Outlook: The Mountain View football program is not back to the powerhouse it was in the 1980s and 1990s, and with the way the landscape has changed, it may never get there. However, for the first time in a decade, the Toros seem to be trending in an upward direction, back to where playoff berths are a formality and a postseason run expected.
It’s coach Chad DeGrenier’s third year with Mountain View, and as he’s done with rebuilding projects before, he seems to have the Toros finding some real momentum. Mountain View went 7-3 in last year’s regular season before losing by 28 points to Desert Mountain in the playoffs. There’s plenty of optimism because of the pieces which return. There is quarterback John Clark (1,879 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT), wide receivers Clark Brown (622 yards, 7 TD) and Robby Millward (691 yards, 2 TD) as well as jack-of-all-trades Chase Funk, who started as the quarterback a season ago but will now likely be moved all over the field. The offense has to replace Weston Birtcher at running back, but Cayman Nielsen looks capable of taking over much of the load. Kicker Luis Bustillos is one of the best in Arizona, and while it can be an overlooked component, he may be a huge factor in tight games.
There are more question marks defensively, as eight of the team’s top-nine tacklers from a season ago depart. Defensive back Connor Ipsen (67 tackles, 2 INT) is the most decorated player returning on that side of the ball, and the overall increase of players should help. DeGrenier said the varsity is now up to 70 players when in his first year it only had 42. The junior varsity is also at a healthy 45 players, and the freshman team boasts 85.
“It’s back to where a school that size should be,” DeGrenier said.
It’s been 11 years since Mountain View has won a state title and seven since it last made the title game. While the Toros won’t be in the preseason group of contenders, they are heading in the right direction. The return of so many key offensive parts and the renewed enthusiasm on campus has DeGrenier excited.
“I know a little bit more now about what we can do,” he said. “The first two years I wasn’t really sure what we were good at. I believe we’ll be a tough team to play on Friday nights (this year), and that’s better than just hoping we’re going to be.”
Division I, Section III
Coach: Chad DeGrenier
Last year’s record: 7-4, lost to Desert Mountain in the first round of the Division I postseason
Returning Starters: 6 on offense/4 on defense
Returning Statistical Leaders: John Clark, Sr., QB (134-248, 1,879 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT); Clark Brown (39 rec., 622 yards, 7 TD); Robby Millward (49 rec., 691 yards, 2 TD); Connor Ipsen, Sr., DB (67 tackles, 2 INT); Luis Bustillos, Sr., K (7-11 FG, 37-40 PAT)
Aug. 30 at Boulder Creek; Sept. 6 vs. Valley Vista; Sept. 12 (Thur.) at Highland; Sept. 20 vs. Perry; Sept. 27 at Pinnacle; Oct. 4 vs. Skyline; Oct. 11 at Desert Mountain; Oct. 18 at Mesa; Oct. 25 vs. Red Mountain; Nov. 1 vs. Desert Ridge
Sept. 12 at Highland: The offense has the pieces in place to be explosive, but Highland has one of the better defenses in Division I. The team that wins that battle should have the advantage. Both teams have tough matchups at the tail-end of their schedule, so even though this game is early, it’s an important one for the playoff hopes of each.
Sept. 27 at Pinnacle: The Toros opened some eyes with a big win over the Pioneers last season, which came in the midst of a six-game winning streak. Pinnacle could be better in 2013 behind RB Josh Hoekstra and QB Brian Lewerke, but Mountain View will be improved as well. This could be another must-see matchup mid-season.
Oct. 25 vs. Red Mountain: Mountain View’s surprising upset over the Mountain Lions a season ago helped push it into the playoffs. With the amount of experience returning for the Toros, a win this season would be much less of a shock. This rivalry game could end up being a crucial showdown