Mark Andrews isn't like most high school receivers in Arizona, not at 6-foot-6 with his speed and agility. But even though the Desert Mountain junior receiver didn't play football until his freshman year, he, like a majority of wideouts, never caught a Hail Mary pass before.
But he did on Friday night.
His 48-yard catch behind two Mountain View defenders on the final play of the first half gave No. 9 Desert Mountain a two-score lead and the Wolves eventually made it more in the second half of a 48-21 victory over No. 8 Mountain View in the first round of the Division I football playoffs.
Desert Mountain (9-2) will play at No. 1 Mountain Pointe next week in the quarterfinals. Three years ago, the Wolves went to the 5A Division II semifinals. Two years ago, they were 0-10.
The rematch of this Week 1 matchup went to Desert Mountain again, this time because of the Hail Mary and an offense which found balance, and that made Mountain View's night tough to handle defensively.
Andrews had three touchdowns on the night, including the Hail Mary which gave the Wolves a 28-14 halftime lead and a 20-yard run in which he shed a couple tacklers to give the Wolves a 35-21 lead in the third quarter. That run came after he made a 4th-and-6 reception in tight coverage for 16 yards.
The Toros' defense of Andrews worked well most of the night, as Mountain View knocked down several jump balls thrown by Kyle Allen to his 6-foot-6 partner's direction.
Andrews was shut down most of the first half by Mountain View's defense, but Allen (also a junior) both ran and threw to others on 3rd- and 4th- down conversions to keep drives alive.
"We went to the well enough times and he's going to get his plays," Wolves coach Tony Tabor said. "I thought if we plugged along long enough it would come."
With Allen scrambling, plus Daniel Fedorka (129 yards rushing and three touchdowns) running the ball, the Wolves put up nearly 500 yards total offense.
Still, the game began as a shootout. Despite Chase Funk being out with a concussion for Mountain View, John Clark and Weston Birtcher's running picked Desert Mountain apart early.
A 17-yard touchdown run by Birtcher - who also caught a TD pass from Clark in the second half - made it 14-7 early in the second quarter.
"We knew we had to control the game early and we did everything we wanted to with the game plan," Toros coach Chad DeGrenier said.
But Cody Erickson caught a perfect pass in the middle of the field from Allen as Desert Mountain went 10 plays and 80 yards to tie the score at 14-14. Then Mountain View was forced to punt, and Andrews caught a 3-yard touchdown.
Mountain View (7-4) was forced to punt again, and on the final play of the half from midfield, Allen rolled to his right and heaved it. The Toros had two defenders in front of Andrews and both went up to knock it down. One appeared to hit the ball, but it shot between their hands and kept going, and Andrews was there.
"It definitely felt like a game-changer," said Andrews, who finished with 10 catches for 151 yards. "We thought it might have taken the breath out of them."
It didn't at first. Mountain View forced a punt and when Birtcher took a swing pass from Clark on 3rd-and-short and went untouched down the sideline untouched to pull within 28-21.
Allen threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns on the night. He also had to change his jersey from No. 10 to No. 5 because it was torn to shreds when a Mountain View defender tackled him late in the first half.
He threw an interception in the end zone on the ensuing drive, but two plays later, the Toros fumbled and Desert Mountain recovered. Andrews' run and then two runs by Fedorka shut the door.
"He makes a big difference," Tabor said of Fedorka. The Wolves also got another big game from Joe Duran and put more pressure on the Toros up front in the second half.
As for Mountain View, 2012 was a small, but important step in DeGrenier's second year running the program as the Toros try and return themselves to the elite level of yester-year.
From 4-6 in 2011, the school's first losing season in history, to impressive wins against Red Mountain and Highland and a home playoff game, the emotions afterward were of a team unsatisfied with its ending, yet feeling as though they're moving ahead.
"We won a lot of games and some big games against big teams," DeGrenier said. "Our kids did a very good job. I'm proud of what they've brought back to Mountain View. Next year we'll bring it back some more with some victories."
Across the field, Desert Mountain was aware of what lies ahead, but a balanced offense such as the one it showed on Friday night would no doubt make things interesting against the No. 1 seed next week.
Said Tabor: "We'll need them all next week, that's for sure."
Desert Mountain 49, Mountain View 21
DM 7 21 0 21 -- 48
MV 7 7 7 0 -- 21
MV - Clark 1 run (Bustillos kick)
DM - Fedorka 2 run (Taylor kick)
MV - Birtcher 17 run (Bustillos kick)
DM - Erickson 20 pass from Allen (Taylor kick)
DM - Andrews 3 pass from Allen (Taylor kick)
DM - Andrews 48 pass from Allen (Taylor kick)
MV - Birtcher 31 pass from Clark (Bustillos kick)
DM - Andrews 20 run (Taylor kick)
DM - Fedorka 22 run (Taylor kick)
DM - Fedorka 25 run (Taylor kick)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.