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Sunday Rewind: MP returns to offensive roots with Buck at QB

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Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2011 8:00 am

It might be seen as a desperation move after arguably the worst loss in the Norris Vaughan era.

In reality it is Plan A.

Mountain Pointe came out Friday in a more familiar pro-style offensive package with junior quarterback Caleb Buck running the offense instead of senior Dillan Johnson being showcased in an Oregon-type wildcat offense.

"It's been in our mind all along but we didn't want to rush it," Vaughan said after the Pride's 69-0 win over Sierra Vista Buena. "We wanted to make sure (Buck) was ready."

Chances are if Mountain Pointe (2-2) opened up against Buena, Buck might have had his first start a month ago, but instead it was three-time defending state champion Hamilton to start.

It was not an ideal situation and then when Buck had a bad week of practice leading into the game against the Huskies, Johnson became the focal point of the offense.

It wasn't a demotion for Buck because he was never officially named the starter, but it still played with Buck's confidence.

"I kind of knew where the coaches were coming from," Buck said. "I had never played in a big game and Dillan had been playing since he was a sophomore and Hamilton was a big game.

"The main thing is confidence, getting in there and taking the first team reps and running with the first team and everyone getting in their right roles."

Any hangover from the limited playing time wasn't evident against Buena as Buck completed 7 of 14 passes for 211 yards with touchdowns.

The 5-foot-10, 152-pounder wasn't precise on all of his passes, but showed a good command of the offense.

His stats received a bump because once Jalen Brown, who had four catches for 157 yards, gets his hands on the ball he can make a lot of quarterbacks look good.

The first score to Brown was ball thrown short, but the talented sophomore adjusted his route, sidestepped a tackler and ran past several others for an 80-yard score. Then he threw a nice slant to Brown, who made two crazy cuts usually reserved for Saturday and Sunday afternoons, for a 36-yard score.

"That was cool and Jalen made some great moves," Buck said of his first touchdown pass. "The one thing I know for sure is get it to him and let him make plays."

The other factor in this is putting Johnson, who averaged about 7 yards a carry over the last two years, back into a running back role to give the Pride two threats with Thomas Warren and Johnson.

In a short sample against Buena he had five carries for 94 yards including scoring runs of 55 and 11 yards. He was solid at quarterback in the first three games, but it is not the best usage of his talents.

The 5-foot-8, 158-pound Johnson is a team-first guy and gladly took on all the responsibility placed on him, but the offense won't be one dimensional as it appeared to be with Johnson running the offense.

"I did feel like there was a lot of weight on my shoulders, especially in that Hamilton game," he said. "I tried to remain calm and do what we needed."

The change came at the perfect time. It might have been now or never with the upcoming schedule.

Buck got his shot against a winless team to allow him to get in there and do some positive things. The big-plays and the bad decisions will be magnified the next two weeks when Mountain Pointe travels to Chandler (3-1) on Thursday (Cox 7) and host Brophy (4-0) the following week.

Buck, better than anyone, knows the performance against Buena was just the start and that plenty of work needs to be done before facing Chandler and the bright lights of a television cameras.

"I felt like I was prepared this week and the coaches showed trust in me," he said. "I'd say I should get a ‘B.' I'd never give me an ‘A' because I can always improve."

While Vaughan liked what he saw and was much more comfortable with the offense, it doesn't mean Johnson won't see some time behind center as well.

But at least now the Pride knows Buck is more prepared and confident to step in the huddle.

"We started to (insert offense) last week and we went back to the offensive stuff we are comfortable with and better at it," Vaughan said. "We will still do a little bit of both, but there was no reason to (use Johnson in wildcat against Buena). You will probably see both, but Caleb played great."

Contact writer at (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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