Mountain Pointe's football team had prolonged stretches of running-game dominance and defensive moxie often and when it really counted Friday night to pull off a 28-21 victory over Las Vegas Bishop Gorman at the 8th annual Sollenberger Classic.
The victory was sweet for Mountain Pointe since it was a widely perceived underdog coming in, considering Bishop Gorman's standing in several national polls in preseason. The loss snapped Bishop Gorman's winning streak at 11 dating back to last year and was a rare home field defeat.
Mountain Pointe overcame its share of adversity with four turnovers (two in the red zone and two in Pride territory) to zero by Bishop Gorman. Grabbing a quick 7-0 lead with defense and a big offensive play set the tone that stayed much of the night despite the miscues.
Paul Lucas, known more for his sprinter speed on the track, raced 48 yards for a touchdown on Mountain Pointe's first play from scrimmage for a 7-0 lead just more than two minutes in. That followed a three-and-out provided by the Pride defense on Bishop Gorman's opening possession. Lucas finished with 143 yards on eight carries with two TDs.
"That's as good as we've ever played considering the incrediblle force we went up against," Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said of knocking off the host Gaels. "We had a couple new linemen, ran the ball great. Got a couple good runs from Paul Lucas and Brandon Leonard, who stepped up for us. But the guy that was really incredible in the second half was Wesley Payne."
Payne ran over, through and past defenders often in the second half on his way to 173 yards and 21 carries unofficially. His 5-yard TD run with 5:13 left in the game put Mountain Pointe up 28-14. Despite Bishop Gorman returning the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-21, Payne's running and the line's blocking ensured victory as the Pride polished off the final 4:40 finishing on the door step of one more TD as time expired. Payne rushed for 137 yards of his yards in the second half and 88 in the final quarter. Mountain Pointe controlled the ball 10 of 12 minutes in the fourth quarter.
Mountain Pointe never trailed and was tied late in the second quarter when Bishop Gorman tallied on one of the few big plays the Gaels landed on the night. A 48 yard TD pass from quarterback Randall Cunningham to Obim Okeke with 4:14 left in the second period knotted things at 7. Cunningham led Bishop Gorman offensively with 101 yards rushing on 17 attempts and one TD. The senior completed five of 13 passes for 82 yards.
Mountain Pointe, which had an interception and fumble in the red zone in the first and second quarter, respectively, marched 75 yards to take the lead at hafltme, 14-7, with just eight seconds left. A 19-yard TD pass from Antonio Hinojosa to Timmy Hernandez was the scoring play.
Hernandez, who caught a handful of passes last season as a junior, caught four passes in the first half for 87 yards. A nice weapon to go along with Jalen Brown, who caught much of the Gaels' attention in the secondary.
"Having played Hamilton in the championship game last year, we weren't shocked by the atmosphere and lights," Hernandez said. "When you play with Jalen he's going to open it up for others. I'm thanful to God I could help out."
Mountain Pointe received the second half kickoff with the momentum of the late first-half score possibly allowing them a fast get-away to begin the third period. Mountain Pointe muffed the kickoff, however, and Bishop Gorman recovered at the Pride 20. Facing a fourth-and-one at inches from a first down, Mountain Pointe linebacker Austin Cronen crashed through the line and upended a power run for a yard loss to bail his team out of the turnover.
Later in the period Mountain Pointe's fourth turnover set up Bishop Gorman at the Pride 36. This time a third-down sack by Payne of Cunningham turned Bishop Gorman's scoring chance away and forced a punt.
"I think our defense was just as much a story as the running game," Vaughan said.
Mountain Pointe finished with 328 yards rushing on 40 carries and added 128 yards passing. The Pride threw only one pass in the second half for 11 yards as its domination at the line of scrimmage grew as the second half wound down. Bishop Gorman totaled 158 rushing and 82 passing.
"Hats off to Mountain Pointe, they took it to us," Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. "We got some turnovers and couldn't take advantage of the ones we forced. They did a great job controlling the ball at the end."