It was in a word — brutal.
One third-quarter sequence sums up Mountain Ridge's misery in its 20-0 home loss to Phoenix North Canyon Thursday. Sophomore Keesean Green's 34-yard punt return set up the Mountain Lions at the North Canyon 7.
Trailing 13-0, Mountain Ridge mustered a one-yard run, an incomplete pass by a running back and a one-yard loss. A low snap foiled their 24-yard field goal attempt.
"We've had chances in every game. We've got to take care of us," Mountain Ridge coach Bobby Green said. "This team's not going to give up. They'll fight their butts off and we will be a good team this year."
The numbers get worse. Mountain Ridge (0-3) had more turnovers (four) than first downs (three).
Eighteen rushes yielded a minus five for the Mountain Lions, and the home team's two quarterbacks threw for a combined 60 yards. Mountain Ridge started four drives within 37 yards of the end zone.
North Canyon's defense deserves credit, to an extent. The Rattlers kept the ball in front of them — Mountain Ridge only had three offensive plays of more than 10 yards — and bottled up junior tailback Tre Favors (17 yards on eight carries and 17 more on a screen pass) and Green (one catch for five yards).
First-year coach Conrad Hamilton has instilled the attacking scheme he gained fame from as Scottsdale Chaparral's defensive coordinator. North Canyon (3-0) has allowed 22 points in its first three games.
"It's like I told the guys, all of the defensive guys got the game ball. They played outstanding," Hamilton said. "We just want to be aggressive. We want to dictate to offenses and make them uncomfortable. We want to bring that mentality there."
But Mountain Ridge's two fumbles, two interceptions, drops and missed assignments aided the Rattlers. They also saved a North Canyon offense that failed to impress.
The Rattlers hardly gave their running game lip service, rushing for -1 yards on 20 attempts. Their numbers looked worse before senior tailback Kye Russell's 25-yard touchdown in the final two minutes.
So North Canyon turned to junior quarterback Tre Grant. The Mountain Ridge defense pressured Grant, sacking him six times, but the first-year starter made just enough plays to get by.
And the Rattlers converted their first two forced turnovers into all the points they would need. Senior Ian Hausman's interception return to the Mountain Ridge 31 set up a field goal.
Then, Green's fumbled exchange on a reverse gave North Canyon another short field. On the next play, Grant threw high to the corner of the end zone and sophomore wide receiver Bryant O'Georgia made a leaping catch for a 38-yard touchdown.
"We'll take it a game a time. The thing with that, though, is we can build on wins," Hamilton said. "All-in-all, at 3-0 you can't beat it."
In addition to the drive starting at the North Canyon 7, Mountain Ridge missed two other major second-half opportunities.
Junior Kolby Gregory's squib kick to open the third quarter was fumbled, and senior Alex Mugar recovered at the North Canyon 32. The Mountain Lions lost three yards and punted.
Then in the fourth quarter, Green broke off a 71-yard punt return to the North Canyon 25. The offense fumbled on the first snap, recovered, then left the field after three straight incompletions.
"It's a team game. The defense did well at times but we're still doing things that we need to get better at on defense, too," Green said. "All around, we have to go back to the fundamentals and do things right."