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Mountain Pointe's Rashie Hodge cuts inside of the tackle attempt by Desert Ridge's Stephan Gomez.

By Corey Cross, Special to AFN

Way back in 2009 when Mountain Pointe made the semifinals for the second time in school history it was a huge accomplishment.

It has since become an annual event for the Pride football program.

That doesn’t mean this year’s appearance, the seventh time in eight years, is any less appreciated. It just means Mountain Pointe has a chance to further the program and that this game is never the end goal.

“We have a good thing going,” associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator Eric Lauer said. “We have a coaching staff that gets it done. We have kids that know what it means to play for Mountain Pointe and rise to that level. The foundation is pretty strong because every team leaves something behind and expectations are high.

“The kids know we expect to be right here where we are right now.”

The top-seeded Pride (12-0) takes on No. 13 Red Mountain (8-4) at McClintock on Friday in the 6A Conference semifinals.

This year’s senior class remembers all to well the vision of the last year’s group shuffling toward the team bus parked on the south side of the Desert Vista campus after falling 31-21 to eventual champion Centennial.

Heads were down, helmets were left on to hide the reddened eyes, and hugs with consoling family members seemingly lingered longer than halftime of the Pride’s final game of the 2015 campaign.

The end of a season, especially for seniors wearing the maroon and gold for the last time, is never easy to accept.

“We were crying before it was even over,” Pride senior offensive lineman Justice Hudson said. “We thought we were going back, but it didn’t happen and now we get our chance to make sure it doesn’t happen like that again.”

For most programs a state semifinal berth is seen as widely successful season.

Not at Mountain Pointe.

A loss in the semifinals as the Pride have been dealt after making the title game in 2012 and the championship year of 2013 means they didn’t further the program in their minds. They held serve, met the standard but did not get back to the championship game.

“I was a just a sophomore and I remember thinking I’m never losing that game again,” junior defensive end Khalif Ravenell said. “Here we are back in this game, and I think we’ve positioned ourselves to win it all, honestly, but we have to go out and do it.”

It won’t come easy against the Mountains Lions after putting together a pretty good hot streak.

Red Mountain has won four of five including wins over No. 4 Skyline and No. 5 Brophy in the postseason.

The offense is led by all-purpose junior Lance Lawson, who has played quarterback, running back and slot receiver, as he has totaled 2,260 yards and 28 total (25 scored, 3 thrown) touchdowns.

“He’s special and runs with a purpose,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan. “He is going to be a challenge to stop. He plays a little of everything and they have good quarterback (Austin Duffy). They’re a good team that’s playing well. Anybody in the final four is good.”

The defense, which is lead by senior defensive end Andrew Brown, has 32 sacks, 66 tackles for a loss and 13 interceptions, has the task of slowing the Pride offense, which averages 471.6 yards a game through 11 games, including 317.3 on the ground.

The Pride offense may get senior quarterback Noah Grover back from a broken leg, but sophomore Nick Wallerstedt has done everything that’s been asked of him if Grover has to stay on the sidelines.

No matter who is behind center Mountain Pointe has a chance to make its third state title game in five seasons. Everyone in the program is hoping to adjust Thanksgiving plans around a week of football practice.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Vaughan, who has made the semifinals in 11 of his 12 years of coaching in Arizona. “It is more about the process than it is the result. The process takes the pressure off and the result should be good.

“It’s a game of moments and hopefully you have more moments than the other team.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

– Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow @AhwatukeeFN on Twitter.

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