Red Mountain flew under the radar for most of the 2016 season. They came into the state tournament as a 13-seed, but the Mountain Lions ran and ran and ran their way to having top-seeded Mountain Pointe on the ropes in the 6A state semifinals.
Lance Lawson proved to be one of the most dynamic playmakers as a running back, wide receiver and wildcat quarterback.
When it was all said and done, Lawson accumulated nearly 1,800 all-purpose yards (he threw for an additional 600), which eventually led to an offer from the University of Arizona last week.
“I’m mostly just trying to lead, be a vocal leader on the field,” Lawson said. “Always just pushing everybody with the (junior varsity) kids coming up, learning the offense and defense, getting reps mostly.”
But it wasn’t just Lawson making plays. Quarterback Austin Duffy, who is now focusing on baseball full-time, made some big throws throughout their run. The defense stepped up with the likes of Justin Coleman, Delton Jackson and athlete Shaq Daniels.
“I’m just trying to be a leader and help the younger guys learn the system,” Jackson, the team’s leading tackler, said. “We believe in our system, 100-percent fully.”
This year, long-time defensive coordinator Mike Peterson is taking over head coaching duties. The Mountain Lions are adding new wrinkles into their offense, mirroring the Brophy Broncos’ style of having a big offensive line and running between the tackles.
Think Stanford Cardinal offense and you’re on the right track.
“(The transition) is going good,” Coleman said. “We are getting the young bucks with us too, so we’ll be a team, so we’ll all know the same stuff on offense and defense.”
There is the playoff experience, the new leadership and the pure athleticism mixed for the Mountain Lions to try to make some noise this year.
“We’ve got great leadership and great kids,” Peterson said. “They have taken the reigns, and I’ve been here. I coordinated the defense here for the last seven years so that helped as well. The kids knew me and I know them. We’ve got great leaders here as young men.”
Red Mountain has quite the opportunity to make a statement starting off the 2017 season by squaring off against the state champion Chandler Wolves.