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10/6

Thunder, Pride resume regional play this Friday

Mountain Pointe’s Delano Salgado (3) breaks past Desert Vista’s Jacob Schamante (14) in the first half at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. on Sept 28, 2017. Patrick Breen/The Republic

Thunder, Pride resume regional play this Friday

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

A week after the Pride hung on to the Tukee Bowl for another year, both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high school football teams return to Friday night games as they resume regional play.

Mountain Pointe (5-1 on the season, 1-0 in regional play) will host Highland (5-1, 1-0), which is coming off its first loss of the season against No. 1-ranked Perry. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

The Hawks drew a bye this past week, meaning they have had almost two weeks to prepare for a Mountain Pointe team that sits at the No. 3 spot in the AZpreps365 power rankings, as of Monday.

Highland is led by first-year coach Brock Farrel, who has instilled a powerful running game and an even stronger defense in his team.

Before the matchup with Perry, where they fell 56-6, the Hawks hadn’t allowed more than 22 points in any game. After dealing with Brock Purdy and a high potent passing offense, the Hawks will now have the challenge of containing Mountain Pointe running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney.

The Pride pair has been almost unstoppable all season and head coach Norris Vaughan has proved his team’s ability to run the football, even after it appears to be stagnant for part of the game. Bragg has reached double-digit carries in every game this season and McKinney has done the same in every game but two.

The key to this game for the Pride will be the battle at the line of scrimmage. If the big offensive line of Mountain Pointe can provide the holes and running lanes that it has all season for McKinney and Bragg, look for the pair to have a big game at home Friday night.

But Mountain Pointe could run into a tough run defense from Highland, led by senior Tate Stevens, who has racked up a team-high 52 tackles this season. As a team, the Hawks have only allowed 200-plus rushing yards twice this season.

One of those games involved the loss to Perry, whose defense Purdy punished for 260 yards through the air and 120 on the ground.

If the Hawks bottle up the running back tandem of Bragg and McKinney, look for quarterback Nick Wallerstedt to have a big impact. He’s been effective with his feet this season, scrambling for 359 yards and four touchdowns.

The successful running game has opened opportunities for play action passes and quarterback draws for the junior, who at times has provided big plays in crucial moments.

Even if the Hawks can limit scoring opportunities for the Pride, they will have a tough time scoring against a defense that has allowed only 116 points all season.

The Pinnacle offense, led by Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler who threw for 302 yards against the Pride, scored 34 points, the highest total Mountain Pointe has allowed all season.

A strong defensive line, led by Shomari Hayes (5.5 sacks) and Kenneth Lofton (6.5 sacks), has wreaked havoc in backfields all season long and will have the challenge of stopping Highland running backs, Jacob Wood and Kohner Cullimore. The two have combined for 625 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Since Highland presents a strong running attack look for the Pride to stack the line of scrimmage Friday night and force Highland quarterback Kaleb Herbert to beat them through the air.

After throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Westview in a 45-16 rout, the 5-foot-11 junior has a total off 444 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on the season. Herbert will have a tough challenge, throwing into a secondary that has picked off at least one pass in every game this season and has deflected 45 more.

Desert Vista vs. Gilbert

The Thunder will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Desert Vista High School.

The Tigers (3-3) are coming off a loss to Desert Ridge in a game where the two teams combined for 115 points.

So far, the Tigers have been led by Plummer on the offensive side of the ball. He has thrown for 1,652 yards and 21 touchdowns while only being picked off only four times. All four interceptions have come in the past two games, against strong secondaries in Desert Ridge and Red Mountain.  

The 6-foot-5 quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five receivers have over 200 yards this season and a sixth has 175 yards through six games.

Through those six games, though, senior wide receiver Dawson Tanner has been his favorite target, catching 24 passes for 467 yards and seven touchdowns. Corvan Otanez has been big for Plummer as well, using his 6-foot-3 frame to catch five touchdown passes this season.

While the Tigers have had success through the air, teams have beat them when they have pressured Plummer. In Gilbert’s 41-28 loss to Red Mountain, the Mountain Lions sacked Gilbert nine times, and forced him to throw two interceptions. Plummer still threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns, but had a completion rate of 46 percent.

With defensive standouts Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey, look for the Thunder to put pressure on Plummer and try to force him into a couple of mistakes early.

The Desert Vista defense has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, tallying 11 sacks and 23 tackles for loss this season. They also have forced quarterbacks into throwing five interceptions this season.

Offensively, quarterback Derek Kline has been a stud for the Thunder in 2017, passing for 1,153 yards and 12 touchdowns and adding 216 yards on the ground. He and his offensive line will face off with a Gilbert defense that has picked off six passes and tallied 13 sacks through six games.

The Tigers are led by strong safety Tyler Laganke and Otanez, who have 71 and 60 tackles a piece. Laganke has found his way into the backfield on multiple occasions, racking up four sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

Look for the Thunder to bring a balanced attack as it did against Mountain Pointe.

     

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