When it comes to playoff football, Jesse Parker has been part of his fair share of games. The legendary coach doesn’t hesitate when it comes to naming the game he remembers most.
Since most of his coaching career was spent at Mountain View, it figures that one of those games stands out.
‘‘When we played Mesa in 1993, it was electric,’’ said Parker, who currently coaches at Gilbert. ‘‘That’s the only way I can describe it. The stands were filled before the teams came out to warm up. It’s one you’d never forget.’’
It helps that Parker’s Toros won that night, knocking off their archrival, 20-6.
But those are the kind of games that this time of year is all about. Competitive games. Sometimes a surprising ending. Sometimes a rout one didn’t expect. Game participants never let go of a win or loss because of what ultimately is on the line.
Having covered high school football for the Tribune for the last 20 years, it’s a good time for me to look back at a dandy dozen postseason games during that span.
Some were championship games. Some advanced a team to the championship. Some brought a great season to an abrupt and shocking end.
They were all worth the $5 customers plunked down to see them. I had the good fortune to attend nine of these 12 games, eight as a reporter and one as a spectator. There are many more that conjure up memories — good or bad — for coaches, players and fans alike.
Everyone has their favorites. These are mine.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 20, MESA 6
5A semifinals, Dec. 3, 1993, at Westwood High School
This wasn’t just another Mesa-Mountain View game. Not under the circumstances.
The teams met the year before for the 5A title (won by Mesa 14-8). At the end of that game, a fight broke out between the teams. That brought a reprimand from the district, which went on to ban a regular season meeting between the teams. The only way they could meet in 1993 would be in the playoffs.
When both wound up winning their first two playoff games, that scenario became reality in the semifinals
Westwood’s Brimhall Field was filled to capacity at 6 p.m. — 90 minutes before kickoff.
A game that featured Mesa quarterback Mikel Moreno and running back Robert Holcombe against Mountain View quarterback Joe Germaine and running back Josh Lowe was a must-see.
Mountain View prevailed as it stymied Mesa’s ground game, limiting Moreno, Holcombe and Abraham Saiz to 133 yards total. Lowe rushed for tough yards on 27 carries and one TD; Germaine passed for two TDs and Mountain View went on to capture its fourth state title the following week, stopping Phoenix South Mountain, 38-7.
HORIZON 16, ST. MARY’S 14
5A championship, Dec. 9, 1994, at Sun Devil Stadium
Horizon’s focus early in the 1994 season wasn’t totally on football. Several team members near the midseason mark decided to absorb some risqué film rather than game film. They were caught and suspended by coach Doug Shaffer. The Huskies then played a varsity game with mostly junior varsity players and were 2-3 after five games.
But with their focus channeled the rest of the way, the Huskies reeled off eight wins in a row to reach the title game, including avenging an opening-night loss to defending champion Mountain View in the quarterfinals.
Beating St. Mary’s would be a different matter. In nine prior meetings, the Knights had won eight, including a 15-13 victory in Week 3. Like the regular season meeting, this game came down to the wire. Horizon used nearly the final eight minutes of the game to march 80 yards for the winning score. The
Huskies won on a fourth-and-goal shovel pass from quarterback Jeff Voigt to running back Brooks Tyree. Voigt eluded two tacklers and was being brought down by the ankles by St. Mary’s Ben Pelzer when he saw Tyree ahead and flipped the ball in desperation for the winning points in Horizon’s only state title.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 37, CHANDLER 30 (3 OT)
5A semifinal, Dec. 6, 1996 at Dobson High School
A season of tragedy in which their coach Jerry Loper was killed in a car accident helped the Wolves rally together and play the heavily favored Toros to a standstill.
At the time of Loper’s death, Chandler was 1-4 and a longshot to qualify for the playoffs.
The game-winning score came courtesy of a TD pass from Mountain View quarterback Tate Gunning to now Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap.
Chandler had to rally from behind four times in the game (7-0, 14-7, 20-17 and 23-20). An unorthodox punt return (a cross-field lateral from Eric Moody to Chaz Scott) provided an electrifying runback that set up a field-goal attempt by the Wolves with no time left on the clock. Chandler’s Dante Buscaglia connected on a 26-yarder to send the game into overtime, the longest non-title playoff game, in 5A history. Mountain View knocked off Brophy 17-3 for the championship the next week, the first for second-year coach Bernie Busken.
HAMILTON 35, MTN. VIEW 28 (3 OT)
5A championship, Dec. 6, 2003, Sun Devil Stadium
The longest championship game in state history. The Huskies run to the top of 5A was finally realized after a failed title-game bid in 2001 and a loss to eventual champ Mountain View in the 2002 semis.
Hamilton rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to tie the score at 14 by halftime. The teams traded missed field goals in the second half. Mountain View’s missed attempt came after Huskies defensive end David Smith made a shoe-string sack of quarterback Max Hall that lengthened the field-goal attempt by 10 yards. The Toros’ 38-yard attempt with 1:27 to play in regulation hit the left upright.
The teams traded touchdowns the first two overtime periods and Hamilton grabbed a 35-28 lead on a plunge by Tramell McGill. The Huskies clinched the win by stopping running back Marc LeBaron less than a yard shy of the end zone — defensive backs Daniel Hill and Myrio Davis teaming up for the stop.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 36, AMPHITHEATER 35
5A semifinal, Dec. 2, 1988 at Arizona Stadium
Reporters riding the elevator down from the press box at Arizona Stadium in Tucson were hoping to beat the game clock to the field to capture the notes and quotes of what appeared a certain Amphi victory.
But a 35-22 Amphi lead quickly turned to a 36-35 Toros victory, the greatest comeback in school history, considering the magnitude of the contest.
Quarterback Craig O’Donnal tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Hiatt on the first play from scrimmage after Amphi took a 35-22 lead with 2:47 left.
Mountain View, forced to go for an onside kick, recovered at the Amphi 42. The ensuing drive, highlighted by a 33-yard pass from O’Donnal to Hiatt, set up the winning TD by Brent Blakeman (a 4-yard run). Tony Leek’s extra point provided the margin of victory, a rally that took less than two minutes to attain. Hiatt caught five passes in the game for 200 yards. A 52-yard field goal attempt by the Panthers in the final seconds fell short and wide. Mountain View lost the championship game the next week to Westwood, 28-7.
WESTWOOD 21, SALPOINTE 20 (OT)
5A semifinal, Dec. 1, 2000 at Dobson High School
Just a couple of weeks ago, San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a touchdown, passed for a touchdown and caught a TD pass. In this one Westwood quarterback Justin Dutra turned the trick to help rally the Warriors from a 14-0 third-period deficit.
Dutra, who had missed half the season due to an injured hand, threw a TD pass to Dan Deskins late in the third period to pull the Warriors within 14-7. With just 2:45 left in regulation, he was on the receiving end of a doublereverse pass from Deskins on fourth down at the Salpointe 8 that forced overtime.
Dutra’s OT run and the second of two very uglylooking PATs by Warriors kicker Robert Mercado provided the winning margin. Westwood went on to face Red Mountain the next week in the 5A final, falling, 20-10.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 28, AMPHITHEATER 24
5A championship, Dec. 12, 1997, Sun Devil Stadium
Attempting to register back-to-back 14-0 seasons, Mountain View faced its toughest challenge of the season against the Panthers.
With nine minutes left in the game, the Toros trailed 24-14, the first time they had trailed all season.
It took a long drive and a short field after a key defensive play to rally the Toros to their sixth state title.
Senior tight end Todd Heap caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tate Gunning to cut the margin to 24-21 midway through the final period.
With Amphi facing a fourth-and-1 at its 40 with 3:30 to go, Amphi lined up to punt. The Panthers then called time out to talk it over. Players convinced Amphi coach Vern Friedli to go for the first down. The Panthers failed to convert. Mountain View did not.
The Toros took three running plays to score — all by running back Brad Malone. Malone tallied on an 18-yard run with 44 seconds left for the win. In its five previous title-game victories, Mountain View rarely trailed and never had to overcome a larger deficit than that posed by the Panthers.
TEMPE 20, IRONWOOD 17 (OT)
4A championship, Dec. 13, 1996, Sun Devil Stadium
The best season in Tempe history (14-0) came down to the final pitch and catch of a sensational prep duo.
Tempe quarterback Todd Mortensen, who broke many of his father’s old school records, hooked up 16 times for touchdowns in 1996 with senior wide out Justin Taplin. Their last one — a 7-yard strike in overtime — provided the Buffaloes and coach Tim McBurney a win at Sun Devil Stadium.
Taplin, who caught 75 passes that season and was a four-year starter, was shut out receiving in the first half. But he caught five passes for 69 yards in the second half. Mortensen finished the season with 32 scoring passes. By beating Ironwood, Tempe avenged a quarterfinal overtime loss to the Eagles the previous season.
WESTWOOD 39, MCCLINTOCK 3
5A first round, Nov. 13, 1992, at McClintock HS
Sounds like it was a rout. It was. So why mention it?
Considering that earlier in the regular season, the 10-0 Chargers had battered the Warriors by a count of 46-7. This result was particularly astonishing and made the cliche "any given night" a reality.
In the regular season meeting, also at McClintock, Westwood turned the ball over eight times. In the rematch, Westwood had zero while McClintock had five.
Westwood coach Jerry Loper expressed confidence prior to the game that, if his team took care of the ball, it could win. Few took that notion to heart. They weren’t on the Westwood sideline. Westwood was eliminated the following week by Brophy.
RED MTN. 30, HORIZON 17
5A semifinal, Nov. 30, 2001, Skyline HS
This victory catapulted Red Mountain to its second straight appearance in the 5A championship game.
The Mountain Lions played a talented Horizon squad that was without injured star, Mike Falco, and fullback Matt DeFreitas.
Trailing 17-10 in the third period with only a penalty that nullified a score preventing a two-touchdown deficit, Red Mountain forced a turnover and drove 76 yards for the tying score on a 36-yard run by running back-turnedquarterback Steve Smith on fourth-and-long.
A 53-yard field goal by Red Mountain’s Eric Contos made it 20-17 in the final period. A leap-frogging block of a Horizon field goal attempt by the Mountain Lions’ Adam Whitworth possibly prevented a tie and set up a 46-yard make by Contos for a 23-17 advantage late in the game.
Horizon was stopped on downs in Red Mountain territory on its final possession. Red Mountain went on to rally past Hamilton the next week in the state title game, 13-10.
MESA 19, MTN. VIEW 17
5A semis, Nov. 30, 1990, at Westwood HS
It had been more than a decade since Mesa High had reached a state championship game. At the time of this meeting, championship appearances were commonplace for Mountain View. The Toros had played in four of the previous seven.
This, however, was Mesa’s year. In a seesaw battle at Westwood’s Brimhall Field, Jackrabbits quarterback Grady Benton ran for one touchdown and threw for two others. Benton hurdled defenders inside the 5-yard line for the winning score with 1:35 to play. In the game, he completed 13-of-16 passes for 174 yards. Mesa won its first title in 27 years the following week when it topped Tucson Amphitheater, 21-7.
CHAPARRAL 20, SUNNYSIDE 17
4A semifinal, Dec. 6, 2002, at Catalina HS
The late 1990s witnessed the rise of Chaparral as a 4A football power.
Back-to-back state titles in 1999 and 2000 brought them of age and the Firebirds missed out on a three-peat in 2001 with a quarterfinal loss.
Their return to the 4A perch in 2002 might not have happened if not for freshman kicker Matt Boatman.
Boatman, summoned to the varsity late in the season, kicked two field goals, the last a 39-yarder with 1:47 to play, that secured a victory over the unbeaten and defending state champion Blue Devils. Boatman is still kicking in this his senior year for the Firebirds, who are in contention for the 2005 crown.
Chaparral knocked off Phoenix Greenway the next week, 21-14, to win the title.