Loss like a win: Mica Mountain grows from game with 6A power Mesa Mountain View

Mica Mountain coach Pat Nugent talks with his freshman quarterback Jayden Thoreson in the fourth quarter against Mesa Mountain View (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Three days of preparation is all that separated when coach Joe Germaine of Mesa Mountain View contacted Pat Nugent at Mica Mountain to see whether the Thunderbolts could play to when the game actually happened Thursday night at the Vail school.

Other potential opponents balked at the opportunity to play Mountain View, going against the theme of last year’s cry of “let them play” when COVID-19 wrecked schedules.

In the realm of cancellations from the pandemic protocol this season, it’s a normal occurrence for games to be scheduled on the fly.

Absolutely nobody outside of Mica Mountain’s program would have said a peep if Nugent declined Germaine’s request.

Mountain View is a 6A school that is now 5-1 after the closer-than-expected 37-7 win over 4A Mica Mountain, a second-year school in Vail that is in its first season of a limited varsity schedule while playing mostly junior varsity opponents.

“We felt we needed a game like this,” Mica Mountain assistant principal of interscholastics Jay Campos said moments before kickoff. “Even if we happen to lose, it allows the coaches to tell the players, ‘This is where we want to be. This is a good 6A program. This is what we’re working toward.'”

In hindsight, if Nugent turned down Germaine’s request, it would have created more of a negative overtone for the program than the 30-point loss to the Toros.

Instead of some of the players feeling a lack of trust from Nugent and his staff, they believe the longtime, legendary coach has the confidence to place them on the field no matter what.

They view the move by Nugent to go forward with the game as being rewarded for practicing diligently for three hours daily with only three varsity games originally scheduled this season.

What player would not want to put on the helmet and pads for Nugent?

“It’s fun,” Mica Mountain sophomore linebacker Kason Colbert said. “We’re doing good as a team. We have to keep working and watch film on this game and see what we need to improve on.”

Mica Mountain is now 2-1 in its varsity schedule with wins over Coolidge (13-7 on Sept. 24) and at Douglas (42-6 last week). The Thunderbolts are 3-0 in their junior varsity slate including an impressive 59-14 win over Salpointe on Sept. 9.

That victory was sandwiched between a 40-0 win over San Tan Foothills on Sept. 2 and a 35-0 triumph at Buena on Sept. 16.

The defense, coached by coordinator Brett Darling and led by the linebacker trio Colbert and juniors Jacob Flores and Octavio Vidrio Jr., held the five opponents to only four touchdowns (27 points) in those five games before facing Mountain View.

“The only reason we took this game is our defense we knew had been great all year,” Nugent said. “They’ve just been outstanding. We knew our defensive kids could play at this level. We knew on offense we were going to struggle — in the second half we had a freshman quarterback (Jayden Thoreson) and four sophomore offensive linemen.

“That’s a great (Mountain View) defense. We knew on film we were going to struggle. We knew we could stay in the game if our defense could hold it and then we try to get a few first downs.”

Mica Mountain had only three first downs in the game with eight consecutive three-and-outs between their first and last possession. They amassed 84 yards of total offense on 40 plays against a Toro defense that started the season with three shutouts and allowed only 34 points in the five games before Thursday.

The Thunderbolts’ defense answered the challenge, limiting Mountain View to 118 yards rushing, only 50 in the first half.

In the second half, their passing defense was burned on completions of 51 and 41 yards by sophomore Jack Germaine, the son of the coach who played at Ohio State and in the NFL. But those were only two of three passes completed by the younger Germaine after halftime.

Division I tight end prospect Jackson Bowers, who has 13 scholarship offers, including from Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Michigan State, was held without a catch after halftime. He finished with five receptions for 86 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Germaine with 2:09 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 7.

That’s correct — Mica Mountain held the lead to that point, scoring on their fourth play from scrimmage after Mountain View turned the ball over on a lateral-pass fumble at its 21-yard line on the first offensive play of the game.

After junior Joshua Beans connected on a 10-yard pass to sophomore Jonah Garcia, Kaspen Colbert, a junior running back who is Kason’s brother, busted tackles to a 6-yard scoring run less than 3 minutes into the game.

“We get into the end zone … what a great excitement, we get up 7-0 on a 6A team,” Nugent said. “This is about building, maturing and growing. This isn’t about the 2021 season. It’s about next year and showing these kids they can play at a high level.”

Linebackers Kason Colbert (55) and Jacob Flores are two of the top Mica Mountain defenders (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Mica Mountain trailed by only 15-7 until Mountain View closed a 70-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Germaine to Matthew Clark with 15.7 seconds left before halftime.

The Thunderbolts’ defense forced a turnover on downs in Mountain View’s first possession of the second half that stalled at the Mica Mountain 8-yard line.

After another three-and-out for the Mica Mountain offense and a 30-yard punt return by Clark, Germaine connected on a 41-yard scoring strike to Clark with 54.9 seconds left in the third quarter to put the game out of reach with a 30-7 lead.

Mica Mountain now has the confidence of knowing that for most of three quarters it stayed within two possessions of the No. 15-ranked 6A team in the state in only its third varsity game of the school’s existence.

Vail is accustomed to quick ascensions in high school football.

In Empire’s third season in 2008, Jorge Mendivil coached the Ravens to a 7-4 record and a spot in the 3A state playoffs. The following season, Empire started 9-0 and finished 10-1 after reaching the second round of the playoffs.

Cienega, under Nemer Hassey, who is now the principal at Mica Mountain, went 6-4 in its first season as an independent in 2002. In the second year, the Bobcats finished 8-3 and advanced to the 4A state playoffs. The following three years Cienega was 9-3 in 2004, 10-2 in 2005 and 9-3 in 2006.

The same rapid rise is expected of Nugent and Mica Mountain. Evidenced by the acceptance of playing Mountain View although Mica Mountain is in its infancy, nobody with the Thunderbolts is shying away from the expectations.

Brett Darling, Mica Mountain’s defensive coordinator who moved from Cienega with Pat Nugent, addressed the Thunderbolts after Thursday’s game with Mesa Mountain View (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“We’re willing to play teams; it’s about developing our kids,” Nugent said. “Obviously, we’re not making the state playoffs this year no matter what. We’re trying to get better.

“I think our program and our coaches proved to everybody that this is going to be a team to be reckoned with down the road. The goal right now is a lot faster than we thought. Next year, the expectations are going to be a little bit more because we’re proving this year we’re playing at a high level.”

Mica Mountain’s next (and perhaps last) scheduled varsity game is Nov. 5 at home against Amphi, which is coached by Mendivil. A junior varsity game is slated Oct. 28 against Walden Grove at home.

If any varsity team is looking for an opponent next week, give Nugent a call.

Mica Mountain is making great strides in only the second year of the school’s existence (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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