The Mountain Pointe Pride are known for their punishing defense, and they were among the best in 2016 with Isaiah Pola-Mao leading the way. Pola-Mao is now at USC, but the other Pride safety from that defense, Kenny Churchwell, is hoping to pick up where the MP defense left off.
“(Pola-Mao) helped me as a player and a coach,” Churchwell said. “He helped me change my attitude because I was hot-headed. I can’t lie – I was hot-headed. I turned into a calm, patient, ready to hit somebody…take all my energy off that. He taught me a lot, and I’m ready to show it to the next person at Mountain Pointe.”
Churchwell said his chemistry with Pola-Mao made it so they always knew where the other one was on the field without having to say a word. It was a special bond, and he sees something similar being formed with senior defensive back/slot receiver Delano Salgado.
Churchwell is also channelling former Mountain Pointe running back/linebacker Rashie Hodge Jr. as a leader and sees a strong senior group ready to lead the Pride.
“I’m trying to be the best, one of the best, to ever come out of Mountain Pointe,” Churchwell said. “It’s not just me as a leader, we have Delano Salgado, we’ve got (quarterback) Nick Wallerstedt,..We have a lot of people and a lot of weapons. We are ready for the season.”
Recruiting-wise, the Mountain Pointe safety holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Utah, Washington State, Wyoming, Boise State, Colorado State and Hawaii.
The Pride are hungrier than ever after making an appearance in the 6A state championship game last year but falling to the Chandler Wolves. The group is laser-focused and return plenty of aforementioned talent as well as running back Gary Bragg, who’s season ended after an ACL injury five games into the season.
“We changed mentally and physically. We’re tired of getting second place, we’re tired of getting close to the championship and not winning it,” Churchwell said. “We’re angry. We’re ready to play. We’re all tired, and we’re going to step up as leaders – me, Nick, Delano, (defensive back Marshawn Gibson). We’re going to step up as a team, and we’re going to win. I promise.”
Mountain Pointe begins their 2017 season on Friday at Sandra Day O’Connor.
Pride Without Another Star?
azcentral’s Richard Obert reported that the Pride will be without Isaiah’s younger brother, junior defensive tackle Matthew Pola-Mao after an “undisclosed injury.” Pola-Mao had 52 tackles and six tackles for loss last year as a sophomore and led a dominant defensive line with Shomari Hayes.