The initiation into the Mountain Pointe football program can be harsh.
At least if you are a quarterback.
When it became clear Antonio Hinojosa was going to be the starter in 2012, the junior was indoctrinated by going through two-hour sessions with coach Norris Vaughan.
Away from the field Vaughan’s Southern boy smile radiates a kindness that isn’t exactly there when he has a whistle around his neck and football on his mind.
“At first he was really tough on me,” Hinojosa said. “We were working on footwork. He really drilled it into my head. It was tough, but once I started getting it and understanding then it got easier.”
As much as Hinojoa might have been overwhelmed in the early going, he seems to be as comfortable now as someone taking a Sunday nap in a hammock on a breezy day.
“His poise is better than expected,” Vaughan said. “He showed me something early on when I was working with him, and he’s only going to get better. Antonio has really stepped in and been the quarterback we needed.”
When the Pride (9-1) takes the field tonight as the No. 1 seed against No. 16 Cibola (7-3), Hinojosa and the offense will look to continue its record-breaking ways.
Hinojosa said it helps having his quarterback coach, Drew Vaughan (the coach’s son), there to help because he was in the system when Norris was at Wickenburg.
“When you see the plays work on tape, it is easier to run because you see them work,” he said. “I can get an idea of what to do by watching him do it and then asking him questions.”
Something is clicking, that’s for sure.
Hinojosa is the season and the career, yes career, leader in touchdown passes with 25 (only eight interceptions) after only 10 games along with being the single season yardage leader with 1,854 yards along with setting the mark for the most touchdown passes (5) in a game and he also tied the mark for most passing yards (264) in a single game.
Junior wide receiver Jalen Brown has set the season and career marks for touchdown catches (15 for a season and 26 for his career), receiving yards (1,091 and 1,994) and receptions (53 and 115). He has the record for most receiving yards for a game (251) and twice tied the record for most touchdown catches (4) in a single game.
“We’ve just been rolling,” Hinojosa said. “We are mixing it up and passing it a little more. They are showing more confidence in me and I’m taking advantage of it. I am more confident in myself and taking more risks.”
It’s not just the passing game, as senior running back Garette Craig was on pace for the school record for touchdowns in a season (33) before the offense got pass happy in recent weeks.
What the numbers show is the fact that there has been a tremendous evolution of the offense this year.
It was a nice balance in the early going but Craig (1,088 rushing, 14 TDs) and senior Thomas Warren (678, eight TDs) did most of the damage and scoring on the ground. In the second half of the season, Brown and Hinojosa have been treating defenses like they are orange barrels on an open highway and blowing past them.
“We connected right away because we knew each other at (Kyrene Middle School in Tempe),” Brown said. “The work is paying off, but it’s a new season. We have to keep getting better and make sure we stay on the same page.”
Brown, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior, is a mismatch for just about every defense with his athleticism, speed and ability to adjust not only his routes, but his body in mid-air.
“He makes me better,” Hinojosa said. “A lot of times I just have to get the ball close to him and he will adjust and make everyone miss.”
Considering what the team has done this year, assuming the seeding holds true, the offensive record books could be demolished. And then next year, Brown and Hinojosa will have their senior years together and they will only push the numbers even higher.
The interesting thing about it is Vaughan’s name, at least before this season, came with a connotation of a running heavy offensive minded coach.
The reality is, he tailors his offensive package to his personnel. In his first year with two great backs in Davon Jones and D’Andre Currie the Pride ran for 4,104 yards and then in 2010 the Pride broke a lot of passing yards with quarterback Kyle Faunce and wide receiver Garrett Holle getting it done.
The offenses under Vaughan, including the Wickenburg days, have been more of a run-and-shoot look than a power running most of the years.
“What he does is tailor it to the talent we have,” Pride offensive coordinator Eric Lauer said. “We ran the ball (in 2009) because we had a couple of special backs and now we have a quarterback and receiver who can handle different looks and good running backs.
“The offense has really evolved from where it was in Week 1.”
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