The Pride is fat and happy.

The banquet circuit can do that to you, but as far as Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan is concerned it’s about time to put a nice bow on an incredible 2013 football season.

“We need to close the door and move forward,” Vaughan said. “This has carried on too long, but we want to recognize the kids as much as possible, especially the seniors. The rest of the kids are at full speed ahead. We are in the weight room and doing the things we always do.”

The pomp and circumstances might have finally come to an end on Friday when the school hosted two assemblies for the MaxPrep’s Tour of Champions.

The MaxPreps Tour of Champions, presented by the Army National Guard, recognizes the finest high school football teams in the country through various celebrations and formal ceremonies. The Tour was inaugurated in 2005 and honored 10 premier football programs. Presently, the Football Tour honors 50 of the top scholastic teams in America.

The Pride finished seventh in the MaxPrep’s rankings and fifth in the composite national rankings. The program received a trophy and banner in recognition that will always be tied to the program’s first undefeated season and state title.

“What a season like this does is help create memories and brings people back on Friday night for years to come,” MaxPreps representative Norris Thomas said. “Whether they were on the team, in the band, a student or a fan every time they come back here they will remember this season and how special it was.

“This is a national award and who knows if it ever happens to this school again? It’s hard to get in this position.”

The coaches and players know that and seem to be prepared to put in the work.

“We are working in the weight room and we don’t want to take a step back,” junior running back Brandyn Leonard said. “We want to win another championship and that starts with what we are doing now.”

The Pride will receive its state championship in mid-February, but other than that the program seems to be shifting toward next year.

“We are back to the grind and doing the things no one sees,” Vaughan said. “That’s what people miss when they are gone. You miss the game, but what you really miss is the relationships you make and the grind you are on together.”

Vaughan has enjoyed watching a new group kind of take control of the team.

Mountain Pointe will have three returning starters (Colin Lambdin, Clayton Dry, Nick Carman) on the offensive line and two running backs — Paul Lucas and Leonard — who were heavily counted and two starting linebackers (Austin Cronen and Keondre Churchwell) back in the fold.

Other than that there will be plenty of new names and numbers ready to keep things at the usual Mountain Pointe standard.

“The seniors will be gone, but the discipline is still there,” Vaughan said. “We are back to work and we feel like we will be formidable next year. We lost a ton of people but we return a lot of good players.

“Our defense has some holes but we’ve been there before and have to rebuild. They’ve seen what it takes and that’s what we expect.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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