In the days leading up to Mountain Pointe's playoff game, coach Norris Vaughan was lamenting the fact that Zach Deitchman's abilities weren't a good fit for the Pride's offensive style.
Apparently, Deitchman disagreed.
The senior running back asked for the ball with the game on the line Friday and came through to finish off an improbable comeback in No. 5 Mountain Pointe's 21-17 win over No. 12 Mesa Red Mountain at Karl Kiefer Stadium.
"The player of the game has to be Deitchman," an exasperated Vaughan said after a raucous team huddle. "He was huge. At the end of the game, he asked for it. I said, ‘You got it, baby' and you have to be so proud of him and the whole team for holding it together."
The Pride (9-2) advance to the quarterfinals on the strength of three touchdowns in the last nine minutes of the game and will host No. 13 Phoenix Brophy (5-5) next Friday, while Red Mountain (6-5) can only wonder what if as the offseason begins.
The Lions, whose last ditch-drive ended on a fourth-down incompletion in Pride territory, led 14-0 at halftime and 17-7 in the fourth quarter when two fumbles drastically changed the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, running back Cougar Garcia broke into the second level and at about the 1-yard line a Mountain Pointe defender knocked the ball loose and Mountain Pointe's defensive lineman Chad Papineau recovered the ball in the end zone to keep the score manageable.
From that moment on the Pride's passing game kicked in as two Kyle Faunce to Jalen Brown scoring strikes sandwiched a Sheldon Carr 25-yard field for Red Mountain to close within 17-14.
Then Red Mountain took over possession at the Mountain Pointe 45 after a failed onside kick by the Pride. Garcia ripped off 8 yards on the first play, but was hammered by Izzy Marshall and Luis Sharpe to jar the ball out.
The Pride recovered at their own 39 with 2:58 remaining the game.
"Had we just hold on to the football they never would have had a chance," Red Mountain first-year coach Ron Wisniewski said. "We went to our 4-minute O and if we get a first down it is probably over. We get a 7- or 8-yard run. If we get a first down we kneel on it, but we turn it over and they made a great play on defense. They took advantage of their opportunity and went down and scored."
The winning drive started with a 19-yard pass from Faunce (16 of 28 for 199 yards) to Deitchman. Seven players later with the ball at 8-yard line, Red Mountain called a timeout.
That's when Deitchman called for the ball. It was 2nd-and-goal from 8 with 1:23 left. And the 6-foot, 195-pounder, who loves to use his speed to get the corners on the "rocket" running play, actually cut it up inside for the score.
"I saw the perfect hole to cut up inside," said Deitchman, who finished with seven touches for 68 yards. "The O-line came through and my tight end TJ Holtrop said he was going to blow his guy up so I followed him until I saw the hole. It was unbelievable."
It was a frantic fourth quarter that was spurred on by the play of Faunce, Brown, a desperate defense and Deitchman.
Faunce was 2 of 7 for 10 yards with two interceptions in the first half. He looked out of sync as Red Mountain took his No. 1 target Garrett Holle (5 catches for 70 yards) out. But with the game on the line and almost all passes being called, Faunce a found rhythm.
"Everything was just clicking," said Faunce, who was 12 of 15 for 167 yards and two scores in the fourth quarter. "They were taking Holle away, but we found a way. I played bad early, but we started looking at other options."
That option turned out to be a freshman, Brown, that finished with five catches for 50 yards and the first two touchdowns of his high school career.
"Faunce had a great end of the game," Vaughan said. "Brown became our go-to receiver with Holle being doubled team. It was a great team effort."
The defense came up with the two big turnovers despite repeatedly getting gashed for big pass plays. Red Mountain quarterback Aaron Eiseler (11 of 19 for 234 yards, 2 TDs) had his pick of receivers for awhile, but the Mountain Pointe defense rocked the ball loose enough to give the offense some extra possessions.
"It seemed like we had a defeated attitude," Marshall said. "We had to step up. Everyone's mindset changed in the second half. It wasn't lucky. It was heart."
The Pride clearly had some troubles - on their second drive of the game fullback Jordan Leal fumbled into the end zone for a touchback and a personal foul derailed another deep drive in the third quarter - that put Red Mountain out front, but somehow they managed to advance to the next round of the postseason.
"Call it what you want," Vaughan said. "All I know is we have another game to prepare for."
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Mountain Pointe 21, Red Mountain 17
Red Mountain 14 0 0 3-17
Mountain Pointe 0 0 0 21-21
First downs 13 19
Rushes-yards 28-121 39-185
Pass yards 234 199
Comp-Att-Int 11-19-0 16-28-2
Fumbles-lost 4-2 1-1
Penalties 6-50 3-37
RM - Thorton 51 pass from Eiseler (Carr kick), 10:02
RM - Cordova 5 pass from Eiseler (Carr kick), :45.8
MP - Brown 14 pass from Faunce (Kadisak kick), 8:31.
RM - Carr 25 field goal, 5:13
MP - Brown 10 pass from Faunce (Kadisak kick), 3:13
MP - Deitchman 8 run (Kadisak kick), 1:19
Vitals: No. 5 Mountain Pointe (9-2) scored three times, thanks to two No. 12 Red Mountain (6-5) turnovers, in the final 8 minutes and 31 seconds, to advance to the second round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs.
Highlight: Senior Zach Deitchman called for and received the ball on 2nd and goal from the 8-yard line and found the end zone to give the Pride an improbable comeback.
Player of the game: Junior quarterback Kyle Faunce rebounded from an awful first half (2 of 7 with 2 ints) to lead Mountain Pointe to three fourth quarter touchdowns. He finished 16 of 28 for 199 yards with two scores and two interceptions.
Key stat: After no turnovers in the first half, Red Mountain had two crucial fumbles (one for a touchback and the other when the Lions were trying to run out the clock). Overall, Red Mountain had four fumbles and lost two.