LAS VEGAS – Norris Vaughan has his week cut out for him.
The Mountain Pointe football coach has always done a good job of building up his players confidence while at the same time keeping them in check by breaking them down and harping on their mistakes.
The process started amid the team huddle in the north end zone of Fertitta Field on Saturday night when he celebrated the 66-13 over Sparks Reed (Nev.) with the Sollenberger Classic trophy nearby, but closed with “I think you all can agree we can get better.”
The collective and dutiful answer was “Yes, sir.”
There were some miscues, missed assignments and other minor infractions that will be visible on film this week but as a whole the Pride showed interested onlookers – the Chandler and Hamilton coaching staff in attendance mostly - in their 15th consecutive win that was there isn’t going to be much of a drop off from last year.
“We can do it all again,” Vaughan said. “We just have to get confidence, rather, they have to get me to trust in them still. We took a lot of steps in that direction.”
The offense ran for 298 yards, senior first-year starter Garvin Alston threw for two scores and 139 yards on a 7 of 11 passing performance and Paul Lucas put on an electrifying display with a touchdown catch of 47 yards, a touchdown run of 55 and ended his night with an 83-yard kickoff return.
“Paul Lucas was sensational,” Vaughan said.
Lucas, whose sprinter speed overshadows his leadership and football IQ that are just as impressive, said the Pride weren’t out to prove anything, but did so in the process.
“I don’t think we were worried about making a statement out here,” Lucas said. “We still got a lot of work to do. This was a good start, but we have to work hard week by week.”
The special teams were highlighted by returns from Tyree Shivers and Lucas and the powder keg of a leg by John Abercrombie, whose kickoffs were all touchbacks and he made a 50 yard field goal, tied for the second longest in school history, that would have made it from 55 plus, were in midseason form.
The defensive backfield was a question coming in simply because none of the four players had started a game. The unit held up strong against Reed’s 25-plus pass attempts.
“We played really good defense most of the time, didn’t do anything poorly,” Vaughan said. “The secondary was great. We had guys back there that played some last year. They can all hit. A physical group. More physical than last year. We got called for some interference penalties I’m not sure were there.”
The penalties might not have been there, but it was very clear that Pride swagger more than present in 2014.
“We lost a lot of guys and some people might have doubted us, but we never did,” senior defensive lineman Bruce Hester said. “We were physical and fast. We have the same approach as last year.”
The Pride play three Phoenix Union schools in consecutive weeks before the schedule changes dramatically with Chandler, Hamilton, Desert Vista and Brophy.
Until then Vaughan will be balancing praise and breaking them down. It’s all part of the process.
One that looks awful familiar.
“We got our feet wet and got experience,” Vaughan said. “We beat Bishop Gorman here last year but by the end of the year we were a lot better team. I suspect the same thing will happen again.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.