LAS VEGAS – They could shout it from the rooftops and let it echo through the surrounding mountains.
“We own 702!’’
That’s the area code for Nevada, and the Phoenix Mountain Pointe Pride could stake their claim to glory on Friday night (Aug. 23) with a 28-21 victory over host Bishop Gorman High in the Sollenberger Classic.
The second game of the two-part series will return to Bishop Gorman on Saturday night (Aug. 24) when Tucson Salpointe Catholic takes on Henderson (Nev.) Liberty High. Kickoff is 7:30.
Mountain Pointe was the Division I runner-up to Chandler Hamilton in 2012, but with a start like this, the Pride also seem capable of owning all the area codes back in their home state this fall – 480, 602, 623, 520 and 928.
Bishop Gorman, who will be attempting to win its fifth Nevada big-school title in a row, knew early on that it would not be able to simply step on its artificial turf field and win in front of a nearly full stadium and a national cable TV audience.
Mountain Pointe forced the Gaels to a three-and-out and the Pride scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 48-yard run by junior Paul Lucas.
The Pride would go on to dominate their bigger, highly touted counterparts up front, producing a pair of 100-yard rushers – Lucas at 143 and senior Wesley Payne at 173. Lucas scored a pair of touchdowns and Payne looked particularly strong in the second half – he scored a TD and helped his team control the ball and take the final 4:50 off the clock. Mountain Pointe rushed for 328 yards.
“Size doesn’t matter,’’ said senior tackle Natrell Curtis, who is just a tiny lad at 6-feet-3 and 320 pounds.
He was asked if Bishop Gorman took Mountain Pointe lightly.
“Yeah, probably,’’ he said. “They did some talking, but we talked with our pads.
“We expected to win. We made a lot of mistakes, and we will have to correct those.’’
But to rush for more than 300 yards?
“Hey, that’s what we do,’’ Curtis said.
Payne was impressive on both sides of the ball, including an array of hits from his linebacker spot. One stop was particularly significant – when he nailed Bishop Gorman quarterback Randall Cunningham (son of the former NFL star QB) for a 14-yard loss on third-and-10 late in the third quarter when the Gaels were trying to pull even at 21.
Payne didn’t touch the ball a whole lot offensively last season, but said he expects to get more touches this time.
“It’s great to be able to come out and win this first game,’’ Payne said. “We knew they were going to put up a fight, but we came to play, too. Our offensive line did a great job. Their play was critical for us.’’