MESA - The visiting crowd held their collective breath as a flag was thrown onto the field after Mesa Mountain View sophomore quarterback Jack Germaine threw an incompletion on fourth-and-11 on his own 33-yard line.
Unsportsmanlike conduct on Mountain View. 15-yard penalty, Mountain Ridge ball on the 17-yard-line.
Signed. Sealed. 17-year playoff victory drought, over. 21-point deficit, overcome.
The No. 11 Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions stunned the crowd in a thrilling come-from-behind victory to defeat No. 6 Mountain View 40-35 Nov. 19 in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.
Junior quarterback Brendan Anderson led the Mountain Lions to their first playoff victory in 17 years with five touchdown passes. He now leads the 6A with 37.
“I feel great. We got Thanksgiving break this week,” Anderson said. “I guess we gotta cancel our plans, so it's gonna be fun.”
Mountain Ridge last won a playoff game Nov. 26, 2004, beating Phoenix Brophy Prep in a 5A state semifinal, back when 5A was the state's big school conference.
That team reached the title game as a No. 16 seed. This year's No. 11 Mountain Lions will head to Gilbert to face No. 3 Williams Field High School at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26 for the 6A quarterfinals.
Anderson went 32-for-48 against Mountain View, throwing for 441 yards, with 18 rushing yards and an interception.
“I just want to win it all now,” said Anderson. “We’re over the hump now, and we know we can do it. So, we just got to put it together.”
Junior wide receiver Terrance Hall had a season-high milestone with three receiving touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown. Hall now has 17 touchdown receptions on the season.
“They didn’t stop believing,” Mountain Ridge caoch Doug Madoski said. “We just had that vibe where we knew we could score offensively. We just knew if we could get some stops defensively we’d be back in this thing.”
Mountain View pulled away early in the game, taking a 35-14 lead with 41 seconds remaining in the first half.
Mountain Ridge managed to squeeze in a touchdown for their final drive of the half, with Anderson finding Hall in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass, to shorten the halftime deficit to 35-21.
When the Mountain Lions came back out in the second half, they knew they had to tighten up their defensive scheme and stop the bleeding.
“Defensively, we went to some stuff that we had originally put in a long time ago. We haven't run it all year long,” Madoski said. “We drew it back up at halftime just to refresh the memory and they came out and played it well.”
Mountain View head coach Joe Germaine said he was frustrated with the execution of his team after the break.
“We just didn't make enough plays in the second half. We couldn't get anything going,” Germaine said. “(We) couldn't sustain drives, put our defense in tough spots. Really unfortunate performances in the second half.”
On the contrary, Mountain Ridge managed to move the ball upfield consistently in the second half to make their comeback. Anderson came out of the break by finding junior tight end Conrad Curley for a 13-yard touchdown pass, throwing for a total of 85 yards on the drive.
With Mountain View still up 35-28, Anderson found Hall in the endzone for a 9-yard touchdown pass, making it 35-34 after a failed extra point attempt.
Hall would not stop victimizing the Toros after his catch. He was brought down on the 47-yard line returning a punt, bulldozing his way through defenders.
That started the decisive drive. Anderson completed a 32-yard pass to senior wide receiver Dane Berseth making it first-and-goal for the Mountain Lions with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Hall ran into the end zone from the 8-yard line for the final score of the game. Mountain Ridge topped Mountain View 40-35 after missing the extra point attempt.
“We knew we had it, we just had a bunch of missed opportunities,” Anderson said. “We were just saying if we could execute in the second half, we were going to run away with it, and we did that.”
Utilizing most of the roster, Madoski turned to senior wide receiver Rahim Bagley who made the switch in practice from his primary position to cornerback.
“I don’t know if he’s played a down of defensive football all year long,” Madoski noted. “He moved over this week -- we’ve been so depleted in the back-half of the defense and the secondary. He’s a super good athlete and he got it done when we needed it to get done for us.”
The Mountain Lion defense held the Toros to just 92 offensive yards in the second half, forcing five incompletions, and sacking Germaine twice.
“Guys that hadn’t played much all year long, hadn't had many catches all year long, just stepped up and got it done when we needed them to,” Madoski said.
The Toros finished their season with a record of 8-3, and are looking towards next season.
“It's an emotional time right now. It's tough to reflect,” Germaine said. “I'm sure we’ll have some time to do that. I love Mountain View and I love our team. Hopefully we can rebound from this.”
Players and coaches stormed the field to celebrate the last drive of the game as Mountain Ridge ran the clock out.
After an ice-water bath was given to head coach Madoski, families of the players celebrated on the field the advancement into the next round and there were no shortage of smiles to be found.
Ashley Stevens is studying for a Master's degree and majoring in sports journalism at the Walter Cronkite School for Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. Read more of her work here
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