Over the last seven seasons, Mountain Pointe High School’s football team has rushed for more than 13 miles — just over a half-marathon.
If the season opener is any indication of what to expect in 2016, the Pride looks to be keeping up with that pace.
Mountain Pointe ran for an estimated 315 yards in just 33 offensive plays in a 51-6 win over Sandra Day O’Connor on Friday.
The schedule will get tougher, including this week’s game in California as the Pride faces Upland at Norco High.
But history suggests that by the end of its 2016 campaign, Mountain Pointe will average about 257.2 yards a game and 3,343.71 for the season.
“We like to win so we run the ball,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “We commit to running the ball. We like to be balanced, but in my mind that means 350 yards rushing and 250 passing.”
It doesn’t matter how much personnel changes or stays the same; Mountain Pointe finds a way to churn out the yardage.
Last year the team depended on running back Macarius Blount nearly every running play while quarterback Jack Smith did plenty of damage as well.
The plan to start the year is to share most of the carries largely among between senior Anthony Stephens, junior Gary Bragg, senior Rashie Hodge.
Stephens is out for one more game for disciplinary reasons, which gives others like Bragg — who ran for 210 yards in the opening game on nine carries — to make a bigger impression.
“I’m on varsity now, and you have to wait sometimes for your shot,” said Bragg, who had two long touchdowns 80 and 73 yards. “Right now I have to make the most of the chance.”
His second touchdown, with the second and third team players in the game on the offensive line, saw him brake through the line and stick a spin move around the defender for a clear path to the end zone.
“It was a great move,” Vaughan said. “He can be a special player. He’s small, a little ball of muscle, and is quick as anybody on the field.”
With the bigger and stronger Hodge, who has been compared to former Pride player Wesley Payne, and Stephen, another speedster, Mountain Pointe will have plenty of options.
It means the offensive line must identify who is in the backfield and possibly hold their blocks a little longer when Hodge and not Bragg has the ball.
“You know who’s back there, so you might block a little different, or the scheme might be different depending on who it is,” senior tackle Eddie Rivas said.
Mountain Pointe’s continuous success is based on scheme, commitment and some superior athletes up front and in the backfield.
“I remember coming up and watching Nick Carmen, Clayton Dry and Davis Perrot just mauling people,” Rivas said. “It’s what you are expected to do here as a lineman. We expect to dominate.”
The Pride will get a test Friday at the Brothers in Arms game in California as they take on fast and physical defense against Upland at Norco High (5:30 p.m. kickoff).
The Highlanders have won at least 10 games five times since 2008 and their expectations are similar to the Pride’s annually.
“It’s a good team, a very good team actually,” Vaughan said. “It’s going to take a good effort to beat them.”
That will start with ball control, running the ball and spreading the ball around while the line (with three new starters in Rudy Ralls, Justice Hudson and Shomari Hayes) breaks the huddle, expecting to impose its will.
“It’s about playing with an attitude, digging in and moving the guy in front of you,” Rivas said. “Mountain Pointe runs the ball and Coach Vaughan and the coaches expect it of every team every year.”
So 2016 shouldn’t be any different. It’s their time to pile up the mileage.
“Running the ball is about attitude,” Hodge said. “You line up and run hard until the play is over. It usually works out good for us.”
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