Mountain Pointe powered through an emotionally taxing week.
A parent of player died, a school community supported, a hashtag - #RomanStrong – trended and the team endured.
Taking the field Friday night was a relief, especially for Ralph Roman, and brought some familiarity to a team needing to just go out and play.
The Pride did what it has always done for coach Norris Vaughan as Mountain Pointe played physical and grounded out a 24-12 win at Marcos de Niza.
“We didn’t play all that well, but we got the win,” Vaughan said. “The defense was great, the offense made a lot of mistakes, but we got through a tough week.”
The three-hour window of football between two nearby Tempe Union schools was exactly what Roman needed after his father, Ralph Jr., was found dead on Sunday.
The younger Roman wore an RIP t-shirt under his uniform, said a prayer to his dad before the game, pointed at the picture of his Dad in the crowd and was shown love by nearly everyone on the visitor’s stands by wearing blue because his Pop’s favorite team is the New York Giants.
“It’s been a long week, but I know my Dad was with me the whole time,” said Roman, who had three catches for 39 yards. “He has been with me every since he left. He never really left. He isn’t in the stands, but he was here.”
The game itself was turned over to a brand new offensive line and new powerhouse running back Macarius Blount, especially on the final drive after Marcos closed within 17-12 in the fourth quarter.
The Pride went down the field for a 63 yard while attempting just on pass – and a very important one as quarterback Jack Smith hit Isaiah Pola-Mao for a third-down conversion – to go up 24-12 with 2:37 remaining when Blount scored from 9-yards out.
The Pride ran for 311 yards on 52 carries including 30 for 219 yards and two scores for Blount, who transferred from Betty Fairfax.
“It’s my first game and they put a lot of confidence in me,” Blount said. “I just kept taking it and getting as many yards as I could.”
The Pride graduated all five linemen from last year, but this group took over the game in the second half as Mountain Pointe only attempted five passes compared to 29 runs in the second half.
Center Mason Honne, guards Chase Longbrake and Eddie Rivas and tackles Jordyn Smith and Devin Howard got the job done despite showing some of their lack of experience with some missed assignments.
“It was some great running by the backs, but we have some work to do,” offensive line/co-offensive coordinator Aaron Frana said. “We have to keep competing to get better.”
The defense played well in containing Marcos for the most part as the Padres, a Division II top 10 team, were held to 25 yards rushing and 245 total.
The only time Marcos did much offensively was when a blow coverage – no one followed the man in motion - set Shaun Richards free for an 67-yard score and when the defense was in prevent as Greer picked the Pride apart to close within 17-12 in the fourth.
Other than the Pride defense had five sacks and held the Padres to 25 yards on 20 attempts.
“Their defense was tough, but we could have done better,” senior guard Gavin Young said. “We were within touchdown in the fourth quarter. We will get better.”
Padres coach Sean Morin some good things but knows the run defense has to hold up better.
“We might see a better team running the ball, but we still have to make some stops and get off the field,” he said. “It’s something that hurt us last year. We have some work to do, but this team was in it in the fourth quarter. Playing a team like Mountain Pointe will make us stronger in the long run.”
The Pride looked like it has a chance to be in it for the long run once again too after putting the difficult week behind them.
“They showed they care,” Roman said about the week that started with a team meeting shortly after finding out his Dad was gone. “At the beginning of the year you never really know if a team is going to be close or not, but it really brought us together.
“Being with my team, having fun, laughing and playing has been good.”
Mountain Pointe 24, Marcos de Niza 13
MP 7 7 3 7--24
MDN 6 0 0 6—12
MP – Pola-Mao 10 pass from Smith (Johnson kick), 9:09
MDN – Richards 67 pass from Greer (kick failed), 3:55
MP – Blount 15 run (Johnson kick), 9:31
MP – Johnson 23 FG, 3:05
MDN – Blankenship 25 pass from Greer (run failed), 7:55
MP – Blount 9 run (Johnson kick), 2:37
First downs 27 15
Rush-yards 52-311 20-25
Comp-Att-Int 8-15-1 8-17-0
Pass yards 90 220
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties 10-85 6-50
MP – Blount 30-219, Smith 10-42, Stephens 2-16, Roman 2-3, Ascencio 4-8, Brooks 3-24. MDN – Sanders 1-12, Greer 13-(-)5, Bolster 1-8, Trujillo 1-4, Richards 3-2, Moss 1-4.
MP – Smith 6-10-1-90. MDN – Greer 8-17-0-220
MP – Pola-Mao 3-32, Roman 3-39, Brooks 1-6, Blount 1-13. MDN – Trujillo 3-78, Richards 2-68, Williams 1-21, Blankenship 2-53.