Mountain View head coach Matt Johnson wanted his players to keep things in perspective on Friday night following a 52-0 loss to Scottsdale Horizon program that won the 5A state title in 2021.
“It’s just getting guys to just stay calm, stay the course, believe in each other, and that when you play great teams, every little mistake hurts,” he said. “We just got to clean some stuff, but good effort tonight. And we’ll just keep learning.”
When Johnson scheduled Scottsdale Horizon (2-0), he knew it would be a challenge, but he realized the value of facing high-quality opponents.
“Last year, we were one game away from winning our region, and we got beat pretty badly by Mesa Red Mountain in the regular season,” he said. “There’s a lot of things you can get from playing a great team that you don’t get from playing a lesser team.”
He also knew Scottsdale Horizon head coach Andy Litten and his coaching staff would expose every mistake the Mountain Lions made in the game. Litten is 20-7 in his third year at Horizon, including a state title in 2021, after coaching Marana and quarterback Trenton Bourguet early in his career.
“Coach Litten is going to come out here for Verizon, and he’s going to find every weakness in your defense every time a kid takes a false step. Every time you have a bad call as a coach, he’s going to take advantage of it because he’s a great coach,” Johnson said. “So yeah, it’s one of those things. We have a lot of stuff to clean up. And we’ll be watching the film tomorrow morning.”
The game on Friday night was originally scheduled to be a homecoming of sorts for Litten — a Mountain View alum, where he played until he graduated in the 1999-2000 school year — but was instead played at CDO’s field because the new turf field at Mountain View isn’t completely installed.
Johnson and Litten share a unique coaching bond that keeps them in close contact.
“He’s (Litten) just one of those guys that I just respect the heck out of, and he’s a great coach, and watching him go up to Phoenix and win state was not a surprise,” Johnson said. “He’s just an excellent coach. And we’re friends, and I think there’s just a lot of mutual respect because he’s just a class act.”
Johnson — an offensive tackle at Amphi during the Vern Friedli era— has experienced stops at Rincon (22-21 from 2003-06), Catalina Foothills (6-5 in 2008) and Ironwood Ridge (85-35 from 2009-18). He coached Ironwood Ridge to a state championship in 2012 and was there for 10 years before becoming the coach at Mountain View in 2019.
Litten has bounced football schematics off him for years.
“Matt is a guy you can always go to and ask how you do stuff,” he said in an All Sports Tucson interview on Aug. 31. “He has always wanted to meet up and talk football. He’s one of those guys you can always ask for film and vice-versa and kind of get his opinion and thoughts.
“He has a good football mind. I’ve actually sat in a lot of his clinics and learned a lot of football from him. He does a really good job with his kids. He teaches toughness. They’re really sound. I think he’s always just got a hard edge that he came from Amphi with and brought it wherever he coached at.”
As Johnson looks forward to watching film with the team on Saturday morning and creating teaching moments from mistakes made on Friday night, he hopes the Mountain Lions and the Huskies got something out of the game.
He is also grateful for the opportunity to coach against Litten.
“He’s just an incredible coach, and hopefully, even though they got after us pretty good tonight, hopefully, we gave them some good looks, got their kids better, (and) our kids will get better,” he said. “It’s a blessing to have coaches that coach the game the right way, respect the game, respect the players, respect their opponents, and coach Linden’s definitely that.”
The Mountain Lions faced the Huskies on Friday night without senior starting quarterback Will Howell, who was injured last week in a 27-21 loss at Gilbert.
Mountain View (0-2) plays at Peoria Sunrise Mountain (0-2) next Friday at 7 p.m.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.