Mountain Pointe football coach Norris Vaughan is expecting the Pride to be in the thick of the Division I title chase this season, but is tempering that expectation out of the gate.
Vaughan believes the talent is at hand for Mountain Pointe to work its way deep into postseason as it did last year in finishing runner-up to Hamilton. A top-flight level of play may not show itself as quickly as some would think or like. There is reason to be confident in the Pride, who sport a 40-11 record in Vaughan's first four seasons at the helm.
"Three of our top four kids are coming off injuries," Vaughan said of seniors Jalen Brown, Natrell Curtis and Dominique Fenstermacher. "They missed the first week of practice and are getting back into it now. They'll play, but what percentage (effectiveness) they'll be at is a question."
Complicating the start of the 2013 season is Mountain Pointe's opposition -- Las Vegas Bishop Gorman -- the defending big-school champ from Nevada in the annual Sollenberger Classic on the Gaels' home turf.
"We're playing a great team first thing," Vaughan said. "On their field where they've lost once in the last 40 games or something like that. They've been nationally ranked the last couple years, and have a number of Division I-caliber players. We're looking forward to playing a great team on national television."
With Bishop Gorman as its foe and under the mircroscope of a huge audience, it's no wonder Vaughan would like to have his top players at their best -- in this case Brown, a wide receiver and safety in his fourth year of varsity competition. Brown was bothered most of the summer by an ankle sprain -- the dreaded high-ankle sprain. Fenstermacher, a transfer from Marcos de Niza. fills a hole in the secondary from last year and is shrugging off a summer hip injury. Curtis, a two-way lineman when fully healthy, had ankle issues in teh summer. He is the anchor of both lines.
Curtis' slow start in workouts is likely to limit him to playing offense only in the opener and perhaps beyond. The Pride have a couple more offensive linemen returning with experience, a seasoned quarterback in Antonio Hinojosa, a good chunk of defensive line starters back in Mitchell Fraboni and Charlie Trevino as well as linebackers Wesley Payne and Trey Lauer. Payne, one of the best at his position in the state, may see a lot of time at running back as well, joining Brown and Curtis as a couple players who optimally miss very few plays.
"To be at our best we would have four or five players going both ways," Vaughan said. "Overall I'm really pleased, but my concern is playing at a high level at midseason to the end."