Fans of the Phoenix Mountain Pointe football team were swirled in neon colors, but it was a simple black and white sign that stood out.
We want Bama.
Well, Auburn got to Alabama before Mountain Pointe could, but the Pride certainly were happy to prove their worth in Arizona’s Division I, taking home the championship trophy with a 42-19 victory over Chandler Hamilton on Saturday (Nov. 30) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
It was a reversal of the 2012 title game between the two won by Hamilton 31-16, and allowed top-seeded Mountain Pointe to finish the season at 14-0. Third-seeded Hamilton finished 11-2, with both losses coming to Mountain Pointe.
Mountain Pointe did it with a balanced approach on offense, 297 passing and 243 rushing. Its defense was just as strong, limiting Hamilton to 233 total yards.
“We weren’t ready to win it last year. This year we were,’’ Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said, his shirt soaking wet from an ice-water shower in the closing moments of the game.
“They did to us what we did to them last year,’’ said Hamilton coach Steve Belles. “We tried to keep it as close as we could. We had our chances, but we just couldn’t stop them. You have to tip your hat to coach Vaughan.’’
Senior Wesley Payne led the way for the Pride. He rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown, threw a 47-yard halfback pass to Jalen Brown for a touchdown and played tough defense from his linebacker spot.
Payne’s pass wasn’t a fluttering duck. It came in perfectly over the shoulder of Brown, who did the rest.
Payne insisted it wasn’t plain luck.
“I played quarterback in middle school,’’ he said, smiling.
Hamilton had a 6-0 lead early in the game. A punt rolled dead at the Mountain Pointe 1 and the Pride went nowhere. Hamilton got the ball back at its 35, and scored in two plays, on a 4-yard run by Tyrell Smith. He scored both of the Huskies’ TDs and finished with 70 yards on the ground.
Payne and Brown tied it at 7 with their razzle dazzle early in the second quarter. Quarterback Antonio Hinojosa put Mountain Pointe up with 4:11 left in the second quarter on a 7-yard run. He rolled to his right and made a beeline for the orange pylon, reaching the ball to touch it at the last moment.
Hinojosa’s arm figured in the next score, a 34-yard pass to Emmanuel Butler with 7 seconds left in the half. It was significant in terms of momentum, because the Pride also got the ball to start the second half after winning the pre-game coin toss and deferring.
Hamilton pulled closer with 2:09 left in the third on a 78-yard punt return by Morris Kroma.
Payne scored his TD on a 1-yard run early in the fourth. It was set up by a 39-yard pass play from Hinojosa to Timmy Hernandez.
Hernandez and Butler each had more than 100 yards in receptions. Hinojosa was 10 of 15 for 250 yards.
“We were willing to throw if they took away our run,’’ Vaughan said.
Mountain Pointe pulled away in the late stages, creating turnovers as Hamilton tried in vain to come back.
Two Mountain Pointe players celebrated afterward, kissing the Cardinals’ logo at midfield, then pointing to the sky. Except that the retractable roof was closed.
No problem. It was all good.