Antonio Hinojosa was flushed from the pocket, he rolled to his right, threw across his body toward the Mountain Pointe sideline.
There were two Pride receivers in the same spot as Tyree Shivers looked to be in position for the catch before Emmanuel Butler stepped in front and swallowed up the pigskin.
It kind of looked like footage from a fishing show when a small fish is being reeled in and just before it is brought into the boat a much larger fish surfaces and swallows the bait and the other fish whole.
As great as a day that is for a fisherman, it is nothing compared to what Hinojosa, and the Pride receivers, are doing for an encore this season.
The completion to Butler was part of the passing game’s perfect night, the fourth of its kind this year, as Hinojosa was 10 for 10 last week against Boulder Creek in the first round of the Division I postseason.
“A lot has to do with him, but also our wide receivers are doing a good job of working for the ball,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “Our big three receivers are really good. If you throw it in their area and all of them can go up and get it.”
Hinojosa has seen his completion percentage increase from .596 in 2012 to .717 this year while throwing the ball downfield more often. Last year, the second leading receiver was running back Garette Craig with a good portion of those completions coming on short routes.
Now, Jalen Brown (45 catches, 1,046 yards, 15 TDs) is backed by fellow receivers Timmy Hernandez (24, 445, 7) and Butler (18, 333, 4) with a more comfortable Hinojosa as No. 1 Mountain Pointe takes on No. 9 Red Mountain (6-5) in the Division I state quarterfinals on Friday.
“I’m playing with more confidence than I thought was possible,” Hinojosa said. “It’s recognizing what I am reading faster, knowing where to go with the ball and letting things develop more before making a decision.”
The Pride’s passing game the last two years has broken just about every school record and in reality it has been handcuffed by the quality of their defense leading to lopsided scores the last two years.
“If we were like some of those other teams and all of our games were close we’d be throwing for 350 yards every game,” Vaughan said. “But that’s not the way it is. Our defense doesn’t give up many points so we don’t have to keep throwing and we want it that way. We want to throw the ball when we want to throw it, not because we have to do it.”
The running game does its part with its three-headed monster in Wesley Payne (654, 9 TDs), Paul Lucas (638, TDs) and Brandyn Leonard (535, 10 TDs), who have combined for 28 touchdowns and 1,827 yards, but when Hinojosa drops back and three receivers run their routes big things are bound to happen.
There are times when there is such a size, not to mention talent, mismatch that Hinojosa can throw to an area and know that his guy is going to make the play on the ball rather than the defensive player.
“I can throw it to a spot when there is single coverage and know they will adjust and get to it,” said Hinojosa, who lists Adams State at the top of his possible college destinations. “I have confidence in them and that’s the most important thing. We are on the same page all the time.”
It has led to some pretty special numbers this year. He has thrown for 1,848 yards with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions in about 28 quarters (or seven games) for a quarterback rating on MaxPreps of 140.
In the four games that Hinojosa didn’t throw an incompletion, he went 29 for 29 with 13 touchdowns for 745 yards.
“Our offense can do so much more, but we haven’t needed to,” Vaughan said. “Antonio could be a good zone read quarterback in college. He is quick and elusive, but with the weapons we have around him he is doing everything we need him to do already.”
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