Fill-in players making a difference for Mountain Pointe - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

Fill-in players making a difference for Mountain Pointe

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Posted: Friday, November 5, 2010 2:00 pm | Updated: 9:39 am, Tue Sep 27, 2011.

The character of a team, a true unselfish squad, can either be built or destroyed when forced to adapt.

Whether it is a sophomore running back stepping into the starting lineup and performing or a career offensive lineman jumping to the other side of the ball to not only play defense but go up against one of the state's premier players, several Mountain Pointe players have adapted seamlessly recently.

"Ever since the Desert Ridge game (a loss) this team has played unselfish," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "It's what you need to be successful at this point in the season. That is the key in accomplishing what we are trying to accomplish.

"We have had some players really step up and fill-in admirably."

Sophomore running back Thomas Warren garnered headlines last week when he was inserted into the lineup because junior running back Dillan Johnson was out with mononucleosis, but the reason Warren was able to break the 100-yard plateau was because of another shift.

Junior RJ Hollis has made starts on the offensive line the last two weeks after never playing offense before the Westwood game. Junior Bryce Hurd, a starting tackle all season, moved to center with Raynon Blackshire out with a groin injury.

"I didn't start feeling comfortable until the third practice," said the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Hurd. "I played center on JV last year so I knew what to do. I made some bad (calls) early in the game (against Perry), but got better as the game went on."

Replacing Blackshire, who should be back this week, was a two-man job as he is one of the Pride's best defensive front players. Stepping up at nose guard was senior Bijan Musgrove, who was looking to do anything he could to make up for past missteps.

"I've let my team down at times this year," said Musgrove, who has been suspended for some games for various reasons. "This was my chance to do something about it. I can't change the games I missed but I knew I could do something positive."

Musgrove and Hurd both lined up opposite of Perry offensive center and defensive tackle Mo Latu, a 6-2, 318-pound, three-star recruit who has offers from six schools, including Arizona State, Oregon and Missouri.

Latu was effective against the Pride but he didn't dominate as one might expect against an offensive lineman playing a position for the first time in about a year and defensive tackle who had very little experience on that side of the ball.

"They did a great job the whole game," Vaughan said. "Early on we struggled through some entitlement issues and it had to stop. They needed to play together. It's amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets credit."

The benefactor in a lot of the lineup changes up front was Warren, who finished with 18 carries for 126 yards against Perry. He played in the JV game against Westwood two weeks ago and then against Perry Warren, who also played in the defensive backfield against Perry, gave the offense a power back it has been lacking since Davon Jones last carried the ball against Mesa in the state semifinals last season.

He was making decisive cuts, breaking tackles and ripped off a 43-yard burst when the Pride was on its own 6-yard line to help seal the victory.

"I was as anxious as I was before every game," said Warren, who has 30 carries for 228 yards on the season. "Coach (Jeff) Decker gave me words of encouragement before the game and it helped calm me down. Then as I got more carries the more confident I got."

The confidence of the entire team seemed to be growing after each series against Perry and it might have been characterized by Musgrove, who was wound up like one big ball of emotion when he was coming off the field.

"I knew I had (Arizona State recruit) Izzy (Marshall) behind me so I could go out and do my thing," he said. "They all had my back when I wasn't playing. After each play I was getting stronger and playing as hard as I could because I knew they were counting on me to get it done.

"I wasn't out there for me, but for the whole team."

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Jason P. Skoda
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