Before Red Mountain could enter the championship contender conversation the Mountain Lions had to get over .500.
After losing to Chandler and Hamilton in convincing fashion, Red Mountain handled Basha and Boulder Creek to even up its record after the first month.
It was a fresh start. A chance to get prove the preseason hype was warranted. Everything looked to be coming together.
Then Gilbert played a good first half and took a 14-7 into halftime in fifth game of the season. A loss to the Tigers would have been a setback. A recovery would have been possible, but a stain on the resume.
Gabe Williams took care of that with one tip drill.
The Red Mountain defensive end/linebacker tipped a pass to himself, hauled it ran and took off down the left side line to begin what was a second-half onslaught on the way to a 41-28 win.
“We needed a big play,” Williams said. “Our defense had to something. I saw the ball, and got a piece of it. After that we kind of took over the game.”
The seventh-seeded Mountain Lions (9-2) scored on a half-back pass after getting set up in the red zone by Williams and then took the lead on Gilbert’s ensuing drive when Delton Jackson blocked a punt and Siope Koloamatangi fell on the ball in the end zone for a 21-14 lead.
Williams’ pick sparked a 34-point second half and Red Mountain has rarely trailed, if at all, since on the way a school record nine-game win streak and appearance in this week’s 6A Conference quarterfinals against No. 15 Westview (6-5).
“It was a great individual play that lead to big things for the team,” Red Mountain coach Mike Peterson said. “We kind of took off at that point and the momentum started building.”
Williams had one of his best games of the year as he also had three sacks, while the defense came out of the Gilbert game with a new confidence and swagger after intercepting Jack Plummer three times, including a 102-yard pick 6 to end the game by Gerald Wilbon to end it, after the Purdue signee came into the game with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We stepped up that game,” Williams said, “and we haven’t stopped since.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.