Mountain Pointe reverted back to basics by utilizing a strong rushing attack that carried the Pride to a quarterfinal victory over Scottsdale Desert Mountain 45-14 on Friday night.
Tasked with stopping a thoroughly dominant Wolves' (9-3) passing game, the Pride (11-1) simply made sure the ball rarely touched quarterback Kyle Allen's hands via a simple but effective ground-and-pound philosophy.
“We were going to pound out this game for sure,” said Pride halfback Thomas Warren.
Warren got the Pride going on that front in the first quarter with a 43-yard touchdown run that came after Mountain Pointe recovered an Allen fumble at the Desert Mountain 43.
It was one of two Desert Mountain fumbles the Wolves lost to Mountain Pointe – the second came early in the third quarter after wide receiver Mark Andrews dropped the ball on the Pride's 40-yard line.
In the time between those two fumbles, Mountain Pointe had to hang on to a three-point lead – either 10-7 or 17-14 – and for much of the second quarter and survived the ramifications that came with committing eight total penalties.
But the Pride began to pull away on an 80-yard drive with a hint more than two minutes left in the first half that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass by Antonio Hinojosa to Jalen Brown on third down with 19 seconds on the clock.
The Wolves came close to maximizing those remaining seconds by getting the ball to the 50-yard line in 12 seconds and setting up a Hail Mary attempt with 7 seconds left.
Allen's prayer pass to the 6-foot-6 Andrews was on target, but Mountain Pointe tipped it away from the tall target and made it into halftime with a precious 24-14 lead.
“He (Andrews) catches that ball and we're down three points again,” said Wolves head coach Tony Tabor.
The Pride began to pile on the points in the second half, starting with another 80-yard drive that ended with halfback Landry Payne rumbling into the end zone to make it 31-14.
After Andrews' aforementioned turnover, the Pride milked the clock as it marched 60 yards to pay dirt on a 1-yard touchdown run by Payne.
Returner Travonn White put the Wolves away with a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown with no time left in the third quarter.
Winning the game for Mountain Pointe was its decision to hand the ball to running backs Warren and Garette Craig – a plan that worked like gangbusters as the two churned out first down after first down and combined for almost 300 yards on the ground.
Besides keeping the ball away from Allen and the rest of the Wolves' offense, Tabor said it also affected the team's rhythm on offense and “took us out of our normal deal.”
“We keep the ball for five to six minutes, that gets frustrating,” said Pride head coach Norris Vaughn.
Craig led the team in carries with 22 and gained 154 yards and a touchdown on those touches. Warren followed with 15 carries, 138 yards and one touchdown, while Payne chipped in 25 yards and two touchdowns.
Aiding the Pride's running game was an efficient performance by Hinojosa, who completed 12 of his 16 passes – many of the attempts came at the end of the first half – for 119 yards and the touchdown to Brown, who ended the night with 76 receiving yards.
Pacing the Wolves was halfback Daniel Fedorka's 13 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown, which he set up with a 73-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Allen finished the game 12 of 23 for 219 yards and a touchdown, while wide receiver Alec Waltman caught five passes for 108 yards.
“We played really well as a team and we played physical,” Vaughn said about his team's performance.
Next up for the Pride is a semifinal matchup against Brophy Prep, which handed Mountain Pointe its only lost of the year and beat the Pride 28-3 in the first round of last year's playoffs.
The semifinal game is Friday at McClintock.
Mungenast is an area freelance writer.
Mountain Pointe 45, Desert Mountain 14
Desert Mountain: 0 14 0 0 – 14
Mountain Pointe: 10 14 21 0 – 45
First downs: Desert Mountain 10, Mountain Pointe 23
Rushes-yards: Desert Mountain 18-88, Mountain Pointe 50-358
Passing yards: Desert Mountain 219, Mountain Pointe 119
Comp-Att-Int: Desert Mountain 12-23-0, Mountain Pointe 12-16-0
Fumbles-lost: Desert Mountain 3-2, Mountain Pointe 2-1
Penalties-yards: Desert Mountain 4-40, Mountain Pointe 11-95
MP – Warren 43-yard run (Sheehan kick)
MP – Abercrombie 41-yard field goal
DM – Waltman 11-yard pass from Allen (Taylor kick)
MP – Craig 8-yard run (Sheehan kick)
DM – Fedorka 1-yard run (Taylor kick)
MP – Brown 23-yard pass from Hinojosa (Sheehan kick)
MP – Payne 4-yard run (Sheehan kick)
MP – Payne 1-yard run (Sheehan kick)
MP – White 58-yard punt return (Sheehan kick)