even weeks have gone by, even though it seems like an eternity since Desert Vista started the off the seasonwith a win over Palo Verde of Las Vegas.

Then a week later, Mountain Pointe knocked off Hamilton to begin its season and served notice that the Pride was back after a difficult 2011.

Great starts, no doubt, for both programs.

The question is now how will it end?

Some insight to that question was given on Saturday when the Arizona Interscholastic Association revealed the Division I brackets.

The Pride (9-1) was tabbed the top seed and will host No. 16 Cibola on Friday.

The Thunder will begin the quest of defending their state title as the No. 6 seed and will get a chance to do their Senior Walk at Thunder Stadium after hosting No. 11 Basha, which is a rematch of last year’s semifinals.

Mountain Pointe’s position is well earned after playing arguably the toughest schedule in Division I, as five of its opponents are hosting first-round games this week and a total of six made the postseason.

The Pride essentially played 38 winning quarters of football, but a second half letdown against Brophy kept them from an undefeated season.

Brophy, which is the fourth seed and faces No. 13 Chandler, might be a bit of a sore spot for the Pride.

But the possibility of playing them again if both teams make it to semifinals could prove to be cathartic for Mountain Pointe, which made the semifinals in 2009 and 2010.

“I would like another chance to play a better second half with Brophy,” junior quarterback Antonio Hinojosa said.

First things first, the Pride take on Cibola (7-3) in the first round with the winner of No. 8 Mountain View and No. 9 Desert Mountain looming in Round 2.

Mountain Pointe’s defense has been stout all year, other than that Brophy mishap, and now the offense is really showing more balance to reach a new level.

Garette Craig and Thomas Warren, who have combined for about 1,750 yards rushing, move the chains with big plays, while wide receiver Jalen Brown (52 catches, 1,100 yards, 15 TDs) and Hinojosa (25 TDs) have become one of the more devastating combos in the state.

Desert Vista, which lost to Mountain Pointe and Hamilton during the season, has seen its defense play with an edge in recent weeks and give the Thunder a different feel than it had earlier in the year.

The preseason thought was the Thunder’s linemen would be the strength of the team, and that veteran group has been as good as advertised.

The linebackers, especially Aaron Green, and the defensive backfield have really progressed as the season has gone along.

It has the Thunder prepared to take on all comers in order to get back to the title game on Nov. 24.

It starts with Basha (7-3) with the possibility of getting a rematch with No. 2 Hamilton (8-2) in the second round.

“We played with nastiness and everyone is playing with a chip on their shoulders,” senior safety Nick Farina said. “We were coming down hill and now we are rolling down hill. It’s going to be a fun ride.”

The Thunder early on had a bit an identity crisis, trying to live up to last year’s amazing run.

It was an once-in-a-lifetime run.

Unless of course, Desert Vista pulls it off again.

“With the number of great teams in the state right now there are going to be some great first-round games and the second round will be everybody playing everybody,” Hinds said.

“We will go into it with the mindset that we will have to beat some great teams to get back to the championship.”


Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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