Mayhem and chaos ruled the postgame, again.
The Mountain Pointe players and student body mingled and danced at Thunder Stadium as if they owned the place.
And for one night, it felt like the Pride did after beating defending state champion and rival Desert Vista 23-21 Friday. All 35.8 square miles of the Phoenix suburb belonged to the boys in white jerseys and yellow pants.
“We run ‘Tukee,” junior Natrell Curtis said. “Just write that.”
If it was November, maybe it ends with just that, but it is September and there are seven regular season games left.
The Thunder clearly need to get a handle on the ball after fumbling it 10 times total against Palo Verde (Nev.) and Mountain Pointe, but Desert Vista (2-1) is hardly going to let one game dictate the outcome of the season.
The Thunder will rebound and show it can play like a champion again, but with at least two more difficult games – Hamilton (Oct. 5) and Chandler (Oct. 26) – some aspects of their game have to shore up in the coming weeks.
But this is about Mountain Pointe grabbing the frontrunner status as a state title contender, especially after Brophy lost to Red Mountain. The Broncos had the lead late but a fumble gave the Mountain Lions a short field and they took advantage for the win.
That means the top three preseason favorites — Hamilton, Desert Vista and Brophy — all have one in-state defeat, which puts the Pride squarely at the top of the Division I pecking order.
There will be others – Chandler, Desert Ridge, Basha and Red Mountain – that will make a claim but for now the Pride looks awfully good and Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan thinks they might only be getting started.
“We are going to get so much better,” he said. “It’s early. We have work to do. By the end of the year, we are going to be even better.”
Maybe so, but the Pride looks awfully good already.
Junior quarterback Antonio Hinojosa throws darts. Wide receiver Jalen Brown has hands so soft they must be made out of cashmere. The Payne brothers are fundamental and reckless, and Thomas Warren reverted back to his sophomore days as he ran with purpose.
“We played a great game on a great night,” said Brown, who had a 15-yard touchdown to open the Pride’s scoring. “Desert Vista is a good team, but we knew we could get it done and that’s what we did.”
It’s amazing how much this team has changed in a year.
After getting hammered by the Thunder in a weather shortened game in last year’s Ahwatukee Bowl, the team started to splinter.
Now they are put together by a bond that is stronger than any wood glue, along with the influence Vaughan — who is 3-1 in Ahwatukee Bowl games — has brought to the program during his four seasons.
“Football is important to everyone involved in high school sports,” Pride athletic director Ian Moses said. “Norris lives football every waking moment of his day and we are reaping the benefits as a school. The program and the student body feed on that.”
The Pride have described themselves as hungry Lions and Vaughan closed Friday evening by saying, “Tonight we eat.”
As well, they should.
Mountain Pointe is deserving of a meal fit for a king. For now, the Pride are rulers of the land known as Ahwatukee.
It is a nice neck of the woods, but it is still far from the be-all that ends all.
“We’re not done,” Wesley Payne said. “We’re not even close to being done. There is a lot more out there for us to go after.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahawtukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSKodaAFN.