After facing a couple of familiar opponents in the opening rounds of the Class 5A-I state football playoffs, Mountain Pointe gets to see some new faces in the semifinals Friday night.
The second seeded Pride will take a 12-0 record into a Final Four playoff against the 11th seeded Mesa Jackrabbits (8-4) at 7 p.m. at Mesquite High School in Gilbert.
To get to the semifinals the Pride had to beat Mesa Westwood and Chandler Basha twice this season; once during the regular season and again in the opening two games of the playoffs.
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan, who has taken other teams to the semifinals five times and won a state championship at Wickenburg, is looking beyond the Jackrabbits’ record.
“They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t pretty dang good overall,” Vaughan said.
The Rabbits lost to Chandler, Mesa Red Mountain, defending state champion Chandler Hamilton and Phoenix Brophy this season.
Mesa avenged that first defeat to Brophy with a 13-3 upset of the Broncos in the quarterfinals last week to reach the semifinals.
Top ranked Hamilton and fourth seeded Chandler are in the other semifinal game tonight.
Those winners will meet for the state title at 5 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Both teams were off last Friday and spent time reviewing game tape.
“They know what we’ve got and we know what they’ve got,” Vaughan said. “They’re capable of winning it all and so are we.”
Mountain Pointe hasn’t tried to disguise what it does best.
Senior running backs Davon Jones and De’Andre Currie have piled up a combined 3,284 yards and 50 touchdowns on the ground this season. Jones has also caught 15 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns on a team that has passed only 102 times this season.
Mesa’s quarterback Dallin Parker has thrown 129 times for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has also been intercepted 10 times this season.
The Jackrabbits can’t match Mountain Pointe in rushing statistics, but Mesa’s Devaonte Kellybrew has run for 645 yards and seven touchdowns while Jaymen Green has piled up 565 yard on the ground and scored six touchdowns. Kyler Fackrell has caught 26 passes for 561 yards and five more Jackrabbit touchdowns.
This will be Mountain Pointe’s first trip to the semifinals since 1995 when an 11-2 Pride team lost to eventual state champion Phoenix St. Mary’s.
“We’re happy to be in the position we’re in,” Vaughan said. “Before the season started we had a goal to have a winning season and make the playoffs. Once the (regular) season ended our goal was to get to the semifinals. We’re there and we’re not happy with that. Our goal now is to get to the finals.”
The Pride was battling the flu as well as Chandler Basha in the quarterfinals last week. A two-point conversion in overtime gave Mountain Pointe a 22-21 victory and trip to the Final Four.
“We’ve still got a few soldiers down,” Vaughan added, “but hopefully they’ll all be well (for Mesa).
A bye week over the Thanksgiving gave the Pride more time to heal and get healthy.
It was the second bye week of the season for Mountain Pointe. The Pride also had a week off after the sixth game of the season and had to come back from a 28-0 halftime deficit to edge Mesa Desert Ridge, 35-34, after the break.
“I wish we didn’t take a week off during the season,” Vaughan said. “That’s two weeks we’re not playing and it makes the season too long for everyone. If you get to the finals you’ve played 14 games in 16 weeks and for the sake of everyone I’d rather have 14 games in 14 weeks.”