Norris Vaughan looked at peace sitting at his desk in the football office after a recent spring football practice.
What’s not to like?
The Mountain Pointe football program had an excellent three weeks during the spring session in his mind.
The Pride is coming off a run to the Division I state title game. It has inspired the players, and coaches for that matter, to want and expect more.
“I feel like this is going to be our year, our time to shine and go all the way,” Pride junior Jalen Brown said. “Make that history. About a week (after losing to Hamilton in the title game), I realized how special this season is going to be and we can’t wait to get back to it.”
Brown and his cohorts at wide receiver are one of the reason’s there is so much enthusiasm floating around the practice field on Knox Road.
The Pride believe it has the state’s deepest wide receiver corps. Mountain Pointe broke just about every passing and receiving mark in school history last year. Many of the new standards probably won’t last long.
Brown is the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year, Emmanuel Butler is filled with confidence after getting healthy and breaking out in the playoffs, while Timmy Hernandez is a candidate for top breakout player.
Add Dominique Fenstermacher and Paul Lucas to the group and returning quarterback Antonio Hinojosa will have a good shot of equaling last year’s total numbers (14 games) of 2,255 yards and 31 touchdowns in the regular season.
“All three are outstanding,” Vaughan said. “Butler came on at the end of the year and Hernandez is really good, but didn’t get much playing time last year.”
Vaughan’s offensive playbook has never been fully opened during his tenure at Mountain Pointe but with this contingent, along with good receiving backs like Trey Lauer, Kawuan Ellis and Wesley Payne, in the fold, it just might be time to put it all in motion.
The players will be ready to get it rolling during 7-on-7 tournaments this summer and carry that success into the fall.
“I have big things planned this year and this team can do it,” said Butler, who had touchdown catches in the state semifinals and championship games. “I love playing with Jalen because it motivates me to be better. He teaches me and he can help me get to the next level. We all can because we push each other to work harder and get better.”
Brown, who had 67 catches for 1,235 yards with 18 touchdowns, sprained his ankle in the late going of spring and Fenstermacher, who had six interceptions with Marcos de Niza last season, missed the last week because of mononucleosis and having his tonsils taken out, but it doesn’t take away from what the Pride accomplished this spring.
“We’ll be ready to go (for 7-on-7s) this summer,” said Brown, adding that he won’t feel the need to make as many plays with the other talent around him. “It’s going to be another chance to show what we can do.”
While Vaughan knows what he has in his wide receiver corps, he was happy to find out what else he had with players like Fenstermacher and former Tucson safety/wide receiver Markell Simmons getting their first reps in a Mountain Pointe uniform along with junior varsity players making the leap.
“We have a good idea of our (two-deep) with only one player really playing both ways in Jalen Brown,” Vaughan said. “Natrell Curtis will see some time on the (defensive line) in certain situations, but that’s about it. We have good depth everywhere other than maybe linebacker.”
One would expect the first spring after a standard-setting season like the Pride had to be positive and that’s exactly what Vaughan saw.
“Our kids have had a great attitude, every one of them,” Vaughan said. “Not one problem.”
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