So, is this the best Mountain Pointe football team ever?
Karl Kiefer thinks so, and he’s seen some good ones at Mountain Pointe, as the head coach when the school opened in 1991 until he retired four years ago.
“This is the best team ever as far as I’m concerned,” Kiefer said after the Pride wrapped up an undefeated season with a 26-23 East Valley Region victory over previously unbeaten Marcos de Niza in Tempe Friday night.
Both teams went into the season with 9-0 records and the conference championship on the line.
Kiefer was the first Arizona coach to win 300 games. His 1999 Mountain Pointe team went 9-0 before losing to Desert Vista in the Ahwatukee Bowl, back when the rivalry game was the final game of the season. His 1995 team went 11-2 and made it to the semifinals where the Pride lost to eventual state champion Phoenix St. Mary’s.
“The 11-2 team that went to the semis was pretty good football team,” Kiefer added, “and the proof of the pudding is how far you go now. But these guys are 10-0 and that’s the best team ever at Mountain Pointe.”
The Pride rebounded from a 2-8 season last year under first year coach Norris Vaughan, who now has rung up his fourth consecutive undefeated season -- the last three at Wickenburg before moving to Mountain Pointe.
“These guys have good shot and see what happens,” added Kiefer, still coaching at Mountain Pointe, now as an assistant with the junior varsity team that also went undefeated this season.
“The fans are going nuts and this is the best thing that’s happened for Mountain Pointe football,” Kiefer said. “It was a long time coming. Norris Vaughan is a fine coach. He knows his football.”
Vaughan and the Pride will open the playoffs next week at home against a familiar foe -- Mesa Westwood, a team Mountain Pointe faced, also at home, just three weeks ago, defeating the Warriors 28-14.
"They're a tough team. That's a scary first seed," Vaughan said. "Westwood is a real talented team. We beat them the first time, but it's going to be real hard to beat them twice."
When it came down to crunch time in the final four minutes against Marcos Friday night, Vaughan knew to put the ball in Davon Jones’ hands.
Jones was punished by the Padres defense on almost every one of his 31 carries.
Although the gained 201 yards and scored the Pride’s three touchdowns, none of those runs were as critical as in the final five minutes when Mountain Pointe was trying to protect a three-point lead.
Jones didn’t have the spectacular, breakaway big play during the drive, but gained just enough yards to keep the clock running and still maintain possession of the ball.
“They beat us up,” Jones said. “They swarmed to ball quicker than any team we’ve played, but once we got used to how fast they were, was we knew what we had to do.”
Vaughan used what he calls the “four-minute” offense to keep the ball out of the Padres’ hands.
“If I had opened it up a little bit we could have run away with it but we didn’t want to take a chance and do that,” Vaughan said. Our defense was playing well and we thought we could run and we did. We could have scored at end but didn’t want to do that because we might have fumbled.”
Although this was Vaughan’s fifth perfect regular season, including one in Georgia, he had to guide the Pride through three games when they were behind, including a 28-point halftime deficit against Mesa Desert Ridge.
“A 10-0 season is not easy to come by, “Vaughan said, “but now have to get on with the next season and that’s the playoffs.”