With a Class 5A-I football state semifinal game coming up Friday night, naturally Mountain Pointe is looking ahead.
But there are times teams reach the end of a season when they can look back and find a moment, even something seemingly insignificant at the time, that changed a season.
It isn’t always something pleasant they want to recall.
But Mountain Pointe is riding a 12-game unbeaten streak going into the semifinal with Mesa Friday night at Gilbert Mesquite High School, so most of the memories are good ones.
Things could have been different for the Pride, who were trying to turn around a 2-8 season the year before, without a couple of subtle and not-so-subtle events.
“I hadn’t thought about it,” Mountain Pointe football coach Norris Vaughan said while the Pride were idle last week.
“Maybe coming back in the fourth quarter against Basha was the defining moment.”
After winning the opening two games of the season against Mesa Dobson and Gilbert Highland, the Pride faced an aerial blitz from Bears quarterback Michael Benjamin and were trailing 10-0 at the start of the fourth quarter.
While the Pride defense shut out the Bears down the stretch, the offensive started to show it could come back.
Needing six yards on a fourth down, pride quarterback Austin Blom hit tight end Ben DeMarr with a 14-yarder to keep the drive alive and Davon Jones closed the gap with an 8-yard touchdown run with nine minutes remaining in the game.
A little more than two minutes later De’Andre Currie gave the Pride a 14-10 lead with a 15-yard run and then put the game on ice with a 69-yard sprint down the sideline.
It was a preview of what Jones and Currie could do in a pinch. They went on to take it to the opposition and have run for a combined 3,284 yards and 30 touchdowns this season.
“These kids say they believe in what you say,” Vaughan continued, “but something like that has to happen to show them, so maybe that was the defining moment of the season.’
The Pride also came from behind to beat Desert Vista, 34-18, in the Ahwatukee Bowl, then really showed what they were made of this season when they pulled off another late run against Mesa Desert Ridge.
Mountain Pointe trailed 28-0 at halftime in that one, but rallied to win, 35-34.
“Coming back against Desert Ridge was big, too,” Vaughan said. “It really made these kids believe what they could do.”
There was some coming of age for individual players, too.
After Jones had a 99-yard kickoff touchdown return called back against Desert Vista, he fumbled on the Pride’s first offensive snap of the game. Desert Vista’s Jesse Clark turned it into a Thunder touchdown.
Jones ended up running for 217 yards and four touchdowns against the Thunder that night and hasn’t lost a fumble the rest of the season.
“That was the turning point for Jones, not the team,” Vaughan said.
What could be another defining Pride moment was in overtime during the team’s playoff rematch with Basha when Jones was asked to pick up a yard-and-a-half on a two-point conversion run.
He went into the end zone standing up and the Pride moved on to the semifinals with a 22-21 victory.
“I thought the odds were heavily in our favor,” Vaughan explained. “I was pretty confident that we could do it and if we didn’t it would be my fault and no one else’s.”