, both running different styles, helped lead Red Mountain (6-5) on a 77-yard, seven-play drive that was capped by Diego Hernandez’s 6-yard touchdown catch with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
“Most quarterbacks probably wouldn’t like it because they wouldn’t get much playing time,” said Dobson, who also had a 54-yard scoring run. “However, (Caleb) and I love it. He does his thing and I do my thing and we have fun out there.”
During the drive, both quarterbacks had several large plays and two accounting for 20-plus yards.
Murray-Thomas started the drive with a 20-yard completion to Terrell Tyler and Dobson had a 26-yard run during the drive.
Highland (6-5) had several opportunities to cut the lead.
Two plays before Dobson’s touchdown run, the Highland defense blocked a punt which was picked up by Chris Brewster, but he fumbled and it was recovered by Red Mountain.
After a brief discussion by the officials, it was ruled that the ball had passed the line of scrimmage and was a live ball.
Highland had a chance to score at the end of the first half, but Ryan McCord’s catch in the corner of the end zone was ruled that he came down out of bounds on a fourth-down play.
“Most of the plays down there, our D-line didn’t get any penetration,” Hernandez said. “That was all of our defensive backs just playing great coverage. The quarterback didn’t have anywhere to pass it to.”