Mountain Pointe against Mountain Ridge, in an AIA Conference 6A playoff football game

Mountain Pointe junior linebacker Christian Clark (6) celebrates after he and junior linebacker Demetrice "DJ" Johnson (18) after tackling Mountain Ridge senior quarterback Brendan Anderson (9) to stop a two-point conversion, in an AIA Conference 6A playoff football game, Friday, November 18, 2022, in Ahwatukee Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

The Pride led Mountain Ridge 42-35 with less than a minute on the clock. The visiting Mountain Lions faced a third down from the Mountain Pointe 32. Then the one thing Mountain Pointe couldn’t afford to happen, happened.

Mountain Ridge senior quarterback Brendan Anderson connected with senior wideout Terrance Hall for a 32-yard score. The Mountain Lions then lined up for the go-ahead 2-point conversion that likely would’ve been to win the game. But linebacker DJ Johnson and athlete Christian Clark made the stop.

It sent Mountain Pointe’s sideline into a frenzy. After recovering the onside kick, the real celebration ensued. The Pride’s 42-41 win over Mountain Ridge in the first round of the 6A playoffs was the first postseason victory for the program since 2018.

A major steppingstone for the program and momentum booster as the Pride advance to the quarterfinals.

“What was going through my mind is I’m trying to have practice tomorrow and not be at home watching college football,” Clark said. “I just, that was the biggest play of the season me and No. 18, DJ Johnson, had to make.

“It feels great. We’re trying to add many more though. We’re trying to win state.”

Mountain Pointe’s ability to hold off Mountain Ridge came after a tumultuous first half for the Pride.

They were penalized six times, most of which killed offensive drives or extended those for Mountain Ridge. While few, a costly turnover in the first half on a fourth-down try gave Mountain Ridge Momentum to take an early lead.

But even with things not going their way, the Pride still kept it close.

Anderson connected Hall for the first time on a 15-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. Mountain Pointe responded with a long drive of its own, which was capped off by a 13-yard pass from quarterback Chris Arviso to wideout Matty Braun.

The fumble on the fourth down try turned into points thanks to Anderson again, this time to tight end Conrad Curley. Anderson connected with Parker Halpine for his third touchdown of the first half the next series.

“They all stayed with it,” Lauer said. “Our goal was to eat. We’re Lions, we needed to eat this week.”

Mountain Pointe answered in the second quarter to trim Mountain Ridge’s lead. Arviso threw his second touchdown pass of the night to Clark in the back of the end zone.

The Pride knew they had to come out in the second half and set the tone. And that’s exactly what they did.

Clark immediately found daylight and scored on an 85-yard run. After a Mountain Ridge punt, Arviso connected with wideout Jayden Burnley for a 74-yard score. A fumble on the kick return by Mountain Ridge allowed Mountain Pointe to score again behind the legs of Jay’len Rushing.

In just 5 minutes, 18 seconds, the Pride went from down six points to up 15. It set the stage for a wild finish.

“That was our goal, we wanted to close things out,” Lauer said. “We feel we can slam the door with our run game. That was the goal.”

Anderson and the Mountain Lions fought back as he found Ryland Sands to trim Mountain Pointe’s lead. A fumble by the Pride gave Mountain Ridge life to tie the game at 35 on a Chris Ramos run.

Driving down the field, Mountain Pointe needed an answer and got it from Randle Parker in the form of a 35-yard run. Anderson then led Mountain Ridge down the field for the pass to Hall and failed 2-point conversion that followed.

Anderson finished 34-of-43 for 376 yards and five touchdowns to four different wideouts. Hall was his top target with 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Mountain Pointe had big showings from several players. Arviso was 23-of-32 for 282 yards and three touchdowns while Clark (118), Rushing (126) and Parker (48) combined for 292 yards on the ground.

But the biggest performance came from Burnley. The Senior had just four receptions and 72 receiving yards entering Friday’s playoff game. He finished with seven catches for 174 yards and a touchdown.

It was the best performance of his high school career.

“It was in my heart to stay out here. I didn’t want to go home, I didn’t feel like it was time,” Burnley said. “God gave me the opportunity to come out here mid-season, or even after mid-season, to come and get some work. He gave me the opportunity and I took it and wanted to run with it.

“Especially in playoffs where it really pays off.”

Mountain Pointe now prepares to face Casteel in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The last time the Pride played this deep into November, they faced Chandler in the 2018 postseason.

The Pride lost that game to the Wolves, who went on to win the championship. They know Casteel presents a tough challenge. The Colts are led by star senior quarterback Landon Jury and have athletes all over the field, including Jeremiah Newcombe.

But the energy from the win over Mountain Ridge is something Lauer hopes will carry over. The players wanted a chance to practice Saturday instead of cleaning out their lockers.

They got that chance. Now, they must make the most of it come next Friday.

“Sometimes you don’t always get payback for what you put in,” Lauer said. “This helps validate the program a little bit. There’s still so many things we want to do an accomplish within the program.

“We can’t be what we used to be but we’re nowhere near where we’re going to be … this just put another layer of foundation on the ground with what we’re doing.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira

 

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