The 2012 season began eerily similar to ‘11 and ‘10 for Mountain View: A struggle. The Toros were pushed around by Desert Mountain’s offense during a 49-28 loss to the Wolves in Week 1. Desert Mountain both ran the ball with moderate success and got big plays from the Kyle Allen-Mark Andrews passing duo early on. Mountain View fought back in the middle two quarters but a defensive touchdown sealed the win for Desert Mountain in the fourth quarter.
The two teams meet again to begin the playoffs, again at Mountain View High School.
The No. 8-seeded Toros, however, have evolved greatly since. Mountain View enjoyed a six-game winning streak during the middle portions of the season to earn a playoff spot in Chad DeGrenier’s second year of reconstructing the program.
But injuries have hit Mountain View hard lately, notably to Clark Brown and Chase Funk, while No. 9 Desert Mountain is starting to mend a bit from its injuries. Allen has mostly healed from a nagging back issue while Joe Duran and Adam Cooper have both missed time lately, but are progressing and will be ready to roll.
The Toros will be shorthanded. Then again, most felt that way before they beat Red Mountain and Highland earlier this season.
Here’s a look at some other key storylines for the first round of the 2012 playoffs:
Notre Dame-Salpointe sequel
A bottom seed slips into the playoffs despite a .500 record because of a brutal schedule, hits the road and beats a top-notch higher seed on its own field. Sound familiar? It should to Notre Dame. This time, however, the Saints still managed the No. 16 playoff spot despite a loss in Week 10, and have another matchup with No. 1 Tucson Salpointe Catholic to open the playoffs. Last year the No. 15 Saints went down to No. 2 Salpointe and pulled off a 33-14 win in Tucson to advance. Salpointe was without Cameron Denson and two starting lineman, but Notre Dame also lost a couple starters to injury early in the game. This time, Salpointe is a bit healthier while Notre Dame must rebound from a tough loss to Horizon last week. It’s a different Saints team for sure, but can lightning (and Notre Dame) strike twice?
Speaking of 'We meet again'...
For being on opposite sides of the Valley, Saguaro and Cactus sure are familiar with each other. They have been common regular season and playoff foes, including a pair of meetings last season — one for the state championship. The Sabercats won that for their fifth title in six years and then pasted the Cobras, 67-14, in this year’s regular season meeting. Quarterback Luke Rubenzer had 184 yards passing, 117 yards rushing and four total touchdowns in the game. Saguaro is licking its wounds after a 38-20 loss to Chaparral in the season finale, but will still be a heavy favorite to win this one.
Questions for Red Mountain
It’s been awhile since Red Mountain has been under the radar, but it has an interesting first-round matchup against Buena. The Colts went 8-2 in the regular season and have a quality running back in Dominique Drake (1,621 yards rushing, 23 TD). Southern Arizona teams not named Salpointe have generally struggled against big-school East Valley teams, so it will be interesting to see if Buena can hang with the Mountain Lions. Red Mountain has slowed down after a quick start which included wins over Westview and Brophy, but still grabbed the No. 5 seed. Quarterback Mason Thorman missed last week for breaking team rules and the team only scored 14 points in an 11-point win over Highland. It remains to be seen if he will be starting in the first round.
Paradise Valley and Liberty met in the regular season, and the game lived up to its high-scoring projections. The teams were knotted at 24 at halftime but Liberty used a big third quarter to take control and cruise to the 65-31 victory. Lions quarterback Tyler Rogers threw for 277 yards and two scores while Paradise Valley signal caller Ryan Finley had 328 yards passing and two touchdowns but also threw three interceptions. This should be another high-scoring affair, and the Trojans should keep it closer if they avoid the turnovers and limit Liberty’s big plays.