Like all coaches in Norris Vaughan’s position he has to guard against the possibility of the upset.
For the second year in a row, the Pride has earned the No. 1 seed in the Division I postseason. The Pride handled the position just fine a year ago, cruising to the title game by outscoring their three opponents 124-14, and the expectations will be similar this year, starting Friday when No. 16 Boulder Creek (5-5) comes to Karl Kiefer Stadium.
The No. 1 seed is an overwhelming favorite in most cases and the Pride (10-0) are no different after a dominating regular season.
Upsets, however, do occur and Vaughan can speak from experience when he warns the players all week about the type of threat the Jaguars present despite losing two of their last three games.
“All it takes are a few penalties and a turnover and anything can happen,” Vaughan said. “No one saw Minnesota beating Nebraska a few weeks ago and Tampa Bay had Seattle beat on Sunday (before the Seahawks won in overtime).
“Boulder Creek will be ready to play and we have to match it.”
Vaughan can also speak from experience as he was on the wrong end of one of the biggest upsets in Arizona history, based on seeding, in 2004 when he was on the coaching staff of Paradise Valley in his first year of coaching in the Valley of the Sun.
The Trojans were the top seed in Division I but lost to starting fullback/linebacker Matt Clapp, the Tribune Player of the Year in 2004 and Oklahoma recruit, to a broken leg in Week 9 and No. 16 Mountain Ridge, then coached by Hamilton’s Steve Belles, knocked off Paradise Valley, 38-24.
“I was just the quarterback coach up in the (press) box, but I was on the staff,” Vaughan said. “Losing Clapp was huge and the team didn’t play well after that, but it shows you how seeding sets the path but it doesn’t determine the outcome.”
That same year Highland made the semifinals as a 14th seed. Additionally, there was a 15th seed beating a No. 2 in the first round in 2003 and in 2002 the 13, 11 and 10 seeds all were first-round victors. Desert Vista made the state title game in 2008 as an 11th.
It can and might happen.
Just don’t expect the Pride to overlook Boulder Creek or anyone else along the path should Mountain Pointe continue to win throughout the month of November.
“We know you can’t take anyone for granted,” said Pride quarterback Antonio Hinojosa, who threw for 1,656 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. “We had a lot of those games on our schedule and we played well from the start to make sure it didn’t.
“Boulder Creek wants to win just as bad as we do and if we don’t play well they could get the chance.”
Pride wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Brown, who owns all but one (catches in a game) of the school’s wide receiver records and set the career mark for interceptions (15), said last year’s experience of being the top seed is helpful.
“When you are at the top you get everyone’s best game because they want to knock you off,” said Brown, who leads the team with 13 touchdowns (1 defensive). “I think after we beat (Bishop) Gorman everyone has been trying to do that so we are used to it. As long as we play our game and don’t make a ton of mistakes we’ll be OK.”
Vaughan said once a team reaches a semifinal the focus is off the seeding and just about getting to the title game.
“Some of those first round games, I could see where they think about getting the upset,” he said. “Once you get to semis it’s all about getting one more win. It doesn’t matter who is seeded what. It’s one win away from playing for a state title game. That’s all anyone is thinking about.”
That’s understandable, but history in the big-school division has shown there is usually a big upset along the line.
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