Mountain Ridge is a West Valley school.
Some of their football players feel they don’t get enough respect from teams out in the East Valley, so they’re on a mission this year to open the eyes of their doubters.
“They don’t expect us to be a good team, they underestimate us and we’re gonna be here to make sure people know who our name is and who we are,” offensive tackle Troy Kowalski said.
Kowalski responded that way because he – along with others on the team – feels those who look down on the Mountain Lions do so just because they’re a West Valley school.
“We’re not considered a powerhouse, we don’t have top name prospects in the state who get Division I looks, so we don’t get taken serious by East Valley schools who are considered powerhouses,” Kowalski said.
Kowalski takes that as a slap in the face, only adding fuel to his fire for this coming season.
“It definitely gives us motivation,” Kowalski said. “When we play those East Valley schools, we love showing them how [a] West Valley team plays [and] giving it to them.”
Mountain Ridge is looking to build off a 5-5 2012 season, which saw them start off slow and finish the season fairly strong. Head coach Bobby Green believes his team is much better than a .500 team.
“Most definitely,” Green said. “Our goal this year is, first, to win our section and make the playoffs. We’ve missed the playoffs the last two years and that’s our goal. Once we get there, we’ll see what happens.”
The Mountain Lions return 10 total starters this year (5 on offense, 5 on defense). With such a high number of returners, there’s experience and leadership running up and down Mountain Ridge’s roster, and it shows in the team’s every day approach to football.
“[They] worked tremendously hard on both sides of the ball,” Green said. “They’re what I call a bunch of grinders. They do whatever it takes to get it done, and it’s just hard work. It’s fun to coach these guys, they have the enthusiasm in everything they do and they give 110-percent in everything I ask them.”
Kowalski is one of those 10 seniors. Between the offseason and now, he’s been working on his footwork and his stance because he realizes how important both of those things are to the success of an offensive lineman.
“If you don’t have your technique and your footwork, you’re gonna get beat off the ball, you’re gonna look bad, you’re gonna get destroyed,” Kowalski said.
Having his game totally intact is going to be crucial to what the Mountain Lions do this year, because they’re looking to run the ball a lot, with guys like Zach Miiller taking handoffs.
“That’s our offense, we run the ball,” Kowalski said. “I just like run blocking, it’s the best, just get to trample someone, run them over.”
Miiller can appreciate a guy like Kowalski who has a violent nature to him on the football field, because it makes his job as a back that much easier.
“That’s gonna be a huge deal for me,” Miiller said. “Honestly, I can’t even look over them. I probably won’t have to juke anyone out because there’s gonna be a big hole.”
Miiller’s the flashy, shifty kind of runner that gives defenses fits if they can’t bring him down at the line of scrimmage. He says it’s been working for him up to this point and he’s not going to change it up.
The Mountain Lions’ season pretty much hinges on what they do early on. Their first three opponents are monsters: Chavez, Liberty and Chaparral. They’ll find out what they’re made of and if they deserve to be mentioned alongside those powerhouses Kowalski talked about.