The start of the football season is always eagerly anticipated. Months of hard work finally pay off and the unofficial start of fall begins. Spring football, summer passing league and sweltering days in the weight room become a thing of the past once the lights come on.
Since the series renewed a few years back, the rivalry between Mountain View and Marana has been important. This year it takes on even greater meaning as two new eras of the schools’ football programs begin.
Not only are Andy Litten and Bam McRae making their Marana and Mountain View coaching debuts, but they are making their head coaching debuts
For Litten it is not only a chance to turn around a Marana program that has won just once in two seasons, but a chance to beat his alma mater. Litten not only graduated from Mountain View, but teaches there as well. He applied for the coaching job a few years back and now gets to take on his old school and prove something.
“It makes it that more dramatic,” Litten said of his Mountain View ties. “It just adds to a great rivalry.”
McCrae gets to finally take the field after a year that was filled with some real highs and lows. Now he gets to actually coach the Mountain Lions and try to heal some of their wounds that were caused by four coaches in four years. The Lions are craving stability and McRae has a chance to bring that to the program.
It’s also a second chance homecoming of sorts for McRae who was slated to attend Mountain View but eventually settled at Pueblo.
One thing McRae has done from the start is set a high bar for discipline and expectations. When Larry Branson came in last year he had a team that was reeling from the sudden departure of Justin Argraves. He used his first summer to install some of the offesason conditioning programs but also used it as a time to try to bond with the team and keep a potentially fractured roster together.
McRae decided the best course of action was to do what he knows best, hard work. McRae is a trainer and worked for the University of Arizona, so he decided to put a premium on hard work and challenged the players.
So far the results have been good.
Litten has also had to change the culture at Marana. Although a solid foundation of strength and conditioning was in place with Coach Marty Honea, the challenge was in creating dedication to the program. The expectations for the players had been there for years, but too many in the past did not give enough effort.
Litten believes that has changed and has been thrilled by the commitment of the players, and nearly as important, the parents.
Both teams have had to adjust to new coaches, new schemes and new philosophies. While both teams have lost a lot to graduation, they return some key players at key spots.
Both teams return quarterbacks who started some games a year ago. At Marana Ben Honea shared time with senior Addin Soto, but by year’s end he was getting most of the reps and was the team’s top rusher.
Honea split his summer between football and track, but has been a great leader for the Tigers and is excited about the start of the season.
“I am totally pumped for the game,” Honea said. “Mountain View is a good football program and I can’t wait to play them,”
The Tigers will also return a strong senior class, including Davon Roebuck, Domenic Holliday and Thomas Holyoak, plus a number of younger players, including eight juniors who spent last season with the varsity.
As a sophomore Cody Rochon took over the starting quarterback job and showed flashes of being a big time player. He is expected to start the season under center and has some real weapons on offense including Austin Trebilcock, Weston Kimmel, Richie Estrada and a number of young, talented receivers.
Like the Marana players, Kimmel can’t wait to strap it up.
“Our team is coming together great and we are ready to get after it,” said Kimmel.
Both teams have questions on the lines, but the Lions are encouraged after their linemen won the big man challenge at the Pima College Passing League.
Both teams have the rivalry game circled on their calendars. Mountain View has a countdown clock on the team web page, while Marana players have used the game as motivation all summer long, with constant reminders of the game being posted on the team’s Facebook page.
In a little over a month the lights will be on at Mountain View. On one side the Black Hole will be filled to capacity and on the other the T-Unit will overflow the visiting bleachers.
In a little over a month two new eras of football will begin.
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