Emotions were high from the get-go, tempers flared as the clock wound down, and throughout the Desert Vista and Red Mountain season finale.
Desert Vista senior Michael Ingrassia picked quite the night to have the game of his life.
Ingrassia tallied more than 330 total yards, including eight carries for 153 yards, six catches for 128 yards, and two kick returns for more than 50 yards; more importantly, the state track and field championship scored long touchdown runs of 44 and 78 yards on the ground and another 66 through the air as Desert Vista defeated Red Mountain 28-17 on senior night at Thunder Stadium.
"Not enough credit to these guys. A lot of those fly sweeps - untouched," Ingrassia said, giving his teammates full credit for opening the seam for him time and again.
Friday ended the regular season for both teams, but the season carries on next week with both Red Mountain (6-4 overall, 1-4 Fiesta Region) and Desert Vista (8-2, 4-1) earning Class 5A-Division I playoff berths.
Early calculations Friday night had the Thunder, winners of six straight overall and a perfect 5-0 at home, checking in as the state tournament's third seed, facing would-be 14th seed Mountain View in the first round next week at home.
No. 12 Red Mountain will be in the Ahwatukee Foothills again next week, this time at No. 5 Mountain Pointe if the predictions are correct.
The official announcement will come at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
"It's a new season. That's what I told the kids. Nobody really cares now that we went 8-2," Desert Vista head coach Dan Hinds said. "You just got to know that every game at this point is a do or die."
Flipping their respective wins and losses from a year ago, Desert Vista's only losses this season have come to unbeaten Hamilton - the 5A-I playoffs' top seed - and rival Mountain Pointe.
"It's a good thing to look back on 2-8 in the offseason and build up on that," Ingrassia said. "But, sure, you still have doubts in your mind.
"The best part I guess you could say about us seniors is that we've never had a winning season like this," Ingrassia said.
The Thunder's current senior class didn't post winning seasons in any of their first three years, spanning freshman football to jayvee, to their first full year as a group on varsity last season.
"I would think that if we didn't play the schedule in the Fiesta Region that we play, it would be something that I'd be concerned with," Hinds said. "But I tell you we've played all the best teams in the state, so we've been in some good games already. ... That's what I've always said about being in the Fiesta region, it really prepares you for the playoffs."
Friday was another one of those good games, where the score never really got out of hand one way or the other. The 11-point final spread was the largest lead either team held all night.
And from the onset, it was as if the teams were playing in a never-ending game of "can you top this?" w
As soon as one team hit the end zone, it usually took no more than a play or two for the other to counter right back.
After a scoreless first quarter, Desert Vista's Dominic Kereluk opened the scoring with a 69-yard touchdown run. Red Mountain countered just 24 seconds later hen Aaron Eiseler connected with EJ Cordova for a 41-yard touchdown strike.
Later in the second, after Sheldon Carr hit a 35-yard field goal to give the Mountain Lions a 10-7 lead, Hunter Rodriguez dropped the ball right over a streaking Ingrassia's shoulder for the untouched 66-yard score - the touchdowns coming just 17 seconds apart.
Following scored 44-yard run in the third, the trend continued again. Eiseler hit tight end Billy Freeman for a 19-yard strike, only to have Ingrassia negate it with his 78-yard scoring run less than a minute later.
Piloting the Thunder to more than 550 yards in total offense, Rodriguez completed 14 of 24 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. In the first half alone the junior completed 11 of 15 for 199 yards. Red Mountain's Eiseler finished 14 of 28 for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
The game ended in an odd fashion
After Desert Vista took over with a chance to gain a first down or two and run out the clock, a scuffle broke out near midfield with only about 30 seconds remaining.
Coaches from both sides took off near midfield, where officials struggled to curb the fracas. Similar to a bench-clearing ball in baseball, several mini-quarrels popped up amidst the players on the field, and coaches pushed themselves between the players and got their teams back to their respective sidelines.
After nearly five minutes of discussion, officials ejected at least three players - including one from Desert Vista and two from Red Mountain - and wound the clock to effectively call the game without running another play. The team's met at midfield for the usual handshake line with no incident.
It could not be confirmed immediately following the game which players were ejected.
Any player ejected would be ineligible for next week's game.
Red Mountain 0 10 0 7 17
Desert Vista 0 14 7 7 28
Red Mountain Desert Vista
First downs 13 19
Rushes -yards 20-112 38-325
Passing yards 157 232
Comp-Att-Int 14-28-0 14-24-0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-45 3-45
DV -- Kereluk 69 run (Gieseking kick) (2nd, 11:24)
RM -- Cordova 41 pass from Eiseler (Carr kick) (2nd, 11:00)
RM -- Carr 35 field goal (2nd, 2:17)
DV -- Ingrassia 66 pass from Rodriguez (Gieseking kick) (2nd, 2:00)
DV -- Ingrassia 44 run (Gieseking kick) (3rd, 2:57)
RM -- Freeman 19 pass from Eiseler (Carr kick) (4th, 11:51)
DV -- Ingrassia 78 run (Gieseking kick) (4th, 11:04)
Phoenix Desert Vista (8-2, 4-1 Fiesta Region) defeated visiting Mesa Red Mountain (6-4, 1-4), 28-17, in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Shortly after Red Mountain cut the lead to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, Desert Vista's Michael Ingrassia broke open a 78-yard touchdown run - his third score of the night longer than 40 yards - to cap the scoring at 28-17.
PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Desert Vista's Michael Ingrassia finished with more than 330 total yards, including 158 rushing (with touchdowns of 44 and 78 yards) and 128 receiving (with a touchdown of 66).
The Thunder doubled up the Mountain Lions, with Desert Vista compiling more than 550 total yards of offense, compared to less than 275 for Red Mountain.