Senior night is something almost all prep football players experience near the tail end of their high school careers.
On Friday night at Karl Kiefer Stadium, Mountain Pointe running back Dillan Johnson did everything he could to make sure his senior night wouldn't be the last night he got to put on the Pride maroon and gold color scheme.
Johnson ran for two scores, caught a touchdown pass, and threw for yet another as the Pride rolled to a 49-14 win over Westwood.
The Pride entered the night ranked 17th in Division I - one spot out of a playoff berth.
But the Pride's fourth straight win - one that moved Mountain Pointe to 6-4 overall after a 2-4 start - helped Norris Vaughan's team reach the state playoffs for the third time in his three seasons at the helm.
The Pride snuck in as a No. 15 seed, and must face No. 2 Brophy next Friday. The two schools played a thrilling 5A Division I state quarterfinal game last year won by Mountain Pointe, but the Broncos won 31-14 on Sept. 30.
Vaughan hasn't seen this position - fighting for his team's playoff life - himself in quite a while. Vaughan's first two Mountain Pointe teams each won 10 games (including playoffs), as did each of his four teams at Wickenburg, his last stop before heading to Ahwatukee.
"The only way we win 10 now is to win state," Vaughan said.
Johnson managed 61 yards on 13 carries, scoring rushing touchdowns from 1 and 4 yards out. His touchdown pass gave Mountain Pointe a 21-0 lead in the second quarter after he took the handoff from quarterback Caleb Buck, rolled right, and threw deep for teammate Jalen Brown, who took it in the for the 54-yard score.
Johnson's touchdown reception also occurred in the second, when he took off up the left sideline and caught the ball from Buck in stride, racing in for the 70-yard score.
Buck attempted just seven passes, but completed five of them for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Brown caught four passes himself for 123 yards and two scores.
"It was good to see our passing game do that," Vaughan added. "Our quarterback played well, he played real well. We're going to need that."
Mountain Pointe's scoring was rounded out by a 4-yard run by Thomas Warren late in the third and a 60-yard run by Garrette Craig just outside two minutes to go in the game. Craig, who carried the ball four times for 76 yards, was the game's high rusher thanks to that late long run.
Westwood cut a 21-0 Mountain Pointe lead to 21-6 when quarterback Seb Grasser hit Ty Dale for a 36-yard scoring strike. The ensuing extra point was blocked by Mountain Pointe's Wesley Payne, who also recorded a sack and two interceptions on defense.
"(Payne's) an outstanding player - a sophomore. We start like four or five sophomores," Vaughan said.
The other score for Westwood (1-9) came on a 1-yard run by Raekwon Robinson with 4:42 to play in the fourth.
"It's a good win for us, but we made so many mistakes that we have to fix for next week. We have to fix them," Johnson said. "I think honestly we overlooked this team a little bit, and we just got too hyped up. We didn't play to our potential, and we know that."
Immediately following the game, the gameplanning for the Pride's next outing - likely a rematch with Phoenix Brophy - the last team to beat the Pride (31-14) on Sept. 30.
Mountain Pointe led that game 7-0, but it was a loss that left the Pride no room for error despite playing inferior competition the rest of the way.
After the traditional playing of the fight song by the school marching band Friday night, and a brief talk on the field, Vaughan took his players and coaches into a 15 minute closed door meeting to begin preparations for next week.
"We've got to get ready for the playoffs - starting now," he said. "They're an awfully good team. They've got two of the best receivers in the state, and I think they have the best quarterback in the state, and they have some big kids, too.
"We've got to play out of our minds great, and hard, in order to beat Brophy."