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Outlook: The magic number, as far as Coolidge is concerned, is 0.
Outlook: Florence coach Shawn Cluff learned a hard lesson last year.
Address: 1200 W. White Mountain Road, Lakeside; Records: Seton 7-2, Blue Ridge 8-1; Gametime: 7:00 p.m.
The Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions football team is ready this time around. Following a baptism by fire during a 5-6 season a year ago, second-year coach Bobby Green said he expects play to be vastly improved for his squad this season, particularly on offense. "Last year, we basically only had two guys with much varsity experience, where this year we return seven starters on each side of the ball," Green said. "I feel much better about where we are than at this time a year ago. The kids have a much better grasp on what we're trying to do." Tonight the Glendale school opens the 2007 campaign against Tucson Sunnyside in a rematch of the opening game for both teams in 2006. The Glendale school is in the midst of a metamorphosis. After winning three region titles during a five-year run under coach Steve Belles, a stretch that included a trip to the 2005 state championship game, the Mountain Lions opened the 2006 season with a new coach, Green. The long-time defensive coordinator brought in a new offensive look replacing Belles' wing-T with a spread offense that is based in part on the one Florida coach Urban Meyer used at Utah and with the Gators. A vastly different look offensively was coupled with one of the youngest Mountain Ridge teams to take the field in years. The result was a 19-3 opening night loss to a Sunnyside Blue Devils' squad that would go on to finish 11-3 and advance to the 5A Div-II championship game. The Mountain Lions would win the Northwest Region and make their sixth consecutive state playoff appearance. It wasn't easy as the team suffered growing pains getting off to an 0-4 start before rallying to finish 5-6. Sunnyside coach Richard Sanchez knows his squad, which went 11-3 last year before losing in the 5A Div-II title game, will be faced with a sterner test this season. "We saw some of their games at the end of last year and they were a completely different team than the one we played in Week 1," said Sanchez who has led the Blue Devils to three state titles and three state runner-up finishes in his 15 years at the Tucson school. "I think they have an advantage in preparing in that we don't really know what to expect. In that first game, they were still using some of the wing-T stuff, but by the end, they really had opened things up a great deal. We've had to prepare for a lot of different looks." Leading the Mountain Ridge offense will be junior quarterback Kevin Yost who threw for 1,452 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, connecting on 54 percent of his passes. Green has seen the development he was hoping for in his signal caller. "You can see the maturity and the confidence from being in the same system for another year," the coach said. "The game was a lot faster for him last year. It has slowed down and he has grown up a lot. Leading us to a victory against North Canyon late last year to win the region title and then to play as well as he did against Hamilton (the team that would win the championship), in the first round of the playoffs has helped a lot." Joining Yost in the backfield will be senior running back Giorgio Giurdanella, who rushed for 725 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006 while averaging more than 6 yards per carry. "We've got a new line coach in Kip Thomas and he's done a great job," Green said. "In our blocking schemes, we think Giorgio is going to have a chance to break some long ones this year. He's really going to surprise some people." And even though Mountain Ridge receiving corps lacks varsity experience, Green said his team will utilize four and five receiver sets regularly. While last year's game was a defensive slugfest, this one could very well see some offensive fireworks. "Last year, we were pretty young offensively and we asked the defense to carry us early while the offense caught up," said Sanchez, who is 122-46 in his tenure at Sunnyside. "This year it's pretty much reversed. The guys on defense don't have much varsity experience." Experienced or not, Green knows what to expect from a Sanchez-coached club. "They're always well-coached, fundamentally sound," Green said. "And even if they aren't the biggest kids, they play physically. It will be a real good test for our team." Green's defense will be put to the test by senior running back Jovan Stevenson. The 190-pound back rushed for more than 1,600 yards as a junior and scored 12 touchdowns in the process. "He's one of the best backs in the state," Green said. "He has the speed to get outside, but the power to pound it in the middle. He's got great vision as well. Our challenge is to stop the running game. You can't count on one or two guys making the play to bring him down. It has to be everybody flying to the ball." Taking that challenge head on will be the front seven for Mountain Ridge, a group led by defensive ends Mike Brown, a senior and junior Marcel Joyeux. "Brown was all-region last year and I imagine they'll run away from him most of the game, but those two compliment each other well," Green said. The defense returns its three junior starting linebackers, Mike Chocholousek, Brett Hager and Ian Grow. "It's going to be a dog fight," Green said. "You always want to start well and the players and coaches have worked really hard to prepare. Now it comes down to executing what we've worked on." Sanchez is also eager for the start of the season. "It's hard to anticipate what will come with first-game jitters," he said. "You have to say though it will come down to how each team responds to adversity. What happens when there's a big play on special teams, a turnover or a quick score. The team that deals with those things better will win." Mountain Ridge is located at 22800 N. 67th Ave., Glendale. Check westvalleypreps.com following the game for complete coverage of tomight's games. On Wednesday the site will feature a preview of Thursday's Centennial-Hamilton matchup.
The Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions football team came out throwing haymakers in the first half of Friday's season opener. An 86 yard touchdown pass to Giorgio Giurdanella on a perfectly executed screen pass on their first play from scrimmage put Sunnyside, last year's 5A Div-II state runners-up, in a 7-0 hole before they knew what hit them. Two series later it would be the Mountain Lions running back jabbing the Blue Devils again, this time on a quick swing pass out of the backfield from junior quarterback Kevin Yost. Giurdanella, who also stars on the track team, would go 53-yards on this one to make the score 14-0. After losing 19-3 in last year's season opener to the Blue Devils the Mountain Lions were making quite an impression in the rematch. "They came ready to play and those two plays really woke us up," Sunnyside Richard Sanchez said. "We got ourselves lined up wrong on both of those plays, some mental mistakes that you can't have, and they made us pay. But you have to give a lot of credit to their back. He has some serious speed." The team from Tucson also would get hit with power as UCLA bound kicker Jeff Locke helped the Mountain Lions respond when Sunnyside cut it to 14-7 in the second quarter. With a breeze at his back Locke, a lefty, drilled a state-record breaking 63-yard field goal that had plenty to spare. But Sunnyside didn't win three state titles or finish as state runners-up three other times under Sanchez without showing the ability to take a punch. Showing a strong jaw and championship resilience the Blue Devils would overcome a 20-7 halftime deficit to pull out a 21-20 victory as they shutout Mountain Ridge in the second half. "I'm proud of our players," second year Mountain Ridge coach Bobby Green said. "We did a lot of good things, but to beat a team like Sunnyside you've got to be able to be consistent for four quarters. We weren't able to do that." After Mountain Ridge scored on four of their six first half possessions the Sunnyside defense clamped down in the second half. After throwing for 186 yards on 10-of-19 passing in the first half Yost saw the Blue Devils bring the Mountain Ridge short passing game to a crawl. And it was both the offense and the defense of Sunnyside that earned the credit for blanking the Mountain Lions after the halftime break. Not only did the defense limit the Mountain Ridge passing attack to 2-of-5 for 43 yards after the break, but the Blue Devils ball-control offense kept the football out of the hands of the home team as Mountain Ridge only had the ball three times, just 14 plays from scrimmage in the second half. Meanwhile Sunnyside would find some offensive rhythm against a stingy Mountain Ridge defense in the game's final 24 minutes. Going into the game Green talked about the team's need to gang tackle against Sunnyside's star running back Jovan Stevenson. While they did that for the majority of the game Stevenson would make his presence felt. After setting up his team's first score with a 75 yard scamper on a draw play in the first half Stevenson would break loose on Sunnyside's second possession of the second half. On a 2nd-and-2 from the 28-yard line the senior took a swing pass from senior quarterback Jamie Valdez, turned a couple Mountain Ridge defenders around with a series of fakes before racing 71 yards down to the Mountain Ridge 1. Only a great effort by junior Brad Williams kept it from being a touchdown. The visitors from Tucson would score the very next play on a sneak by Valdez cutting the deficit to 20-14. "We've faced adversity before, so we know not to panic," said Stevenson of the mood at halftime facing a 20-7 deficit. "We have a lot of new faces on the team this year, but they all put in a lot of work this summer to get ready for this season. We believed we'd have a chance to win in the fourth quarter." They would do exactly that. The game winning drive would begin on their own 20-yard line. After running the final two plays of the third quarter the Blue Devils would march 80 yards in 13 plays, a drive that would consume 7:32. Mountain Ridge had its chances to turn Sunnyside back but Sunnyside converted a 4th-and-inches from the Mountain Ridge 24 to keep the drive alive. Three plays later they would face a 4th-and-10 from the 20 with less than six minutes remaining in the game. Dropping back to pass Valdez surveyed the field and found a wide open Emilio Luna in the left corner of the end zone. When the extra point was good Sunnyside claimed their first lead of the night. With the new state record-holding kicker waiting on the sidelines the Mountain Lions were never able to give Locke a chance to win the game. After Giordanello gained one first down, getting his team out to midfield on a 29 yard pass reception and run from Yost, Mountain Ridge's offense stalled. Forced to punt with 3:50 remaining the Mountain Lions would never see the ball again as Sunnyside converted a 4th-and-inches from their own 42 as Valdez, with a second and third effort closed out the Mountain Lions hope with a quarterback sneak. Sanchez said he never considered punting and giving Locke and the Mountain Lions one more chance. "We'd seen all we wanted to of him, plus our long snapper had gotten injured earlier in the game so I didn't feel real comfortable putting all that pressure on our backup," the veteran coach explained. "And then the third thing that went into that equation is the belief I have in our offensive line. They worked very hard in the summer knowing that it will pay off in those kind of situations." After the game Locke, whose previous career long had been 48 yards, reflected on the mixed feeling of his record-breaking kick coming in a losing effort. His kick broke an 18-year old mark set by current Centennial offensive coordinator Kyle Pooler, who held the record with a 62-yarder during his prep career at Cactus High School. "It's something I'll remember for sure, but I know I got a little help from the wind," he said. "We were ready to send the punt unit out when coach noticed the flag blowing and that we could take advantage of it. I knew I hit it well enough distance-wise it was just a matter of the direction, but it was good enough." The Mountain Ridge senior said his team will bounce back. "It's a disappointing, tough loss, but I think we played pretty well," he said. "Our goals are much greater than this one game and I think we'll learn from it and get better." Mountain Ridge will try and get its first win on the road Sept. 7 at Cesar Chavez High School.
It’s the game that never ended, and it seems the debate around it won’t either.
FLAGSTAFF — No matter what the Seton Catholic defense accomplished this season, the memory of last year’s semifinal loss to Blue Ridge shined brightest.
A Division IV football coach who saw Seton Catholic and Blue Ridge both in person and on film breaks down Friday night's state championship game at NAU Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff.
Jeremy Hathcock, who guided Show Low High to a 3A football title two years ago, has accepted an offer to be the next coach at Desert Ridge High School.
Outlook: Mountain View coach Tom Joseph says Sunnyside is the best defensive team his Toros have faced this season.
Address: 1725 E. Bilby Road, Tucson
Time: 7 p.m.
Dylan Barrett may be the younger, shorter, lighter-throwing version of his brother, Jake, but his performance on Tuesday kept alive Desert Ridge’s hopes to continue the championship trend started by his sibling.
On Jan. 22, Priest Willis slipped on a pair of powder blue football gloves, aligned his hands in the sign of a ‘U’ and confirmed to the college football world what everyone long suspected: He was verbally committing to UCLA.
As a freshman on the Sunrise Mountain softball team, Jamie LaBovick got a taste of playing on a championship club.
It was little more than a beauty contest, but it was a beauty of a contest. Tempe Corona del Sol edged Mesa Red Mountain 190-188.5 Saturday in the 5A-I team wrestling standings that went down to the final match.
Genice Colorado hit the game-winning basket with 10 seconds left in overtime to lift visiting Mountain Pointe past Horizon 69-68 in a 5A non-region girls basketball game on Friday night.
Kelly Wickerman's two-run home run helped lead No. 4 Mountain View to a 4-0 win over visiting No. 13 Skyline in the first round of the 5A Division I softball state tournament on Saturday afternoon.
The lasting image of the 2012 baseball season was Dylan Cozens blasting a walk-off, opposite-field homer to lift Chaparral to the Division I championship over Brophy.
No coach? No problem.
Eric King knocked in the game-winning run in the seventh inning as Scottsdale Christian defeated Desert Ridge 4-3 Thursday at Higley High School to claim the East Valley Grand Slam Tournament championship.
Final VX Power Rankings through the 2011 season, regardless of Division:
While Division VI (eight-man) high school football in Arizona is in the middle of its 2012 playoff tournament, Friday is the last night of regular season play for Divisions I through V. The AIA will announce final playoff brackets Saturday at 10 a..m. and will be posted here at varsity.evtrib.com as soon as the brackets are finalized.