The playoffs are a whole different animal.

Mountain Pointe found that out last season when a rejuvenated group made it to the Class 5A Division I semifinals by beating one opponent on a two-point conversion in overtime.

The attempt came after a penalty against Basha on a Pride extra-point attempt moved the ball a yard closer.

Sometimes that is all it takes. One mistake, one yard, one win. It's a totally different mentality than the week-to-week pace of the regular season.

"It is a lot different mind set," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "You really have to make sure you take care of the ball because turnovers will beat you and I think you have to make sure the players are good and rested."

There is finality to every game.

Desert Vista is about to find that out.

The Thunder has very little playoff experience on the roster. The seniors never had a winning season until now. A couple were called up to the varsity as sophomores and played in the postseason.

But for the most part the players are experiencing success as a team for the first time.

How will they react? Hard to tell, but both teams are playing at a high level so as long as they keep to that there shouldn't be any problems in effort or quality of play.

How will they prepare? Both coaching staffs have plenty of history.

Dan Hinds took Desert Vista to the state finals in 2007 and been to playoffs most years in his nine seasons.

Vaughan is a semifinal machine, getting his Arizona teams, including his time at Wickenburg, at least to the semis four times in the last five years and lost in the finals once in 2006 with the Wranglers.

Here is a closer look at each game:

No. 14 Mesa Mountain View (5-5) at No. 3 Desert Vista (8-2)

The Toros are on a downslide. After averaging 11 wins the previous four seasons, Mountain View has totaled 13 wins the last two.

Before the Chandler schools, mostly Hamilton, took over the Southeast Valley, Mountain View was king.

Mountain View, which has eight state titles with the last coming in 2002, has struggled like very few Toro teams in the past. The depth is no longer there to make up for the lack of size for a program that has always been hailed for its ability to get the most out of their talent.

Coach Tom Joseph has done his best just to get this team into the postseason. And as proud as Toro nation is, this team will be difficult to beat now that they are here.

Desert Vista is one of the surprise teams in the state this year. The Thunder went 2-8 last year and most figured the difficulty of the Fiesta Region would keep them down.

Two things happened: the Fiesta wasn't as strong as last year and no one knew how determined the Thunder senior class wanted to erase last year's malfunction.

The emergence of junior quarterback Hunter Rodriguez allowed the offense to open up and display the talents of senior Mike Ingrassia, who leads the team in rushing, catches and receiving yards.

The defense, once junior linebacker Mike Ingrassia returned from a knee injury, has slowed opponents, especially in the second half, leading the Thunder to several late-game comebacks.

"The defense has really been there, making game-winning plays, in the close ones," Hinds said.

The offensive line will have a different look this week with senior center Roman Villa suspended after being ejected from the regular season finale. Red Mountain's defense broke through the line when Desert Vista was in victory formation and put a good lick on Rodriguez. Tempers flared and Villa was ejected along with two Red Mountain players.

No. 12 Mesa Red Mountain (6-4) at No. 5 Mountain Pointe (8-2)

The Pride has hit its stride.

It took about eight weeks, and a closer-than-the-score-indicates 44-22 loss to Mesa Desert Ridge, for Mountain Pointe to find its groove.

The offense struggled, mostly because of a different lineup each week along the line and small ball carriers, with just one returning starter.

The huge chunks of yardage the running game gained last season that allowed the team to eat up the clock and wear teams down are gone, but the team seemed to turn the corner in the final two weeks to beat down Gilbert Perry and Tempe Marcos de Niza to earn a share of the East Valley Region title.

One of the differences has been the emergence of sophomore running back Thomas Warren, who got a chance when leading rusher Dillan Johnson was lost to mononucleosis.

Warren, who is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, is a decisive and strong runner. He doesn't hesitate to hit a hole and at times puts his head down to create one when he has to.

His presence has opened up the passing game even more as junior Kyle Faunce has completed 13 of 16 for 263 yards and four touchdowns in the last two games.

"Kyle has had a great season," Vaughan said. "He never played under center until this year so it took some time, but he has really developed over the course of the season."

Defensively, the Pride have allowed some big drives in opportune times - Basha and Desert Ridge had winning fourth-quarter drives - but as a whole the unit, especially the front seven, have been solid.

Red Mountain has had an interesting first season under Ron Wisniewski.

The Lions finished 1-4 in Fiesta Region action, but beat 5A-II power Peoria Centennial, 31-24 on the road.

The defense has put up impressive numbers (69 sacks, according to MaxPreps), but will be without the two players (linebacker Devin Gordon and tackle David Labatos) who were suspended because of their role at the end of the loss to Desert Vista.

That should work to Mountain Pointe's advantage as the Pride likes to soften the opposition's belly early with quick hitting dives to the fullback.


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