Mountain Pointe coach Eric Lauer walked to the 50-yard line at Karl Kiefer Stadium, put his hands on his knees and looked back at his team kneeling silently behind him.
He took a deep breath and quickly glanced at Mountain View celebrating its 27-20 nail-biting win over the Pride in the south end zone. He then faced his team.
“I shed a tear for my guys, man,” Lauer said. “They do everything we ask of them to do every day. The effort and sense of urgency has to keep getting better. You can’t always determine the outcome on a Friday, but you can improve your process Monday through Thursday.”
Defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey applauded his team and offered words of encouragement. After all, the Pride clawed their way back into the game midway through the fourth quarter despite a 14-point deficit. They went toe-to-toe with Mountain View’s defense that bottled up nearly every opponent in week’s past.
With under a minute remaining in the game trailing by a touchdown Mountain Pointe was inside the red zone. But key defensive stops, including a sack by Mountain View junior defensive end Gabriel Grutzmacher on fourth down ended the Pride’s comeback effort.
“Our defense is elite,” said Mountain View junior defensive end Malaki Ta’ase, one of the state’s leaders in sacks this season. “We believe we can go up against anyone. It’s not just one person either, it’s all of us. We are one unit.”
Ta’ase went toe-to-toe with senior offensive tackle and Utah commit Zereoue Williams throughout the game. The two traded blows, with one getting the better of the other on some occasions and vice versa.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior did, however, find himself in the backfield on several occasions, dropping Mountain Pointe quarterbacks Amier Boyd and Chris Arviso or the slew of tailbacks for losses. In the third quarter, Ta’ase and company blocked Mountain Pointe’s punt deep in its own territory. The ball bounced into the end zone where Ta’ase fell on it for the go-ahead touchdown.
It was the turning point of a game where it seemed Mountain Pointe had figured out the recipe to force miscues on Mountain View’s side, something five other teams had failed to do this season.
But a solid performance from Mountain View senior quarterback Zac Majorzcak, who stepped in after starter Willy Roberts went down with a shoulder injury two weeks ago, helped move the Toro offense up and down the field. The senior went 16-of-26 for 122 yards and an interception. He added 30 yards and a touchdown on the ground, one of two scores from Mountain View rushers on the night.
Mountain Pointe’s comeback effort was fueled by a strong defensive performance. Senior safety Jaden Crockett, one of the Pride’s captains, flew all over the field. He was key in defending the pass, intercepting Majorzcak, and helped stop the run.
He also helped flip the momentum to Mountain Pointe’s side in the second quarter with a 42-yard punt return for a touchdown, which gave the Pride the lead heading into the half. The return was a breath of fresh air not only for Crockett and his team, but for his coaching staff who told him repeatedly all year long to take a chance with the ball in his hands.
“Me and coach go over it all practice because I let the punts go over my head,” Crockett said. “I kind of had a chip on my shoulder and my guys did a great job blocking for me. Our defense made some plays tonight.
“We’ve got something special here, we just have to learn how to play four quarters.
It was Mountain Pointe’s defense that forced a turnover on downs in the middle of the fourth quarter, which led to a touchdown run by Boyd to trim Mountain View’s lead to seven. A forced three-and-out on the next series helped set up Mountain Pointe for the potential game-tying score.
But as has been a struggle all year long for the Pride, they weren’t able to finish. However, Lauer said they continue to take steps in the right direction and during a season where every practice and game isn’t guaranteed, that’s all he can ask for.
“I think the kids are trusting us more,” Lauer said, “and when people trust who they’re working with or working for, they’ll do a lot for you. That’s what they’re doing. They’re embracing the culture and I told these seniors they’re laying the foundation to get this program back to where it’s respectable.
“That’s what we are going to do.”
The clutch stop by Mountain View’s defense to secure the victory also kept the Toros’ quest for a perfect season alive. Now at 6-0 on the year, Mountain View has added itself into the mix as a potential Open Division qualifier.
“I said it from the beginning of the season,” Ta’ase said, “this team, we are going to come out here and battle every game to get a chance at the Open Division. But if 6A happens, we are going to play our butts off. We will see what happens.”
Mountain View will host a red-hot Basha (4-2) team that has won four straight games next week. Mountain Pointe (0-6) will travel to face Queen Creek (4-2).