Outlook: Will they be back?
Mountain Pointe got a feel what it is like to be on the big stage by reaching the 2012 Division I state championship game, but the Pride felt they didn't play their best game in losing to Hamilton.
Coach Norris Vaughan thought the players were overwhelmed a little in the moment.
So with a plethora of those kids back this fall and the season opener against nationally-renowned Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) in the Sollenberger Classic on Aug. 23 will help that matter in 2013.
The offense has experience and size on the line, led by a top-notch Division I college-recruit in Natrell Curtis.
The skill players rank among the best in the state (QB Antonio Hinojosa), stud WR/DB Jalen Brown (the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year) and DB Dominique Fenstermacher (who transferred from Marcos de Niza).
The defense - often a calling card of Vaughan's teams - is as physical as it gets because of Wesley Payne, Mitchell Fraboni, Charlie Trevino and Trey Lauer at the lead. In addition to being the team's leading tackler, Payne will also see carries out of the backfield on offense.
Vaughan has his teams ready to play each week and the amount of talent matches up with anyone in Division I. If the Pride can stay healthy and find balance offensively the way it unfolded in 2012, this team has the makings of another championship run.
Division I, Section III
Coach: Norris Vaughan
Last year's record: 12-2, lost to Hamilton in Division I state championship
Returning Starters: 5 on offense/5 on defense
Top returners: WR/DB Jalen Brown (67 catches, 1,235 yards, 18 TD, 5 INT); OL/DL Natrell Curtis; RB/LB Wesley Payne (27 carries, 154 yards, TD, 170 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack); RB/LB Trey Lauer (3 carries, 56 yards; 70 tackles, 4 sacks); DL Charlie Trevino (40 tackles, 3 sacks); OL Colin Lambdin; OL Kyle Spight; WR Emmanuel Butler (8 catches, 88 yards, 2 TD).
Aug. 23 at Bishop Gorman
Aug. 30 North
Sept. 6 at Cesar Chavez
Sept. 12 at Maryvale
Sept. 20 at Chandler
Sept. 27 Hamilton
Oct. 4 at Desert Vista
Oct. 11 Brophy
Oct. 18 Corona del Sol
Nov. 1 at Dobson
Aug. 23 at Bishop Gorman: All eyes will be on this game as one of the first cross-state contests of the year in the Sollenberger Classic. Gorman is ranked in the top 25 nationally so a good showing by Mountain Pointe will only fortify the confidence gained last year.
Sept. 27 vs. Hamilton: Most view the Pride as the top contender to Hamilton, which handled the Pride in the state title game last year. This will be a test for both programs and Mountain Pointe knows it didnt have its best showing in the last meeting. The Pride is expected to have one of the states top offenses while Hamilton features the top defense. It will be one of the regular seasons top anticipated games of the season, but will be a preview of what to expect in the postseason?
Sept. 20 at Chandler: This is the first of four straight games against playoff teams from last year. It is the meat of the Prides schedule and getting off to a good start on this gauntlet is important. The Wolves are out to prove they are different than years past and a win here would go a long way. Last years 28-27 win by Mountain Pointe over the Wolves was crazy and this one just might have the same feel.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.