Last year at this time the Mountain Pointe football team was 2-2 and although the Pride didn’t know it at the time they were staring 2-4 in the face.
Now, they are 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division I by most accounts.
Clearly, strides have been made. Just how much will be known when the next two games are in the record books.
Jalen Brown knows all about it. He was just a sophomore a year ago and could sense the team was going sideways. Despite being one of the team’s stars it can still be difficult to step in and plead with older teammates to be more focused or give better effort.
“It was tough to watch,” Brown said. “Not everyone was there for each other. We should have been trying to get everyone on the same page, but it was difficult for me. Starting as a freshman and sophomore helped, but I just wasn’t ready for that, but now I don’t have a problem stepping in and saying something.”
Up to this point everything has gone pretty smooth for the Pride as they prepare to host No. 5 Chandler (4-0) on Friday and travel to No. 4 Brophy (3-2) next week.
There hasn’t been as big of a need for someone like Brown to nip something in the bud because the groundwork for this great start was set long before the Week 1 win over Hamilton.
That doesn’t mean head coach Norris Vaughan is pumping the brakes a little bit as they approach a couple of treacherous curves.
He knows it wasn’t that long ago the team would have been OK with going 2-2 against the fearsome foursome (Hamilton and Desert Vista added into the next two weeks).
“The one thing I know for sure is when things are bad they aren’t as bad as they seem and when they are going good they are not as good as they seem,” he said. “Our goal was (2-2) but we’ve already done that. Now we’d like to win both and feel like if we can split those games we are going to be in a great position assuming we can win out.”
First things first, the Wolves are coming off an interesting win against Basha.
Chandler was down 17-0 at halftime only to win 41-31 to keep from completely embarrassing itself in another big game. Instead, the win cemented what Chandler coach Shaun Aguano has been preaching since taking over the program from Jim Ewan before last season.
“Our goal every year is to beat the No. 1 or to be No. 1,” Aguano said. “In a couple of days, we’ll get that chance.
The schizophrenia of a game the Wolves’ had against its first quality program of the season leaves the opponent guessing.
“I don’t know what to think about their defense,” Vaughan said. “They didn’t look good against Basha, but great against everyone else even though (the opponents) weren’t as good. So who knows?
“Offensively, now, they have some great skill players and have a great quarterback (Darrell Garretson) who can get them the ball.”
Many believe that the matchup between the Pride’s defense and Chandler’s offense will determine the outcome.
“They have athletes that can match up with our athletes so they can stay true to their defense,” Aguano said.
The Chandler offense is averaging 458 yards and 53.3 points while the Pride defense has not given up a single point in the second half and just 49 overall. The Pride might lack size but speed and positioning make up for it.
Mountain Pointe has been great in close games in the Vaughan era while Chandler, in seasons past, seemingly always found a way to foul up those situations.
The Wolves won last year’s game 35-28 when several mistakes were the difference.
“We didn’t play as a team and made mistakes,” senior Landry Payne remembered. “It was our problem last year. We haven’t done that this year and need to keep playing at that level.”
It was the first of back-to-back defeats that essentially sealed the Pride’s postseason fate as a low seed and a quick exit.
Now, the Pride is a mere two weeks of great football from being set up for the postseason.
“We have won four games and now we have one-game season,” Vaughan said. “Win or lose, we move on to the next one. All we want to do is set ourselves up for the playoffs. We are ranked No. 1 now and it is good for the community, but all this is about making sure we are in a good position for the second season.”
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