Ahwatukee Bowl week came a little earlier than expected.
With Mountain Pointe cruising to a 41-0 blowout of Mesa on Friday night and Desert Vista having a bye week, the focus on one of the state's best rivalries came about the middle of the third quarter of the Pride's game.
It can't get here fast enough for many involved.
While the Pride (1-1) might have started thinking about the Thunder (2-0) on the way to wearing down the proud Jackrabbits, it was clear Mountain Pointe didn't take its opponent lightly.
"We couldn't afford to look ahead," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. "They are a tough team that never quits. We came out a little slow -- I think we had more penalties in the first five minutes than we did all last week -- but we got it going."
The Pride offense looked particularly impressive. So did the defense, but that is just a repeat performance after playing well in the season-opening loss to Hamilton. The offense looked comfortable, smooth and anything but one-dimensional.
Pretty much the opposite of how it performed against Hamilton in a 17-7 loss.
"The offense was totally different tonight," sophomore wide receiver Jalen Brown said. "We believe in each other and made some big plays."
Brown (3 catches, 85 yards, 3 TD) and senior quarterback Dillan Johnson (240 total yards, 4 total TD) were in the center of it as Johnson proved to be the dual threat the coaching staff envisioned when he was handed the position before spring ball.
The offense didn't click right away as Johnson got into a groove with 99 yards of field in front of him.
Mountain Pointe defensive back Landry Payne intercepted Mesa quarterback Jeremy Noble at the Pride's 2-yard line. Mountain Pointe running back Thomas Warren ripped off a 95-yard run, but it was called back by a penalty.
Instead of it being a mental setback, Johnson ripped off a 34-yard run for a first down on 3rd and 9 from the 1-yard line and then followed it up with a 66-yard touchdown run to close out the first quarter.
After Mesa fumbled the ensuing kickoff (recovered by the Prides' Travonn White), Johnson found Brown in the left side of the end zone two plays later to give the Pride a 14-0 lead with 11:10 left.
Mesa (0-2) did a job of keeping the game close in the first half, which wasn't the case last week against Desert Vista in a 38-6 loss.
"In a 41-0 loss you didn't play well, but I think we showed more heart tonight," Mesa coach Kelley Moore said. "We got down 14-0 last week and we crumbled. This time they fought through it and continued to play. We have to get some things straightened out. We are inept on offense right now, but we will get there."
Meanwhile Brown and Johnson continued to forge chemistry as the electric Brown scored on a 35-yard corner route and on a quick screen that went 25 more yards for a score to build a 28-0 lead in the third quarter.
Warren (13 carries, 97 yards) finished off the scoring with two 5-yard powerful runs to give the Pride 286 on 31 carries, including 144 from Johnson on eight attempts.
The Mountain Pointe defense did its part as the unit held the Jackrabbits to five first downs and 77 total yards.
"We were looking to get better after losing to Hamilton," senior defensive tackle Mark Fraboni said. "We just want to get better, better and better. We worked hard in practice and got after it."