Eric Lauer said he was overcome with a sense of relief when the clock at Karl Kiefer Stadium hit zero Friday night.
The first-year Mountain Pointe coach, drenched after his players poured an ice-cold bucket of water over his head, watched as his players made a mad dash toward the north end zone to grab the coveted Ahwatukee Bowl trophy. For the first time in two years, the trophy will stay at Mountain Pointe after the Pride knocked off rival Desert Vista 35-7 to pick up Lauer’s first win as head coach.
“It was a relief,” Lauer said. “Sometimes you start second guessing yourself. You try to block out the noise, but it still leaks in. We were never a bad team just a work in progress.”
Contrary to the rest of the season for the Pride, things went their way against Desert Vista. Junior quarterback Amier Boyd opened up the scoring with a 31-yard pass to senior tight end Kevin Sawitzke, who still had a cast on his left hand from a previous injury.
As the triple-threat option in Mountain Pointe’s two-quarterback system, Boyd also made plays with his legs. In the third quarter, he helped extend Mountain Pointe’s lead with a 51-yard run in which he broke a tackle, reversed field and caught the edge on the way to the end zone.
It was the second of two touchdowns Boyd accounted for on the night. He finished 5-of-7 through the air for 48 yards and 89 yards on the ground.
“Everything came from the blocking,” Boyd said. “They gave us the time to look downfield and go through our progressions. Everything clicked. It seemed like we were all on the same page all game.”
Sophomore quarterback Chris Arviso II, the other half of Mountain Pointe’s quarterback duo and the traditional pocket passer, lit up Desert Vista’s secondary in his two quarters of action.
Arviso immediately found a rhythm in the second quarter, connecting on all six of his passes in his first drive that was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Sawitzke. Before the half, he found senior Jaden Crockett from 19 yards out.
In the second quarter alone, Arviso threw for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He added another touchdown to Sawitzke — the senior’s third on the night — in the fourth quarter. It was a breakout performance for the sophomore, who had to sit the first four games of the season after transferring from South Mountain. He finished 18-of-22 for 205 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
“I honestly had no idea,” Arviso said of his total yards through the air. “Against a rival school, we got the dub, it honestly all felt so surreal. We had intensity the whole game, it was there the entire time.”
Desert Vista struggled to find any momentum on both sides of the ball. Penalties, including one that resulted in the ejection of starting tackle Jai Rodriguez, stalled Thunder drives on multiple occasions. Consistent pressure from Mountain Pointe’s defensive forced errant throws by sophomore quarterback Jackson Akins.
The Thunder were without star junior running back Devon Grubbs and sophomore athlete Michael Allison was banged up during the contest. Desert Vista’s lone score came late in the fourth quarter on an 8-yard pass from junior quarterback Kaden Lentz to junior tight end Fisher Hawkes.
“I’m not going to make any excuses, we had opportunities to make plays and we didn’t,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “We had wide open guys and stuff like that. They made plays and we didn’t. That’s the difference in the game and in any win and loss.”
The loss in the regular-season finale Friday left Desert Vista winless for the first time in program history. But with several starters returning, Hinds is confident in the direction of his program.
“We hit the rest button tonight,” Hinds said. “Starting Monday, we are looking toward next fall. We just hope and pray COVID doesn’t shut football down. We are going to do everything we can and everything we are allowed to do to get ready for next year.”
The win for Mountain Pointe was the first, and arguably most important, for Sawitzke and the rest of the senior class this season. He believes not only was it a way to end a difficult season on a high note, it creates momentum for the returning players heading into the offseason.
“It meant so much to us,” Sawitzke said. “We worked so hard this season and we feel like it never really paid off come game time. We felt like we were getting there and tonight it all came together.
“And it was against our rivals. It was great to get that big win and to go out in my final game with a huge win, everything felt great tonight.”