Another high school football season is in the books, but this one left some lasting memories, thanks to some great story lines in the state finals.
In Division I… Mountain Pointe High School wrapped up an undefeated (14-0) season by beating Hamilton High for the second time this season, winning its first-ever football state championship. The two losses were the only ones Hamilton, which has ruled the big-school game with seven state titles in the last 10 years, suffered this season.
Hamilton most often is the Arizona team that is nationally-ranked, but after beating Nevada power and national heavyweight, Bishop Gorman, in the first game of the season, the Pride have held that distinction – and showed their worthiness game after game with a high-powered offense and fast, efficient defense. The Phoenix school had put 576 points on the scoreboard coming into the state championship game.
And, for the first time all season, Mountain Pointe had to overcome a sluggish start that had them playing catch-up throughout the first half of the title game. The Pride had to overcome a pair of fumbles right out of the chute as the Huskies took a 7-0 lead, try to re-gain some composure, and then work through 14 penalties throughout the game that cost them 115 yards. They managed, and the final result was a 42-19 victory.
It was an unfamiliar position early in the game for the Pride, who had outscored their opponents 205-13 in the first quarter this season.
But the Pride’s offense controlled the line of scrimmage to give quarterback Antonio Hinojosa the protection he needed to complete 10 of 15 pass attempts for 250 yards, and the Pride offense began perking by the second quarter. Mountain Pointe also had 243 rushing yards, led by 159 yards from running back Paul Lucas.
On the other side of the ball, Mountain Pointe’s defense intercepted Hamilton QB Sammy Sasso three times and held the Huskies’ potent ground game to 144 yards.
There was also the story of revenge realized. Mountain Pointe lost to Hamilton in last year’s state championship game.
And, finally, not only was this Mountain Pointe’s first state title, but it was also the first for head coach Norris Vaughan – in 29 years of coaching.
In Division II… the championship game between Salpointe Catholic and Chaparral High was, in many ways, a mirror image of the Division I game as undefeated and favored Salpointe fell behind 6-0 before running together 20 straight points to take a 26-6 halftime lead and roll from there to its first-ever school football championship with a 46-26 victory.
Tucson’s Salpointe, which has outscored its opponents 697-10 this year, looked like it was going to have trouble with the always-dangerous Chaparral, which has played in the state championship game four times in the past five years and won three titles. You might say the Firebirds are the Hamilton Huskies of Division II.
But, while Chaparral’s 20 points were the most scored against the Lancers all season, it wasn’t nearly enough. A lopsided first half saw Salpointe’s Andrew Cota complete all eight of his pass attempts for 154 yards and Chaparral averaged just one yard a carry for 20 yards rushing. As it turned out, the game’s success came in the air for both teams. Chaparral finished with -14 yards rushing but passed 36 times for 243 yards, while Salpointe picked up just 19 yards on the ground and Cota added 266 on 12-for-15 passing.
The game’s highlight reel belonged to Salpointe’s Cameron Denson, who scored three times on explosive long-yardage plays. The senior scored off catches of 98 and 34 yards and also ran back a kickoff for 84 yards.
And, since the game was played this year at University of Arizona Stadium, the Lancers were able to draw a large contingent of fans to witness history in the making.
In Division III… how do you beat a marriage proposal for memorable aspects to a state championship game? Saguaro High‘s coach, Jason Mohns, proposed to his girl friend, Sara Cooper, in a TV interview after his Sabercats beat Queen Creek High School for their third state championship in four years.
While Mohns set the table for big events, it was his senior quarterback, Luke Rubenzer, who stole the show this season. The UC-Berkeley commit set state records for single-season touchdown passes (61), career touchdown passes (130), and career passing yards (9,648).
And Rubenzer closed out his prep career in style. He completed 26 of 30 passes for 541 yards and nine touchdowns in a semi-final victory over previously-undefeated Desert Edge High School, and then threw for 246 yards and three TDs and ran for 72 more and another score to beat Queen Creek, 47-25, for the title.
Mohns got a ‘yes’ answer to his proposal. But he also needs to thank his young QB. If his team had not won this game, it certainly would have taken something away from the occasion.