GLENDALE – Norris Vaughan was engulfed into the sea of black.
After posing for pictures on his derriere, while being surrounded by a group of young men he helped mold into champions, on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium he needed helped back up.
Win a state championship and there will be plenty of people willing to lend a hand.
Considering all he has done since taking over the program, it’s the least anyone could do just don’t tell him that.
The 29-year veteran didn’t, wouldn’t and refused to make the win about him despite the fact that it was his first football championship.
“It feels no different for me,” he said. “I begin every year with this expectation. I am glad it happened for the player because it’s about the team and what they accomplished.”
Vaughan, who is 54-11 at Mountain Pointe, said he’s win state titles in basketball and baseball, but did concede winning won in football meant a little more.
“It’s football,” he said. “What else is there. There is nothing else like it.”
A year ago on Arizona high school football’s biggest stage, Mountain Pointe quarterback Antonio Hinojosa wanted to get away.
This time, on the same field and spotlight, he didn’t want to leave.
After a three-interception, 37-percent success rate (7 of 18) in the 2012 Division I state championship loss to Hamilton, Hinojosa – with several of the same playmakers around him – was arguably the MVP of Mountain Pointe’s 42-19 win over the Huskies in the state championship game on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Flanked by a running game led by Wesley Payne and Paul Lucas (159 yards and a touchdown), Hinojosa found Timmy Hernandez (five receptions for 142 yards), Emmanuel Butler (4 rec., 106 yards, TD) and Jalen Brown with efficiency. Hinojosa capped a stellar season with a stellar championship night: 10 of 15 passing for 250 yards, including a pivotal 34-yard touchdown pass (his 32nd of the year to break his own record) to Butler on a jump-ball with seven seconds left in the first half to give the Pride a 21-7 halftime lead.
He also ran the ball eight times for 20 yards and a second-quarter touchdown in which he broke a tackle and dove to the corner pylon a few minutes before his touchdown pass.
Four of Hinojosa’s passes went for at least 35 yards, often after scrambling out of the pocket to buy his receivers extra time.
“I just made my reads and after a few seconds would start moving around because their (defensive line) is really good, and I didn’t think I’d have much time,” Hinojosa said. “All I had to do was give our guys a couple more seconds to get open. It’s really hard to defend (Butler), Jalen and Timmy at the same time, especially when I start moving around.”
On the mark
Wesley Payne’s half-back pass was perfectly placed, but more importantly it was perfectly timed.
The Pride nearly had more penalties than yards and the Huskies were getting exactly the start an underdog needed.
Then Payne connected with Jalen Brown on a 47-yard strike to tie the game at 7.
“We needed a touchdown,” Vaughan said. “We hadn’t done much because of penalties and mistakes so we called it.”
One and done
Most of the teams in the state finals this season, and most years, have a quarterback who has been a starter for at least two years.
The Pride had Antonio Hinojosa, Salpointe Catholic had Andrew Cota and Luke Rubenzer was behind center three years in a row for Saguaro.
It’s a luxury that Steve Belles hasn’t had in years, including never at Hamilton despite the program’s success.
“I’d love to have a two-year starter, but we’ve always had a senior kid be our best kid. Sammy (Sasso) has gotten better as the year has gone on. I’d love to have a guy back for a second year.
“Actually I wouldn’t know what do. I never had one at Mountain Ridge either. I’d have to go back to Chad Christensen at Desert Mountain, who was three-year starter (1998-2000).”
In a freak play, a Hamilton defender accidentally rolled up on Mountain Pointe starting guard Clayton Dry’s left foot, and, with a high ankle sprain, his day was done. Bruce Hester replaced Dry in the lineup for the final three quarters.
Stuck watching the rest while on crutches, Dry admitted he had a difficult time focusing on his teammates at times while stuck on the sidelines. But he remembered his hometown of Rawlins, Wyoming, and how the local high school had won once in a four-year period.
“I’m kind of speechless, but I’ll take this (crutches) any day for that ring,” he said afterward while slowly working his way to the locker room, well behind his teammates. “It sucks really bad, but you put your body in harm’s way for the team, and I did what I knew was best for us and my boys.”
Once Mountain Pointe began to successfully run the ball early in the second quarter, the Pride dug into their bag of tricks with a halfback pass from Payne to Brown for a 47-yard touchdown, in which Payne’s heave hit Brown in perfect stride near the sideline.
After the game, Brown – who scored his 50th career touchdown in Saturday’s win – said the Pride had worked on the play in practice but hadn’t used it in a game this season.
“We talked all week about not giving up big plays early,” Hamilton defensive coordinator Lane Reynolds said. “We held up pretty well up front but those big passing plays hurt us.”
How the ball bounces
Twice on Saturday, a free ball went Mountain Pointe’s way, and both could have been pivotal in the final outcome.
The first came with the score tied 7-7 in the second quarter, on what appeared to be a Pride fumble while driving down the field. The officials ruled Mountain Pointe’s runner was down by contact, and Hamilton’s sideline was up-in-arms, especially after seeing the replay. The Pride scored shortly thereafter to make it 14-7.
The second came late in the third quarter when the Pride's Paul Lucas fumbled but the ball rolled out of bounds. Again, the Pride scored shortly thereafter to make it 28-13.
Low key, straight talk
Belles has been through eight state title games. A lot goes into game week, but he believes the key is not making too much of it.
“I don’t think about (pregame talks),” he said. “We do what we do. It’s not a routine game, but we don’t change what we do during the season. They know it is a different game.
“But I don’t think you change what you do. You don’t practice longer or watch more film and if you stick to that you are successful. If you a lot more than the usual than all of a sudden you put too much emphasis and maybe you don’t come out as loose as you should be.
Kicking it for real
Hamilton’s most impactful player was punter Josiah Pola as twice punted inside the Mountain Pointe five and also uncorked a 49 yarder.
Since 2000, Hamilton has made 11 state title game appearances in 14 seasons, either in Div. I, Class 5A-I or Class 5A, with only 2007, 2002 and 2000 as year Hamilton was left out. The Huskies are now 8-3 all-time in championship games. … The Huskies ran three offensive plays and held the ball for 52 seconds in the third quarter, yet scored the only points in the quarter on Morris Kroma’s 84-yard punt return for a touchdown. … Mountain Pointe racked up 508 yards of total offense (243 rushing, 297 passing), held the ball for 30 minutes and converted 9 of 13 third downs into first downs. … Hamilton senior Josiah Pola might have had the best day of any Huskies player. He made nine tackles at defensive back, and twice his punts – along with Hamilton’s coverage – pinned Mountain Pointe at its own 2-yard line and 1-yard line. … After missing the semifinal victory against Chandler because of gout, Hamilton standout defensive end Qualen Cunningham returned to action in the championship game. Huskies coach Steve Belles said some medication prescribed last weekend helped Cunningham, who recorded a sack and at least two other tackles for loss in the game. … Hamilton’s 11-3 overall record marks the first time in school history the Huskies lost three games in one season.