One of the most appealing aspects to football at the high school level is its unpredictability. Week 3 of the Arizona prep season made that point – with emphasis.
There were only five teams ranked in the Top 5 across all six divisions that lost. Two of those were in Division I – and those were the No. 1 and No. 2 teams.
Brophy Prep, the top-ranked team in Division I and a pre-season favorite to challenge for this year’s state title, fell to Mesa’s Red Mountain High, which held down the No. 8 spot going into Friday’s game. And in a match-up of Phoenix schools, the No. 2 team, Desert Vista High School, fell to No. 3 Mountain Pointe High School.
And neither game was a walk-off, with each decided by just two points.
But it was the game at Phoenix College, which Brophy uses as its home field, that kept fans on the edge of their seats. Red Mountain didn’t secure the win until the final seconds of the game, scoring on a Mason Thorman-to-Drake Pierre pass with 21 ticks left on the game clock.
The play wrapped up the final six yards of a Red Mountain drive that began with a fumble recovery by linebacker Diego Hernandez. Pierre picked up his second touchdown of the night when he broke a tackle inside the four-yard line and scrambled across the goal line for the winning score in the 33-31 upset victory.
In a game featuring two of the better quarterbacks in the state, it was Red Mountain’s Thorman that held the edge over Brophy’s much-heralded QB Tyler Bruggman, who couldn’t seem to get on track Friday night, completing just 9 of 23 pass attempts for 139 yards.
And, to make matters worse, the senior threw three interceptions.
Meanwhile, Thorman spent a lot of time putting the ball in the air, connecting on 28 of his 40 attempts for 212 yards and two touchdowns – to go with the pair of TDs he contributed on the ground.
Thorman is also a senior, and is having a break-out year. He’s passed for 10 touchdowns to lead the Mountain Lions to a 3-0 record, and is fast approaching 1,000 yards in the air very early in the season.
In what Red Mountain head coach, Ron Wisniewski, called his biggest win with the program, there is reason to believe the Lions could be working their way toward the first state title in more than a decade.
Two other teams that have to be also considered legitimate contenders for this year’s crown were on the other side of the Valley, playing in what has become known as the Ahwatukee Bowl.
However, in this game, unlike the one at Phoenix College, the only thing keeping the more than 13,000 fans that showed up at Desert Vista on the edge of their seats was waiting to see which team would make the next mistake.
The game between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe wasn’t even decided on an offensive play, but on a safety that proved to be the only scoring that went on during the second half of play. When the Pride fell on the ball in the end zone, following a missed snap, it broke a 21-21 tie and pushed their record to 3-0.
The 23-21 win also broke a 4-4 tie in regular-season meetings between the two teams. Desert Visit won last year’s Awhatukee Bowl by forfeit after thunderstorms intervened while the Thunder were controlling the game and in the lead.
But this year, it wasn’t the weather that made the play difficult. It was just sloppy play on both sides. But it was Desert Vista that paid the biggest price.
In addition to the bobbled snap that cost the game-winning safety, the Thunder missed a 41-yard field goal, turned the ball over twice in the red zone during the second half, and fumbled a punt in the final minute of the game.
Jarek Hilgers gave Desert Vista a 7-0 lead right out of the box, running for 69 yards and the score, but was given a seat on the bench before the first half ended after losing his helmet and taking a hit to the head. And Thomas Warren carried the load for Mountain Pointe, scoring two first-half touchdowns with runs of 28 and 44 yards.
This was just the first loss for Desert Vista, which opened the season by beating Nevada’s Palo Verde High School in the Sollenberger Classic. But that 20-10 win was also marred with a worrisome abundance of mistakes that included eight turnovers and a rash of penalties.
And that’s from a team that closed out last season by ending Hamilton High’s 53-game winning streak to claim the Division I state title.
Ahh, that unpredictability… gotta love it.