Ahwatukee Bowl week came a little earlier than expected.
With Mountain Pointe cruising to a 41-0 blowout of Mesa on Friday night and Desert Vista having a bye week, the focus on one of the state's best rivalries came about the middle of the third quarter of the Pride's game.
It can't get here fast enough for many involved.
While the Pride (1-1) might have started thinking about the Thunder (2-0) on the way to wearing down the proud Jackrabbits, it was clear Mountain Pointe didn't take its opponent lightly.
"We couldn't afford to look ahead," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "They are a tough team that never quits. We came out a little slow, I think we had more penalties in the first five minutes than we did all last week, but we got it going."
The Pride offense looked particularly impressive. So did the defense, but that is just a repeat performance after playing well in the season opening loss to Hamilton. The offense looked comfortable, smooth and anything but one-dimensional.
Pretty much the opposite of how it performed against Hamilton in a 17-7 loss.
"The offense was totally different tonight," sophomore wide receiver Jalen Brown said. "We believe in each other and made some big plays."
Brown (3 catches, 85 yards, 3 TDs) and senior quarterback Dillan Johnson (240 total yards, 4 total TDS) were in the center of it as Johnson proved to be the dual threat the coaching staff envisioned him to be when he was handed the position before spring ball.
The offense didn't click right away as Johnson got into a groove with 99-yards of field in front of him toward the end of the first quarter.
Mountain Pointe defensive back Landry Payne intercepted Mesa quarterback Jeremy Noble at the Pride's 2-yard line. Mountain Pointe running back Thomas Warren broke into the free for a 95-yard run, but it was called back by a holding penalty.
Instead of it being a mental setback, Johnson ripped off a 34-yard run for a first down on 3rd and 9 from the 1-yard line and then followed it up with a 66-yard touchdown run to close out the first quarter.
After Mesa fumbled the ensuing kickoff (recovered by the Pride's Travonn White), Johnson found Brown in the left side of the end zone two plays later to give the Pride a 14-0 lead with 11:10 left.
Mesa (0-2) did a job of keeping the game close into the half, which wasn't the case last week against Desert Vista in a 38-6 loss.
"In a 41-0 loss you didn't play well, but I think we showed more heart tonight," Mesa coach Kelley Moore said. "We got down 14-0 last week and we crumbled. This time they fought through it and continued to play. We have to get some things straightened out, we are inept on offense right now, but we will get there."
Meanwhile Brown and Johnson continued to forge chemistry as the electric Brown scored on a 35-yard corner route and on a quick screen that went 25 more yards for a score to build a 28-0 lead in the third quarter.
Warren (13 carries, 97 yards) finished off the scoring with two 5-yard powerful runs to give the Pride 286 on 31 carries, including 144 from Johnson on eight attempts.
The Mountain Pointe defense did its part as the unit held the Jackrabbits to five first downs and 77 total yards.
"We were looking to get better after losing to Hamilton," senior defensive tackle Mark Fraboni said. "We just want to get better, better and better. We worked hard in practice and got after it."
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MP 7 7 20 7 -- 41
Mesa 0 0 0 0-- 0
MP - Johnson 66 yard run (Sheehan kick), 0:00.
MP - Brown 25 pass from Johnson (Sheehan kick), 11:10
MP - Brown 35 pass from Johnson (Sheehan kick), 11:43
MP - Brown 25 pass from Johnson (Sheehan kick), 9:37
MP - Warren 5 run (kick failed), 5:11
MP - Warren 5 run (Sheehan kick), 5:28
Mountain Pointe scored 21 points in the third quarter to blow open a 14-0 game on its way to a Division I, Section III win over Mesa.
Mesa honored Alan Wilkins before the game with a moment of silence and the releasing of purple and yellow balloons from the press box. Wilkins, a Mesa graduate, was the team's long-time stat guy who was killed in a car accident in August.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Mountain Pointe senior quarterback Dillan Johnson ran for 144 yards, including a 66-yard scoring run, and threw three touchdowns to Jalen Brown.
Mesa converted only five first downs as the Mountain Pointe defense help Mesa to 77 total yards.