Big plays in the first half were — mostly — to the benefit of the Mountain Pointe Pride football team Friday night.
But, not so much after that as the Chaparral Firebirds poured it on in the second to take a 31-13 win over the Pride to spoil their home opener. The Firebirds get to 2-1, while the Pride fall to 1-2 and, as their head coach put it after a game, keep finding themselves on a periviable ledge.
They are so close, can see where they can be as a team, but aren’t quite there. Mistakes were made on both sides between penalties and missed chances, and some breaks didn’t go their way Friday night.
“There were enough mistakes to go around for everybody,” Pride head coach Erick Lauer said of his message to his team after the loss. “Saturdays are tell-the-truth Saturdays. So, before you start pointing fingers, look at yourself, because there will be enough for you. But yeah, we left this one out there. We definitely had opportunities.
So now it is back to the drawing board,” he added. “Campo Verde, doesn’t care. Nobody cares.”
The Pride’s opening drive was methodical, ending in a Randle Parker dive from a short and goal situation, aka the type of start Lauer and his staff want to see as they came out firing. Randle set himself up for the score on the previous play with a 20-yard skirt up and around Chaparral defenders.
The Pride even forced a 3 and out — but turned it over on downs the very next possession when Jay’Len Rushing was stuffed on fourth down and inches. That led to the Firebirds’ first scoring drive, a deliberate set of plays of their own off the arm of Miles VandenHeuvel. He also used his legs plenty, finding the end zone with them from a few yards out to help his team tie it up as the first quarter came to a close.
At least, not until Parker busted open a 50-or-so yardrun to set his team up for their own first and goal chance. Christian Clark punched in the score, but the point after was blocked so the Pride had to settle for a 13-7 lead.
Things were looking up. The Pride had a lead. The ground game was working. The defense, at the time, was containing VandenHeuvel.
The Firebirds eventually took the lead, taking advantage of an offensive pass interference that took away a play that would have out the Pride in scoring position. VandenHeuvel found Hudson Meyers for a 15-yard, corner end zone strike and a 14-13 advantage.
The Pride had one more big first-half play in their back pocket. Backed up on their goal line, just after VandenHeuvel made a miracle of a play off a heave towards the end zone on a third and long from the Pride 40, the Pride came up big.
Khalil Hayes jumped in front of a VandenHeuvel pass, taking away a touchdown to keep his team in it with a clutch interception.
But it wasn’t that. Instead, the Firebirds didn’t let the interception shift the momentum, instead keeping it rolling with more heroics by VandenHeuvel. After the two teams traded three and outs, facing another long-to-go situation, VandenHeuvel bombed a high-lofitng 30-yar strike. He hit tight end Gavin Mesa two plays later for a score and soon after a 21-13 advantage.
“When we needed to turn them away, to get the ball back, we didn’t do that,” Lauer said. “That’s what happens – it’s a game of yards and they started winning the battle in the second half.”
Following a late fourth-quarter field goal that padded the lead, VandelHeuvel tossed one more touchdown score – hitting Plas Johnson for the exclamation point and his fourth passing TD of the night. Those prayer-like passes were all about trust, even after the interception.
“Just get out of the pocket, keep my eyes down field and I knew someone would be open. They can’t cover our receivers with how good our receivers are, not for that long, so I knew someone would be open down there,” VandenHeuvel said.
Chaparral (2-1) will face Desert Mountain (3-0) at home.
Mountain Pointe (1-2) will look to snap its two-game losing streak when it hosts (2-0).