GLENDALE — Since Head Coach Doug Madoski took over the Mountain Ridge football program prior to the 2019 season, the Mountain Lions have enjoyed small steps toward a return to prominence.
Consider Friday night’s Senior Night victory over Notre Dame Prep as a giant leap.
Taking advantage of seven total takeaways, Mountain Ridge scored a trifecta of third-quarter touchdowns in a 4:11 span to fuel a confidence-building 28-10 win over the Saints on the MRHS campus.
“Our coaches went to work and we had some good ideas about what we wanted to do,” Madoski said after the game. “The kids went out tonight and executed the game plan really well. We were able to do some things.”
After a mistake-filled, penalty-riddled first half by both squads, the visiting Saints led 3-0 at the break on a 39-yard field goal by Andrew Vines. NDP was kicking themselves after three turnovers and a missed field goal in the first two quarters. The Saints still led because the Mountain Lions had a pair of key giveaways as well.
The third quarter marked the turning point of the game where Mountain Ridge took control.
The Mountain Lions took the lead on a 16-play, 80-yard drive aided by another crucial Saints’ mistake.
Sophomore running back Terrance Hall started the drive with a 30-yard gallup to midfield. Sophomore QB Brendan Anderson connected with senior receiver Tyler Strow to pick up a first down on third-and-7. Hall carried three more times before Ridge faced 4th-and-2 at the NDP 4 yard line.
But instead of having to run a play, the Mountain Lions watched the Saints jump offsides. That penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal and gave Ridge a big first down. On the next snap, Anderson faked a handoff and scampered around the right side for the game’s first TD:
After a key offsides gives MRHS a first down on 4th and 2, sophomore QB Brendan Anderson sneaks around the right side for a TD. Blake Comstock PAT good.@NDP_Athletics 3@MtRidgeFootball 7— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 17, 2020
6:11 - 3rd Quarter#WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia #AZPreps365 #azhs pic.twitter.com/RYqcT3jk00
Blake Comstock added the PAT to give Mountain Ridge a 7-3 lead halfway through the third.
But the Mountain Lions were only getting started. A scrappy defensive line forced NDP into a 3rd-and-10 situation and Saints QB Tyler Schweigert rolled out and forced a throw downfield.
The ball was tipped and Ridge senior DB Tanor Loosle made a diving effort to snag the ball before it hit the ground. It marked Loosle’s second INT on Senior Night.
Madoski and his staff went for the jugular. On the second play after the turnover, Anderson fired a perfect strike down the middle to sophomore WR Deric English for a 36-yard touchdown.
Comstock was true again to give Ridge a 14-3 lead with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
“We are a young offensive group — we start seven sophomores on the offensive side of the ball,” Madoski explained. “Sometimes it takes a while for them to figure out what it takes to go forward the right way. They are starting to believe in themselves and that’s a great thing.”
That belief increased on the next series.
On first down at the NDP 33, Schweigert fired a ball to the right sideline. Wight read the receiver’s route and snagged the errant pass one-handed before darting down the sideline to the Saints’ 4 yard line.
“I had a good read and jumped the out route,” Wight explained. “I got the one-hander then I saw the end zone. I wanted the 6.”
Wight didn’t quite get the defensive TD, but Hall did the honors on the first play after the INT from 4 yards out:
After an incredible one-handed INT by Richard Wight, Mountain Lions’ Terrance Hall scores MRHS third TD in a span of 4:11. Comstock PAT good.@NDP_Athletics 3@MtRidgeFootball 21— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 17, 2020
2:00 - 3rd Quarter #WestValleyPreps @AzNewsmedia #AZPreps365 #azhs pic.twitter.com/vpoGiRNWzr
After Comstock knocked through the PAT, Ridge was up 21-3 at the 3:00 mark of the third. The Mountain Lions had tallied three TDs in just over four minutes of game time.
The Saints went on a 13-play drive of their own as the quarter changed. Looking to get within two scores, Wight instead put the finishing touches on his huge night by claiming his third interception inside the Ridge 20.
Anderson wanted more and found sophomore WR Sam Thielen on a 40-yard TD strike. Comstock finished 4-4 on PATs and MRHS led 28-3.
The Saints capped the scoring late when Schweigert connected with Harrison Wood on a 10-yard touchdown pass and Vines added the point after.
By then, the Mountain Lions and the “Ridge Army” were already celebrating a huge victory. Mountain Ridge picked off Schweigert five times on the night (3 by Wight, 2 by Loosle). Add a handful of sacks and the Ridge defense left the field feeling quite confident.
“I feel like we brought the energy tonight, especially compared to last week,” Wight said. “We executed our game plan and found our identity. There’s a lot to work on still but we are happy with this outcome.”
Ridge’s offensive leaders were all sophomores — Anderson threw a pair of TD passes and ran for another. English and Thielen each hauled in a TD pass while Hall added another on the ground. NDP's Schweigert had a tough night with 5 interceptions and just one TD pass.
Notre Dame Prep (2-1) travels to Campo Verde (2-1) in region play next Friday night. Mountain Ridge (2-1) will head north to face Boulder Creek (2-1) for their region opener.
In 2018, the Mountain Lions struggled mightily through an 0-10 season. Modeski arrived and changed everything, eventually leading MRHS to 5 wins and a surprising playoff berth last year.
Modeski believes bigger things are in store for these young Mountain Lions.
“I think we are progressing but at the same time, we still have a long way to go,” the head coach said. “But we are taking positive steps and constantly trying to improve while giving the boys the confidence they need to be successful.”