Nov. 24, 2004 - It's a blink of the eye or a snap of the fingers. One second isn't enough time to do most things but for the seniors of Mountain View High School's football team, it was long enough to cost them a trip to the 5A state tournament in their final season. And it didn't even happen in a game they were playing.
Despite a 7-3 record and finishing tied for first in the 5A Southern Region, Mountain View found itself one win short of heading to the state's ultimate stage. The Mountain Lions could have advanced to the state playoffs with one more win by any of its opponents (or by itself), due to the state's power point system.
The closest they may have come to that elusive extra win came courtesy of Sahuaro High School; a team Mountain View beat handily 40-7. In its second to last game of the season Sahuaro was downed in dramatic fashion by Mesa Dobson, 34-32, on a 15-yard touchdown run with one second remaining on the clock.
"It kind of puts it in perspective of how close we were," said Mountain View head coach Wayne Jones of the Sahuaro game
The drama suffered by Mountain View is just one of the story lines of the year that was 2004 fall sports.
This season saw more than 30 local teams clash on the courts, fields, courses and pools of the Northwest. Some vied for the ultimate prize, a state or regional title, while others simply competed for the love of their sport.
Where Mountain View football failed, Canyon del Oro and Ironwood Ridge succeeded. Thanks in part to each winning their final game, the two schools were able to advance to their respective state tournaments. Both, however, failed to survive the first round.
For CDO (8-3), playing in its final game in the Class 5A, the ending was bittersweet. After starting the year in dominating fashion at 6-0, the Dorados faltered down the stretch losing three of its last five games, including its state playoff game to archrival Salpointe, 39-20.
"We played our hearts out," said CDO head coach Pat Nugent after the loss to the Lancers in the first round. "We have nothing to be ashamed about."
Ironwood Ridge's 8-3 record wasn't enough to get the Nighthawks past Cienega in the first round of the state playoffs. Cienega gave the Nighthawks their first and last loss of the season, outscoring them by a combined 59-14 in both games. Led by an experienced corps of seniors, the Nighthawks iron man attitude guided the 4A school to its second consecutive 8-3 record in just the program's fourth season.
"The toughness exhibited by some of our players really showed this season," said IRHS head coach Gary Minor.
A first round exit in the state playoffs was also the route Pusch Ridge Christian Academy took to end its season in the Class 2A. Pusch Ridge qualified for the state tourney despite its 3-5 record. Arizona Lutheran tamed the Lions 54-7 in first round action.
On the adjacent side of Interstate 10, Marana's efforts to rebuild its program under first year head coach Willie Dudley suffered from lack of size and talent. For the second straight season the Tigers finished 1-9. A beam of light on an otherwise dark season came from senior quarterback Michael Bailey who threw for more than 1,000 yards.
Once again girls volleyball produced a strong crop of talent in the Northwest, enjoying a wide range of achievement. All six area teams reached the state playoffs from Class 1A to 5A.
Ironwood Ridge may not have equaled the success it desired on the gridiron but certainly got its revenge on the volleyball court.
As expected, IRHS and Canyon del Oro were among the teams to beat in the Class 4A and 5A respectively. After getting off to shaky start, Ironwood Ridge won 24 of its last 31 matches, including 10 of its last 11 before falling in the state title game to Scottsdale Chaparral.
The girls of Ironwood Ridge were the only team sport in the Northwest to ascend all the way to the state championship game.
In its final year in the 5A Southern Region, CDO was looking to make a run to the state finals before moving down to the 4A next season. Despite its solid core of six seniors, the Dorados were shown the door early in the 5A State tourney, losing to eventual state champion, Mountain Ridge, in the second round.
The highlight of Marana's season came early on when the girls swept Mountain View to claim its fourth consecutive Blue Bracket Championship at the Tucson Unified School District's Volleyball Classic held at Palo Verde High School in September. The Tigers didn't last long in the state tourney, however, losing to Greenway in the first round.
"We won a lot more games than we lost and that's a good thing," said Marana head coach Cindy Meekin.
Despite losing to Marana in the final of the TUSD tourney, Mountain View rebounded from a two-win season in 2003 to claim 13 victories this fall. The Mountain Lions advanced to the 5A State tournament, where their post-season life was short lived. The Mountain Lions lost in the first round to Desert Mountain.
In first round action of the 2A region playoffs, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy was eliminated by Scottsdale Christian. Led by first year coach Cameron North, the Lions entered the tourney as a No. 2 seed from the Desert Region.
Green Fields Country Day School, playing in Class 1A, fared a little better. The Griffins advanced to the second round before being ousted by state runner-up Mogollon.
From the court to the pool, swimming is always a strong sport in the Northwest and this season was no exception.
With the water still fresh in the fairly new Wade McLean Pool, Marana swimmers enjoyed a stellar season. Behind team co-MVPs Keith Walker and Jason Bowman, Marana's boys squad finished the season 10-0 en route to a second place finish in the region. For the girls, Madison Hill took team MVP honors as a freshman, guiding the Tigers to a 9-1 mark and a third place region finish.
CDO boys continued to dominate in their end of the pool. Led by the quartet of Logan McNutt, Darren McDivitt, Makko DeFilipo and Matt Lutheran, the Dorados stormed into the state championships having beaten out Salpointe for the region title for the second consecutive fall.
Although placing no individual state champions, CDO did manage to finish fourth in the state, breaking five of the school's 11 swimming records in the process.
As for CDO's girls squad, 2004 was somewhat of a rebuilding year that saw the Dorados take second in the region meet.
"It was kind of a whirlwind season," said CDO head coach Chad Riester, "We met all our expectations."
Riester credited much of his teams' post-season success to the week of training in Durango, Colo. during the school's fall break.
In the pool for Ironwood Ridge, head coach Mark Chatigny's squad is beginning to send waves through the 4A. At 10-1 on the year, the Nighthawks girls team finished strong in second place in the region and 12th at the state meet. Lindsay Miller paced Ironwood Ridge competing in the 100 and 50-yard freestyle races at the state competition.
The boys squad found itself improving as well, moving up one spot from last year to No. 18 in the state. Along the way, the Nighthawks finished with an 8-3 record and set four school records. It's 400-freestyle relay team placed eighth at the state meet.
The competition in the Northwest promises to get stronger next year, now that Marana and Ironwood Ridge will be joined by CDO in the 4A Sonoran Region.
In a rebuilding year, Mountain View failed to qualify for the state championship as a team.
Individually, Kayla Ward highlighted the girls season. Ward took 23rd at the state meet with a time of 2:08 in the 200-yard freestyle. The sophomore was also the fourth member of the Mountain Lion 400-yard freestyle relay squad who, along with Carina Hartwig, Jasha Wolfram and Carrie Moore, placed 20th at the state championships.
No one enjoyed more success on the cross country courses of the Northwest this season than Michael Anderson of Ironwood Ridge. The team MVP, Anderson didn't lose a race all season until the state meet where he finished 11th overall. As a team, Ironwood Ridge finished third in the region.
Ironwood Ridge girls ran to first place in the 4A Sonoran region. The Nighthawks ended up at the state meet 10th overall, edging out Scottsdale Saguaro, without its No. 1 runner Megan Schulte who was force to sit with an illness.
For Marana, Brian Farnsworth led a young squad, placing third in the region and 29th in the state. But the story for the Tigers was Melinda Marks who took home fifth in the 4A Sonoran Region and 12th place in the state as a freshman.
In the 5A Southern Region, Mountain View finished three spots ahead of CDO in third place in the region. Sophomore James Schow's time of 16:45 was good enough for 24th at the state meet. As a team, Mountain View finished 14th at the state meet held in Anthem. Oct. 6. On the girls side, Marina Peterson and Wendy Pfau were 23rd and 33rd respectively en route to a fourth place showing for their team in the state championship.
Facing a shortage of runners, CDO was highlighted by Armando Dominguez for the boys and Jessi Ingraham for the girls. After taking 13th in the region, the sophomore Dominguez gained valuable experience at the state level, although he finished 145th overall. In her final year Ingraham, the multi-talented senior, took 12th at regionals and 28th at state.
Competing against historically strong schools from Phoenix on the golf course is never an easy task in either the 4A or 5A. Although Salpointe Catholic became the first Tucson-based school to win the 5A Conference in quite some time, programs from the Northwest were able to stay competitive this season as well.
Before advancing to the state championships, where he finished seventh out of 127 golfers, Jakob McKinley of Ironwood Ridge first had to overcome a deficit at the 4A Sonoran regional meet. Down five strokes after day one, McKinley stormed back shooting a 66 on the final day to claim the region's top spot. Behind McKinley and a strong veteran class, Ironwood Ridge finished second in the region and 13th in the state.
Kyle Kelch finished three strokes behind his Ironwood Ridge teammate and playing partner at the state championship. Kelch took 15th overall while teammates Jeff Hultman took 76, Cody Phillips, 102, and Colin Porter, 111.
Aside from Josh Honea of Marana, no other golfers represented the 4A boys at the state tourney. Honea shot a two-day total of 155 to finish 44th.
The Ironwood Ridge girls team was equally as strong as the boys, if not stronger. The Lady Nighthawks took ninth at the 4A state championships with five golfers finishing in the top 71 in the state. Samantha Bishop paved the road for Ironwood Ridge with a 29th place finish. Following Bishop's lead was Anna Bencriscutto (38th), Lindsey Oswald (48th), Regina Scherzinger (69th) and Whitney Beck (71st).
The only other 4A player from the Northwest to qualify on the state level was Felicia Padilla of Marana. Padilla shot a 255 at the state meet, good enough for 64th overall.
Despite a strong showing in regular season play, one bad outing at the regional championships is all it took to sink the boys team at Mountain View. Steffen Hartwig paced the Mountain Lions all season earning the team's Player of the Year honors. The senior, Hartwig and teammate Chris Robinson barely missed the state championship cut with a poor opening round at the regionals.
"He is a leader on and off the course," said Mountain View head coach Josh Keck of Hartwig, his "can't miss" college prospect. "His play really reflects the kind of person he is."
Mountain View finished ninth in the region ahead of CDO, who took 10th out of 13 teams. CDO didn't perform up to its potential this season, said head coach Leif Erikson. Jonathan Lamana finished fifth in the region, falling just short of qualifying as the only Dorado into the state championship.
Although the boys failed to send a golfer to the end of the year tourney, Mountain View did have two girls compete at the state level. Geneva Mackey was six shots better than teammate Nicole Gentry, finishing 37th and 43rd respectively.
Although reserved to 1A through 3A schools, the Northwest placed two squads-Pusch Ridge and Green Fields Country Day School-into the soccer state playoffs this fall.
After a 14-4-2 regular season, Green Fields advanced to the 1A-2A-3A state championship tournament as a No. 2 seed out of the Southern Region. There the Griffins ran into a tough Snowflake squad which needed double overtime to advance past Green Fields, 2-1.
Pusch Ridge, the Southern Region's No. 4 seed, was drubbed in its state tournament opening game. The East Region's No. 1 seeded Show Low struck down the Lions by a score of 5-0.