Just seeing those red helmets and the white, blue and red uniform schemes of the Mountain View Toros across the field were enough to evoke seasons of memories for Basha coach Bernie Busken on Friday night.
Busken's Bears were playing for their first outright region championship in school history in their regular-season finale against the Toros, and if that wasn't enough, the coach was facing a team he once led to three state titles and an 82-9 record from 1995-2001.
The Bears took care of business, dispatching the Toros 27-7 to finish with a 9-1 mark and a 6-0 run through the Central Region, earning them a No. 2 seed in the 5A-I state playoffs.
According to the Tribune's projected power point rankings, Basha will face No. 15 seed Gilbert in the first round of the playoffs, while Mountain View enters as the No. 14 seed and will play at No. 3 Desert Vista.
Kyle Duran threw three touchdown passes – two to Dejzon Walker – as Basha built a 20-0 lead and always had the game under control over the mistake-prone Toros (5-5, 4-2), who could have earned a piece of the region title with a victory.
It was a strange feeling, Busken said, seeing the Toros from a different sideline for the first time.
“It was really weird, because you look out there and you see a 47 and you think of four brothers that played for you that wore that number," he said. “I know them very well. I know what they stand for, I know their tradition and their kids are going to play hard and they're not going to quit and they're not going to give up.”
Busken, in his first year at Basha after three seasons coaching Western New Mexico, had quite the dynasty working at Mountain View back in the late '90s. His Toros won 40 straight games and two state championships from '97-99. But during the spring of 2002 allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players cost him his job.
He says he's had eight years to grow and learn from that experience and is ready to start building the next chapter of his football life, which includes a shot at another state championship starting next week. But those memories of Toros titles and success still linger a bit.
“I've got a lot of friends over there and (there's) a lot of good people,” Busken said. “But I'm a Basha Bear, and I love the Basha Bears and our kids have played their butts off, and the good thing is we're getting better right now. We're gettin' better fast.”
The Bears built a 14-0 halftime lead on Matt Horton's 2-yard TD in the first quarter and Duran's 75-yard flea-flicker to Devin Reed early in the second quarter. Duran hooked up with Walker for TD passes of 23 and 19 yards in the second half.
Mountain View struggled with turnovers. Jeremy Boatright threw a pair of interceptions and Cody Stewart tossed another, and the Toros also fumbled on a punt return.
“We were inept,” Toros coach Tom Joseph said. “We didn't execute to save our lives.”