It was probably a case of too much too soon. Or maybe Red Mountain just needed to grow into the expectations others placed on the Mountain Lions.
After all, only a handful of returning starters lined the roster. Yes, Lance Lawson was back, but a bum ankle prevented him from scrimmaging and he missed the first game.
Even the head coach – Mike Peterson – never stepped onto a high school field as the leader of a program.
Despite all of that the Mountain Lions were a consensus preseason top five pick only to quickly struggle and drop their first two games.
Five weeks later, that team that garnered all the preseason hype showed up.
Red Mountain won its fifth straight Friday with an impressive 36-13 win over Mountain View at Jesse Parker Field in East Valley Region action.
“We’re clicking on all cylinders now,” said Peterson, who has gone from questioning whether or not he lost the locker room to having a boisterous and celebratory one.
The cylinders might be clicking but it was hardly a smooth ride against the Toros (3-4, 0-2).
Red Mountain (5-2, 2-0) won easily despite losing four fumbles and committing 16 penalties for 157 yards.
That’s essentially winning despite yourself, and shows just how much of a talent difference there was between Mountain View and Red Mountain.
“Clearly, we need to clean some things up,” Peterson said. “We can’t have those types of mistakes and expect to win, but right now we are playing well enough to overcome it.”
It helps having a healthy Lawson, who played quarterback in the wildcat offensive scheme for the first time this year, and a defense that has developed into confident and physical unit.
The defense led by Gabe Williams, Delton Jackson and Justin Coleman held Mountain View, which played without leading rusher Dean Yamada for disciplinary reasons, under 100 total yards until the last drive and to less than 5 yards rushing.
“We’re a different team now,” Williams said. “We are in sync and we’ve come together. It took some time but right now we’re playing like we knew we could.”
The lead was only 15-7 at halftime, but Lawson connected with Joey Sanchez on a 30-yard touchdown pass on Red Mountain’s first drive of the third quarter, and never looked back.
“They were a better football team than us,” Mountain View coach Mike Fell said. “I thought we were going to win the game. They outplayed us. It was the first time Lawson was healthy all year and he had lot of opportunities to do some things.”
Toros junior linebacker Jeremiah Hollen said it was tough to lose in blowout fashion on their home field, but added there is time to get things turned around.
“We have some guys who have trouble shaking it off when they get down or (the opposition) make(s) a big play,” he said. “We have to be able to overcome that stuff, and be strong enough to battle back.”
Lawson was back, while some rust showed (three lost fumbles), he still managed to have his best all around game while quarterback Cannon Griner, who completed his first 10 passes, played one of his better games as well.
“It felt good to get back to doing what I do,” said Lawson, who had 218 yards from scrimmage to close in on 5,000 career total yards. “I’m still a little rusty.”
Red Mountain has three more games to work out some of the kinks, but the Mountain Lions have already come along way since opening loses to Chandler and Hamilton, both top five teams.
“We were young in some spots, a lot of new starters and struggled early on,” Peterson said. “I like the progress and now it is matter of tightening up some areas up and finishing strong.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.
Red Mountain 36, Mountain 13
RM 15 0 14 7-36
MV 0 7 0 6-13
RM – Reece-Peeplez 10 pass from Griner (McElroy run), 5:47
RM – Lujan 2 run (Huffman kick), :57
MV – Dinwiddie 5 pass from Nunez (Ryan kick), 1:43
RM – Sanchez 30 pass from Lawson (Huffman kick), 10:33
RM – McElroy 2 run (Huffman kick), 1:23
MV – Barney 12 pass from Nunez (kick failed), 11:47
RM – McElroy 3 run (Huffman kick), 5:43
First downs 17 10
Rush-yards 37-127 23-2
Comp-Att-Int 24-33-0 13-28-0
Pass yards 355 106
Total yards 472 108
Fumbles/lost 4/4 2/1
Penalties 16-157 6/57
RM – McElroy 10-25, Lujan 7-21, Lawson 12-69, Griner 7-10, Daniels 1-2, Dinwiddie 5-7, Waite 2-12, Hollen 1-(-)2, Long 7-11.
RM – Griner 16-21-0-225, Lawson 8-12-0-130. MV – Nunez 13-28-0-106.
RM – Bowers 5-46, Lawson 1-17, Wheat 3-109, Koloamatangi 1-9, Sanchez 1-30, Reece-Peeplez 3-28, Wilbon 5-55, Daniels 1-10, Lindquist 1-11. MV – Dinwiddie 5-37, Allen 1-8, Barney 2-14, Long 1-(-)2, Waite 1-15.