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MP’s opening performance answers some initial questions

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Posted: Friday, August 29, 2014 10:21 am

The 7-on-7 summer passing tournaments, and preseason camp can only tell coaches so much about how players without varsity experience are going to perform once the season starts.

That’s why Norris Vaughan was cautious in his assessment of Mountain Pointe leading up to last week’s season opener in Las Vegas for the Sollenberger Classic.

He knew the talent was there but like most coaches, Vaughan wasn’t sure what to expect until the game action was real. He got a glimpse the few times the Pride went first-team O vs. first-team D head to head, but that was still just simulation.

Then about 35 points into Saturday’s 66-13 win over less-than-advertised Reed, it was clear the Pride just might be all right in 2014.

“We got our feet wet and got experience,” Vaughan said. “We beat Bishop Gorman here last year but by the end of the year, we were a lot better team. I suspect the same thing will happen again.”

Everyone outside of the program took a less cautious approach and expected as much, but it doesn’t mean there weren’t some things to be learned.

Here are five things that are now known quantities heading into Friday’s game at North, which opened its season with a 27-18 defeat at Kofa, that were uncertainties before the season opener.

1. Saenz of the times

No matter what number senior Gilbert Saenz wears — listed as No. 68 on the roster, but he wore No. 81 in the game — the big guy was a load on the defensive front. Coming into the year, the talk was he might be the first one off the bench if there was an injury on the offensive and defensive lines, but he got the start at nose tackle.

The first defensive play of the game for the Pride saw Saenz, a 6-foot-1, 250-pounder, get a tackle for a loss, and he added another one later in the game.

He was one of several new contributors on the defensive line as Orlando Carter, who played at Chandler last season, had two sacks and Da’Shon Daughomah also had an impressive start to the season.

2. Ka-ka kaboom

At first, it seemed like it was a sound effect courtesy of Bishop Gorman’s video board or sound system, but it turned out it was just John Abercrombie’s right foot connecting with the football.

The senior put his first seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and then connected on a 50-yard field goal with ease. Vaughan has been talking up Abercrombie all offseason, but that field goal, which tied for the second longest in school history, was still surprising.

3. Powerful punch

Dalton Thorpe plays bigger than his listed size of 5-9 and 155 pounds.

The senior cornerback made two big hits on kickoff coverage, one that caused a fumble and led to an offensive touchdown, and another where he showed off his closing speed. He also had a big hit in the flat on defense, when he came off his receiver to pop the outlet receiver to force an incompletion.

Now about those hands (he let a sure pick-six slip through his hands).

4. Frana can handle some pain

Mountain Pointe’s offensive line coach Aaron Frana will be to able ask his guys up front to show some toughness without them questioning his.

He separated his right shoulder in a pregame accident in which Frana was working with 6-4. 275-pound tackle Nick Carman when their feet became entangled. It led to Carman following Frana to the turf for a pancake.

After the Pride medical staff couldn’t put the shoulder back in, Frana wore a sling and then went to the ER after the game.

“He said he tripped, but I think he finished me,” Frana said.

5. Fancy feet

Pride quarterback Garvin Alston threw 11 passes and just about every one of the attempts came on the move. Some were called rollouts and others came off a scramble.

Either way, he completed seven, including two for touchdowns. He needed things to go well in his first career start, and the guy manning the huddle showed he can step into arguably the most important position for the defending state champions.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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