Mountain View isn't Mountain View in the traditional sense any longer. With spread- offense guru Chad DeGrenier at the helm, the Toros threw for more yards than they ran this season, a rare sight at the school.
The coach during a portion of Mountain View's glory years, Bernie Busken, has been back on the high school scene for two years now at Basha, but he isn't employing the ground-and-pound technique, either. The Bears have gained 1,057 yards more passing than rushing this season.
Spread-based schemes and offensive wizardry are en vogue throughout the state, but it doesn't mean Mountain View's old-school philosophy is dead - it just takes a trip southeast to find it.
Former Toros quarterback Joe Germaine took over the Queen Creek program two years ago, and brought along with him a group of assistants from Mountain View's heyday. Despite no previous head coaching experience, Germaine led the Bulldogs to a 10-3 record and a berth in the state semifinals a year ago.
That senior class was impressive. It included star tailback Chim Nga, now at Northern Arizona, and quarterback Adam Brzeczek, now a walk-on at Stanford, and that group was almost solely responsible for the successful year.
That's what makes the job Germaine has done this year positively Mountain View-esque. With only one returning starter - linebacker Billy Gregoire - Queen Creek finished the regular season 9-1 behind Division III's second-stingiest defense and an offense than ran the ball 69 percent of the time.
The Bulldogs enter the playoffs as the No. 4 overall seed. "When our coaching staff first came here, we knew this was a group of kids that are humble, that work really hard," Germaine said. "They're yes-sir, no-sir kids. We're not perfect by any means, but they sure want to be good. They work hard and they're pretty disciplined. That's why I was so excited about coming here, because of the kids."
It's the blueprint that worked so well for Mountain View, a program that won five state championships from 1993 to 2002.
Division I has become so overwrought with open enrollment that it makes it tougher for the Toros to compete, but outside of Saguaro, Division III has the type of parity that gives well-prepared teams a chance to win.
The Bulldogs have victories over Perry (Div. II) and Williams Field. In both games, the Pumas - with quarterback Josh Uhlorn - and Williams Field - with running back Alex Howard - likely boasted the most gifted player on the field, but it was Queen Creek that pulled out the victory.
"We're not the biggest team, we're not the fastest team, but we work hard," Queen Creek lineman Andrew Sawyer said.
Germaine was cautiously optimistic about this group because of the success his teams had at the lower levels, but Gregoire said there was a big leadership void to fill without Brzeczek or Nga.
"I knew we had a lot of work to do," Gregoire said.
The Perry win may have been the eye-opener.
Queen Creek trailed by 14 points at halftime but rallied for a 27-21 overtime victory. In that game, running back Shaq Johnson was the headliner with 203 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Gregoire, quarterback Carson Jones and running back Matt Guida have also shined in big wins.
"For the most part our kids are really unselfish," Germaine said. "All of us know now that you never know when your number is going to be called. Everyone's playing hard, knowing this play can come to me."
The kids work hard, but the atmosphere at practice isn't totally serious. Germaine playfully ribbed a player because he couldn't practice on Monday due of an injury.
A pair of Bulldogs implored their teammates to get to practice early - but only so the team could finish on time and maybe get a chance to trick-or-treat.
But the dedication has been there from the offseason.
"We come out hard on Friday, but it starts on Monday and Tuesday," Sawyer said. "It's not just about Friday."
Queen Creek begins the postseason by hosting No. 13 Douglas. If the Bulldogs win that game, they seem destined for a quarterfinal matchup against Saguaro, the defending 4A-I champions and favorite in Division III this year.
The Sabercats beat Queen Creek twice last year and will be heavy favorites if the teams do meet again. But if there's one team that can make Saguaro sweat, it might be the unassuming Bulldogs.
"I told our kids, that when we hit the end of the year and the playoffs, we want to be playing our best football," Germaine said. "You want to always be ascending in your performance. Hopefully we understand that we're kind of there. I hope we can ride that."