College scouts walking around Lovett Field at Mountain Pointe High School over the last three weeks for spring football practice probably had similar feelings as someone hitting up an all-you-can-eat buffet.
You just don’t know where to start.
It should be a salad, but the eyes are drawn to the carving station and dessert table.
And the Pride has a lot of beef up front and sweet delights at the skill positions.
“We’ve had all of the top programs come through,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “It’s been that way the last few years.”
Mountain Pointe will be back in the mix next season in the newly named 6A Conference as the Pride continues its drive toward being the top program in the state.
Over the last four seasons, the Pride has made two state title games, lost in the semifinals twice, won its first state title and have the best record — 48-6 — among top big-school programs, including Saguaro and Centennial, over that time span.
Last year was a true indicator of where the program stands as very few starters returned, and there were plenty of new faces that took over important starting roles and the team rolled off 12 straight wins before falling in the state semifinals.
“No one knew who we were last year,” said senior-to-be Eddie Rivas, who is moving from guard to tackle. “We never doubted it though.”
It also means that expectations fall on this team as the Pride heads into the 7-on-7 passing league portion of the offseason.
When national rankings come out Arizona could very well be represented by the Pride as they bring back several of last year’s starters.
“We won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We bring back a lot of players from a team that went undefeated (in the regular season).”
Vaughan, who begins his eighth year at Mountain Pointe, said he is anxious to see how this group of players handle expectations that pile up between now and Week 1 when they host Sandra Day O’Connor.
“I think they’ll be OK, but it is one of those things that you don’t know for sure until it happens,” he said. “By the end, we were the only undefeated team so the expectations have been there before. It’s a new team and we think we can be really good.”
It starts up front on both sides of the ball as the athletic size on the defensive front behind Shomari Hayes, Matty Pola-Mao, Daniel Pena and Khalif Ravenell.
The offensive line returns Mason Honne and Rivas on the outside at tackles and three newcomers.
They’ll be protecting a new quarterback in Noah Grover, but the senior-to-be showed the ability and had the confidence of the coaching staff to be the expected starter last season before All-Tribune quarterback Jack Smith moved in from Indiana.
“I was ready last year, but I had a chance to watch Jack do some great things,” Grover said. “I saw what he did wrong, too, and what coach Vaughan wants from his quarterback. I’m more prepared to take over now.”
The skills players — led by Jaydon Brooks, Isaiah Pola-Mao, Anthony Stephens — will be plentiful to give the Pride offense the same potential Mountain Pointe has had in the past.
“(Grover) was our guy,” Vaughan said. “We were confident he was going to be really good and now we think he will be the best quarterback in our region.”
The same can be said with the Pride as players like Antwaun Woodberry, Rashie Hodge, Xavier Cota and Kenny Churchwell take over more prominent roles with hopes of continuing or even advancing the level of success Mountain Pointe has become know for in nearly a decade of prominence.
“We didn’t do everything we wanted to last year,” Rivas said. “We’ve been working hard since the end of the season. We know what it takes and we are going to do everything we can between now and the start of the season.”
— Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow AhwtukeeFN on Twitter.