It borders on sacrilege at the intersection of Lindsay and Brown Roads.
Four wide receivers? A sophomore quarterback?
That’s not how Mountain View became the state’s best football program.
But after years of steady descent, the Toros are turning over a new leaf. Chad DeGrenier has begun his tenure at Mountain View, only the fourth coach at the school and the first with a spread-offense philosophy.
DeGrenier follows Jesse Parker, Bernie Busken and Tom Joseph, pound-the-ground types who combined to lead the Toros to eight state championships and five runner-up finishes since 1978. Joseph was the latest coach, making Mountain View state champions in 2002 and leading the team to the title game in 2003 and 2006, but rumblings grew louder as the Toros dropped from excellence to mediocrity the past few years.
Joseph was fired in November after the Toros lost to Desert Vista in the first round of the 5A Division I postseason. At 5-6, Mountain View suffered its first losing season in school history, and the team’s win total dropped for the third straight year.
After a months-long search, DeGrenier enters with high expectations. He comes via Cactus Shadows, where the former college and Arena League quarterback led the Falcons to the 4A-II state title in 2006 and, in maybe an even more impressive performance, led an overachieving bunch to an 11-1 record two seasons ago.
DeGrenier had few athletic specimens at wide receiver with Cactus Shadows, but he schemed well enough to take advantage of the holes in defenses.
Last year, the Falcons had a sophomore quarterback in Bryce Kinsler, and opponents dared DeGrenier to throw, so he did. Kinsler completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,247 yards with 28 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
“(DeGrenier’s) leading receiver last year caught over 100 balls,” said Mountain View wide receiver Patrick Glover, his eyes beaming. “So yeah, I’m excited.”
DeGrenier stresses that it’s not the only thing he can do. Two seasons ago, Saguaro loaded up on the pass, so Cactus Shadows ran the ball 83 percent of the time in a 21-20 road victory.
“All we want to do is win football games,” DeGrenier said. “When we beat Saguaro, we ran the ball 38 times and threw it eight. If that’s what we have to do, that’s what we’ll do. And if we have to throw 38 times, then we’ll throw 38 times.”
DeGrenier gets his reputation as an aerial attacker because of his formations. He spreads four receivers out so that defenses can’t load up the box. But this year, with sophomore Chase Funk likely under center, DeGrenier would actually rather run. The difference is, if teams give the receivers one-on-one matchups, the Toros are willing to exploit.
“Games will dictate what we do,” DeGrenier said.
Mountain View players downplay the shift from a run-oriented attack to a more pass-heavy scheme.
The goal, they say, remains the same.
“Whatever works, works,” said senior linebacker Kyle Frost. “It can be the run or the pass. People care about winning.”
The interest at the school has increased. The varsity roster has 62 players. DeGrenier expects 65 on junior varsity and more than 100 on the freshman level. That has often been the key at Mountain View.
The team has never been the recipient of high-profile transfers, instead relying on the kids within the system to master the finer points of the game. The formations might be different now, but the blueprint remains the same.
“We’re not changing the tradition,” Glover said. “We still have the black cleats. Mountain View is still going to be red, white and blue. That will never happen at this school. Whether (DeGrenier) is here for one year or 20 years, it’s going to be the same.”
Many of the current players have relatives that competed for the Toros, family members steeped in the old-school tradition.
But they say everyone is excited, especially after Mountain View struggled against teams like Chaparral and Basha last year. The Toros deem themselves ready for this change.
“It’s a huge year,” senior linebacker Jake Thomas said. “We just want to get to the playoffs and make a run. People are saying there’s no way it’s going to happen, and I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to be the state champs, but when we get to the playoffs, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”