While the Mountain View transition remains a work in progress, the Red Mountain attack is humming along.
Once the sixth-ranked Lions (5-2) got the mix of pass and run working, it made quick work of Mountain View, beating the Toros 55-14 on Thursday night in Division I play.
Mason Thorman threw for 225 yards in three quarters and the running game – balanced with Marcus Brantley and Cougar Garcia – allowed the Lions to drive for four touchdowns on consecutive possessions to blow open a 27-7 halftime lead.
“We can do almost anything,” said wide receiver Billy Freeman, who caught a touchdown pass and ran for another. “We have the playmakers, we have the talent. We just have to perform.”
Mountain View (3-4) needed almost a half to finally put together a sustained drive – only to give up a long TD pass before the break and kill any momentum.
For Red Mountain, it was a fourth straight win after its slow start with new personnel and a pair of key injuries.
“It was kind of confusing, we were trying to find our strengths,” Garcia said. “We have definitely gotten there. We got our heads back in the game and we are ready to keep going.”
With Freeman and Daniel McGill back, the Lions have deep threats, a solid back in Marcus Brantley and a grind-it-out runner in Cougar Garcia.
All played their part on Thursday.
“It’s made a huge difference,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said of Freeman and McGill, who have been on the field the last three weeks. “They are both very good players, they are seniors, they both played last year, makes a huge difference having that experience.”
Mountain View quarterback Chase Funk had success on a late first half drive, but he also threw three interceptions – all to Chris Sepulveda – and a fumble early set the tone.
Funk was hit in the arm in the pocket, the ball popped out, bounced on the ground and Trenton Smothers picked it up at the Mountain View 34 and ran in for the first score.
To show how well the Lion machine is working – after holding Mountain View on a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half – Red Mountain drove down for a 16-yard run up the middle by Thorman, using Freeman in a Wildcat formation to convert a fourth down on a pass. But after the score, Freeman lined up for the point after in the shotgun, by himself. He took the snap and drop-kicked the extra point.
“They used to do it in the olden days,” Freeman said. “I’ve practiced it a little bit, we put it in and we wanted to do it.”
Red Mountain had sustained drives to take a 21-0 lead with 5:16 left until halftime.
Funk finally began to move the ball, finding Joe Clark on a couple of passes and converting a key third-and-short. He also got help from a late hit penalty and Jeff Castillo scored on a 5-yard run with 1:24 left.
The momentum really looked as it had switched when Kyle Frost intercepted a tipped Thorman pass on the next play from scrimmage. But then, on second down at the Lions 29, Funk was picked off by Sepulveda at the 17.
Thorman gave the ball to Garcia on a couple of runs to give Red Mountain some breathing room and then hit McGill in stride on a 61-yard pass play that took the air out of Mountain View’s sails.
Garcia finished with 114 yards on the ground, picking up the slack from Brantley, who was slowed by a sore back, Wisniewski said.
Red Mountain has a couple more Mesa schools on the schedule, going to Westwood next week and then finishing the regular season at home against Skyline and Highland.
“In order for us to become the program we want to become on a state level, on a national level, we have to own the city of Mesa, we have to,” Wisniewski said. “And beating Mountain View, who has been the traditional power, is the first thing that has to happen.”