After winning with blowouts the opening two weeks of the season, Mountain Pointe’s football team still wasn’t turning many heads.
But now the Pride are raising some eyebrows.
In their first real test of the season, the Pride defense dug in against an aerial onslaught from Chandler Basha quarterback Mike Benjamin.
Then they held their ground long enough for the offense to launch a late counter-attack against the Bears and come away with a 21-10 victory Friday night in Karl Kiefer Stadium.
Benjamin completed 16 of 35 passes for 252 yards, but all the Bears could get offensively was a 25-yard field goal by Brandon Foutz in the first quarter.
The Bears defense turned a blocked punt into the only Basha touchdown for a 10-0 third quarter lead.
Mountain Pointe started to turn the tide when Israel Marshall recovered a Bears fumble early in the fourth quarter.
But it appeared the Pride might squander the opportunity. They needed to pick up six yards on a fourth down.
That’s when Ben DeMarr hauled in a 14-yard pass from quarterback Austin Blom.
Davon Jones closed the gap with an 8-yard touchdown run with nine minutes remaining in the game and De’Andre Currie gave the Pride the lead for the first in the game on a 15-yard run up the middle with a little more than seven minutes left in the game.
The Pride defense held the Bears again and Currie put the game out of reach with a little more than four minutes remaining on a 69-yard scamper down the left sideline.
“I’m not surprised we won,” said Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan, “But I am surprised how we won. Basha did a great job the whole game, but our defensive played magnificently and Blom and DeMarr were the key in the fourth quarter.”
The Pride running duo was stuffed for most of the game, but when Mountain Pointe threatened to air it out, things started to change.
“We know what we can do,” DeMarr said. “People just underestimated us because of last year.”
The Pride went 2-8 last season.
“When they stopped our run, the passing helped open up the running game again,” DeMarr added. “The big part of it was we got the momentum.”
Blom didn’t light up the scoreboard with his numbers, but he completed 8 of 16 for 92 yards when it counted.
“Blom is still inexperienced,” Vaughan said, “but he is really coming along.”
At least he appears to have confidence.
“I think we all gained some confidence,” Blom said. “But you always have to be confident. That’s contagious. But it’s still early in the season and we have to keep our heads. If we don’t we might have to come from behind again and we might not win the next time.”
The Pride can still run. They gained 243 yards on the ground while the Mountain Pointe defense limited the Bears to 92 rushing yards.
Jones alone picked up more than that. He carried 20 times for 99 yards while Currie ended up with 148 yards on 17 carries.
Basha coach Tim McBurney credited the Pride willpower for the comeback.
“They wanted it more and that was the difference,” McBurney said. “They did a great job in the fourth quarter and finished the game in the fourth quarter. We didn’t. We had some great opportunities but we ended up with a field goal and the defense scored our only touchdown.”
The Pride not only overcame the Bears, but 10 penalties worth 84 yards. Those penalties almost crippled the Pride comeback.
But the Pride didn’t come apart.
“Instead of pointing fingers in the fourth quarter, we came back and made some big plays,” Vaughan said. “When we started making the big plays we knew we had a chance.”
This is Vaughan’s first season on the job at Mountain Pointe, so even he wasn’t sure how to measure the progress of the past three weeks.
“I think we’re ahead of what I expected,” he said, “but we have to keep moving forward because we play Desert Vista next Thursday and that doesn’t give us much time.”
Going into the annual Ahwatukee Bowl rivalry on Thursday night at Desert Vista, the Thunder are 1-1 after a loss to Phoenix Pinnacle while the Pride are riding a 3-0 streak.