Desert Vista's Mike Ingrassia did the best to keep himself together.

He cracked a smile, hid his eyes and plowed through the situation. The senior captain was sitting in the football coach's office being interviewed by a reporter, whose back was to the windows that faced the locker room.

A group of his teammates were outside of the windows doing everything they could to mess with him, trying to get him to slip up and make him distracted while the red light of the voice recorder took in everything he was saying.

As expected Ingrassia remained focused, answered questions with his usual aplomb and didn't succumb to the situation.

Just like when he is on the football field.

"I seem to respond well to pressure," Ingrassia said. "I feel like I do better when there is pressure. I tend to focus more in those situations."

The wide receiver has developed into Desert Vista's playmaker - he is averaging 13.5 yards per offensive touch - as the team's leading rusher and receiver as the Thunder (3-2, 0-1) continue Fiesta Region play Friday when Mesa (2-4, 0-2) comes to visit.

"He makes so many big plays," junior wide receiver Shaw Loomer said. "It's like we expect him to be the one who comes through when we need it most."

Opposing defenses do as well, but it hasn't stopped the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder from getting loose.

"He's their best player," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said recently. "You focus on stopping him, but he is still going to break a play or two that gives them a chance."

In the run game, Ingrassia has three touchdowns of 23, 32 and 49 yards. He is averaging 12.3 yards a rush (245 yards on 20 carries). Ingrassia also has 19 catches for 280 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and a score.

"We are not surprised. We expect that out of Mike," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. "We have had a lot of late-game drives and we have had a lot of people comment on how we stayed poised and calm. That filters down through Mike."

Loomer said Ingrassia, who has an interception and fumble recovery from his cornerback position, is the team's go-to person in more ways than one.

"I'm really close with Mickey and he is a good teacher," said Loomer, who is second on the team with 13 catches. "He has really helped me route-wise and he is a great leader."

The Ivy League schools are catching on to everything he brings to a team as he visited Brown (offered), Harvard and Cornell over the summer. All of the schools are looking at him as an "athlete."

"My dad went to Cornell and he is trying to get me to go there, but I think I am going to stay away from there," said Ingrassia, who is an accomplished hurdler in track. "I've heard from Pac-10 schools a little, but I am leaning toward the Ivy League."

If he ends up on the East Coast for college as expected those schools come with a tad bit of pressure academically, but it is becoming abundantly clear that performing under those conditions is not a problem for Ingrassia.

"You just have to do the best you can when your number is called," he said. "There is a responsibility to the team to make the catches or get big runs. It's my position on the team to do so and I just do what I can."

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