When Richie Estrada and the rest of the seniors on Mountain View’s football team were suiting up last Friday, they figured it would be the last time they take their home field.
Not so fast.
Estrada and the eighth-seeded Mountain Lions (7-3) will get at least one more chance tonight, when they host No. 9 Peoria Liberty to open the Division II state playoffs.
“There’s going to be electricity in the air, it’s going to be crazy,” senior middle linebacker Corbin Gouby said. “We’ve got a brand new field, what better way to break it in than host a playoff game?”
It’s the first time since 2007 Mountain View is hosting a postseason game. It hasn’t won one at home since 2003, when it beat Mesa Dobson 34-12 in the first round of the 5A playoffs, but that could change tonight.
The Mountain Lions have won four straight since starting out 3-3, and second-year coach Clarence McRae couldn’t be happier with the way his team is playing right now.
“We’re hitting our stride heading into the playoffs,” said McRae, a former Arizona Wildcats tight end. “We want to be a team that plays great solid defense and makes teams earn points against us.”
In the last four weeks, Mountain View has given up only 14 total points. It knocked off Ironwood Ridge for the first time in school history, 14-7, on Oct. 18 and, a week later, held a Tucson High team that had been averaging 47 points a game to just seven.
“We turned on the jets, we knew what we had to do late in the season to get all those wins in a row,” Estrada said. “Our team is hot right now. Our defense is banging and our offense is getting everything nice and sound.”
In order to reach the state quarterfinals for the second straight year, Gouby and the Mountain Lions defense will have to continue playing lockdown defense. Liberty (7-3) has also won four straight and is averaging 42 points a game with a loaded and balanced offensive
“They have a great quarterback, a good running back and I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to shut down their zone-read or anything up the middle,” said Gouby, who also lines up at tight end and is averaging 9.8 tackles a game.
In addition to playing solid defense, the Mountain Lions offense will continue to rely heavily on Estrada as they have most of the last two seasons. He’s rushed for 1,508 yards and 12 touchdowns this year after rushing for 1,754 yards and 19 scores as a junior. If that all comes together, Mountain View would almost certainly face top-seeded Salpointe Catholic for the fourth time in the last two seasons.
“The way we’re playing right now,” Estrada said, “I think we could surprise the world. We’re not scared at all.”
Football rankings raise
a few more questions
It all started off last Saturday morning when the Arizona Interscholastic Association had to remove and redo the football playoff brackets because of a calculation error, but there’s more.
It doesn’t make sense that Tucson High (7-3) fell to No. 13 in Division II and is two spots behind No. 11 Ironwood Ridge (6-4), which it beat 51-30 a few weeks ago. Both teams should definitely be in the playoffs but the computer sure got their placement wrong.
Also, in Division V, Pusch Ridge Christian (8-1) got cheated out of hosting a playoff game. The No. 9 Lions’ lone loss was by two touchdowns against the No. 2 seed. Otherwise, they dominated their opponents and should have easily been hosting a game Saturday night rather than traveling to Phoenix.
No more local football broadcasts online
After broadcasting 11 football games this fall, mybroadcastbox.com won’t be able to continue doing so for the state playoffs because it’s not financially feasible. According to Eric Thomae, one of the three founding members along with Francisco Abril and J.B. Howell, the AIA wants to charge the small start-up a whopping $750 per game because of a contract it has with the NFHS Network.
That’s ridiculous. Thomae and his crew weren’t in it for the money; they did a nice job covering Southern Arizona teams and made just enough to pay for half of the equipment purchased to use this season. It’s a shame they’re done with football until next year, but Thomae said they’re also planning on covering some other sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball and softball.
Verdugo gets more national recognition
Perfect Game recently ranked Sahuaro stud left-hander and slugging outfielder Alex Verdugo as the 20th best player in his class nationwide. A couple weeks ago, Baseball America had him at No. 34 in its Top 50 draft prospects. Verdugo has verbally committed to Arizona State and played in the Under Armour All-America game last summer.
Heavner having success coaching at Horizon
Former Arizona Wildcats quarterback Kris Heavner, who coached at Santa Rita last fall before he took the Scottsdale Horizon job, has the Huskies back in the state playoffs for the first time since 2010. No. 7 Horizon (8-2) hosts No. 10 Chandler Basha tonight in the first round of Division I action. Heavner’s quarterback, junior Dalton Sneed, has thrown for 3,436 yards and 41 touchdowns. Talk about a perfect fit.