The team buses rolled out of Mountain Pointe High School on Thursday morning and headed for Las Vegas for the second time in just over a calendar year.
When the return trip from the Sollenberger Classic comes about on Sunday, it will be hard to match the amount of confidence and momentum the Pride gained in its first foray at Fertitta Field.
A win over Reed, a quality program out of Sparks, Nev., on Saturday night is important to get the 2014 season off well, but in no way can it match the results of Mountain Pointe’s program-shifting win over national power Bishop Gorman a year ago.
“It’s going to be different because we are playing Reed,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “Beating Gorman on their field on national TV was huge. It gave us a lot of confidence and served noticed to everyone else, I guess. I’m not taking anything away from Reed because Reed is a very good football team, but Reed is not Gorman.”
Very few teams in the nation are since Tony Sanchez took over the Gaels, who will host Brophy on Friday night in the first game of the ninth annual Sollenberger Classic.
The Pride came in as underdogs and the us-against-the-world mentality lead to a monumental 28-21 win that was the impetus to the program’s first state title.
This time around, Mountain Pointe is nationally ranked, come in with high expectations and the clear favorite.
Meanwhile, Reed is coming off a state runner-up finish, looking for its first state title after a great run of making it at least to Nevada’s large-school state semifinals four times in the last five years, and relishing the role of being overlooked in this game.
“I am definitely excited to play Reed,” Pride senior center Collin Lambdin said. “It’s kind of a role reversal because I’m sure they’ve been thinking about beating us like we wanted Gorman. We welcome their best game so at the end of the season if we end up on the top, no one can question how we got there.”
Reed coach Ernie Howren isn’t shying away from the depiction of the role reversal. He saw how Mountain Pointe came in and lead from start to finish against a program in Gorman that hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent since the 2008 state title game.
“Anyone who has followed or seen tape knows Mountain Pointe is an extremely great football program,” Howren said. “We don’t have any problem saying we are the underdogs.”
Both teams are coming into the game with plenty of unknowns after being hit hard by graduation as the Pride looks to replace 14 starters and Reed saw 72 of the 87 offensive touchdowns from last season walk out the door.
The Pride’s Paul Lucas said the team has really come together in recent weeks, especially after the first intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 8, when the defense, which has more questions than the offense, held its own.
“It took a while before we came together,” said Lucas, who ran for 1,008 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. “We were kind of running around and doing our own thing. The seniors finally stepped up and we got it rolling.”
With that out of the way, along with the completion of Vaughan’s patented physical training camp, it is time to play game No. 1 with hopes of stepping back on to the team buses trying to match last year’s euphoria as much as possible.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said senior quarterback Garvin Alston, who is making his first career start. “We are stepping on the field as a team for the first time. We are going to try and match what we did last year.
“We are going to come with a new flavor and see what we got.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.