Mountain Pointe safety Kenny Churchwell, one of the top 2018 recruits in Arizona, announced his commitment to UCLA on Friday morning.
Mountain Pointe safety Kenny Churchwell, one of the top 2018 recruits in Arizona, announced his commitment to UCLA on Friday morning.
In Chuchwell’s three-year varsity career, he had 185 tackles with eight interceptions and 31 passes defended.
Churchwell chose the Bruins over fellow Pac-12 finalists Arizona and Arizona State. The safety held offers from the Bruins, Sun Devils, Wildcats along with Utah, Wyoming, Boise State, Washington State, Colorado State, Cal and Hawaii.
Churchwell was offered by UCLA on January 14th, visited campus this past weekend and committed Friday morning.
Churchwell joins Arizona commits Oduah Isibor, Jax Wacaser and Sean Seawards from the class of 2017.
He is also now a crosstown rival to his former teammate and fellow safety. In the class of 2017, Mountain Pointe safety Isaiah Pola-Mao committed to USC exactly 364 days ago.
Rich Wellbrock has officially been named as the new head coach at Mountain Pointe.
The hire comes after former Pride head coach Norris Vaughan resigned in mid-December after nine seasons. Vaughan led Mountain Pointe to three state championship appearances, one of which resulted in the title in 2013.
“It’s a unique opportunity because of the area and what Coach Vaughan has been able to build,” Wellbrock told Sports360AZ. “From an outsider’s view it’s right place right time. I’m very excited and happy to be leading that program.”
Wellbrock comes to the Pride after spending one season as head coach at Basha. Before Basha he spent seven seasons at Desert Edge where he led the Scorpions to a 74-16 record and a state title in 2014.
Mountain Pointe is a run-based program known for having solid lineman. The Pride’s style of play is one that Wellbrock is familiar with from his tenure at Desert Edge.
“It’s hard-nosed running football,” Wellbrock said. “The pieces that they’ve had and the history of the lineman and how well coached they’ve been, it’s a fit for me and my style of coaching.”
Wellbrock became familiar with 6A during the 2017 season at Basha.
“Every week is a dog fight,” Wellbrock said. “There’s no easy opponent each week and the coaching is so good. It’s all about the preparation you put in for the 48 minutes each week.”
As for the difference between coaching in 4A to coaching in 6A, Wellbrock said the biggest difference is the depth of players the schools have.
“You have to have kids ready to go,” Wellbrock said. “I think the biggest thing between the conferences are the (first teams) are pretty good in each conference.”
The biggest thing that Wellbrock said he will take away from his year with the Bears is “stick to your vision.”
“What you know, what you’ve learned, from my experiences, as well as my mentor, sometimes you go astray from that,” Wellbrock said. “It’s that grind though, it’s that jumping up and making sure the kids are prepared after a tough loss.”
By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor | January 23, 2018
The Pride have found the new leader of their pack.
Tempe Union High School District officials announced Tuesday they would recommend that the governing board approve Rich Wellbrock as the new head football coach at Mountain Pointe High School.
“We are excited to welcome Coach Wellbrock to Mountain Pointe High School,” Principal Bruce Kipper said in a release. “His wealth of experience, success at the state level, and working in diverse school settings tells us he is the right guy for our school community.”
The next governing board meeting is Feb. 7 and an agenda has not yet been set, so it is unclear if formal action on the recommendation will occur then.
Wellbrock has been around the Arizona high school football scene for several years, with an overall coaching record of 93-48. He has coached at Tolleson, Desert Edge and most recently, Basha high schools. He only spent one year at Basha, compiling a 2-8 record in the 2017 season.
Before last season, Wellbrock headed the Desert Edge football program from 2010-2016 amassing a 75-14 record, including a state championship in 2015, when the Scorpions defeated No. 1-seeded Paradise Valley in the Division III state championship, 29-27.
In 2013, Desert Edge also set a state record for team passing yards in a season, but also fell to Queen Creek in the 2012 Division III state championship.
During Wellbrock’s state championship run, Desert Edge’s running game was phenomenal.
It set a new state record for team rushing by running for 5,046 yards and 69 touchdowns on 654 carries. Desert Edge also had four different rushers over 500 yards and two over 1,000 yards.
Behind Jakim McKinney and Gary Bragg, the Pride rushed for 3,801 and 45 touchdowns this past season. Wellbrock will see the return of a strong starting running back in McKinney, who led the Pride with 1334 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Wellbrock will have big shoes to fill at Mountain Pointe, as he’ll be taking over for longtime head coach Norris Vaughan, who retired to move back to Georgia to be closer to his family. The Pride also captured a state championship in 2014 as a part of an undefeated season.
Mountain Pointe is coming off a 10-3 season, and it fell to Brock Purdy and the Perry Pumas in the 6A state semi-finals.
Former York High football coach Eric Lauer got an up-close look at Penn State’s football operation before the Fiesta Bowl. And he came away impressed over the other teams he’s seen over the years. Here, he poses with the bowl mascot, Spirit.
Frank Bodani, firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished 1:00 p.m. ET Jan. 1, 2018 | Updated 9:49 a.m. ET Jan. 2, 2018
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At the end of the final practices of the season, the Nittany Lion coaches pushed their running backs and receivers through a well-worn, mundane drill one last time
They were trying to make them fumble then, so they wouldn’t during the game.
It was a simple and yet powerful message to the players.
It also was one to a former York High football coach who was watching every moment of that workout last week leading up to the Fiesta Bowl victory over Washington. Eric Lauer, a former Bearcat player and then head coach, was talking about the behind-the-scenes secrets to Penn State’s success.
The bowl season is one of the best times for coaches like Lauer, who has lived around Phoenix for the past decade.
He’s now the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach here at powerhouse Mountain Pointe High. Each December he and the other prep coaches in the areaattend team practices leading up to the Fiesta and Cactus bowls.
They get to meet the college staffs and observe and learn.
It’s all about developing relationships and helping improve their own systems.
And Lauer said he was a bit surprised at James Franklin’s operation. He said it was the most efficient and well-organized of any school in the seven or eight years he’s been watching teams come to town.
He said the difference was in the little things, the details. No wasted minutes. The never-stop, upbeat body language. And the willingness to continue drilling well-worn fundamentals at the end of the season when time is precious.
Like that ball security drill, something Lauer doesn’t remember other schools working on like that during bowl week.
The Nittany Lions, by the way, set a school record by losing only three fumbles all season. They fumbled only eight times overall, though two did come in the Fiesta Bowl after not playing for a month.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are reaching out to the Scottsdale community during Fiesta Bowl week. And they’re doing it with kickball. Selected players had fun Wednesday with local kids with cancer and other serious illnesses. Frank Bodani
Saquon Barley, for example, did not fumble over his final 21 games, covering 377 carries.
The Lions also were one of the least-penalized teams in the nation.
“It’s something you kind of think as a coach, ‘Let’s spend time doing something else.’ But they’re doing to do it because of how important it is.
“Sometimes we blame the kids (for mistakes in games), but are you really coaching up what you want to see on the field? If you don’t want the ball on the ground you’ve got to practice that.
“It was just the attention to the small stuff and everybody being hooked up and locked in to what was supposed to happen. You could see it and you could smell it.”
Lauer said he had no previous connection to Penn State beyond watching the program on TV while growing up or through former teammates and friends who went there. He had never met Penn State coaches, never attended their football camps.
He knows other staffs better, like the Washington Huskies and USC Trojans, because they recruit Phoenix regularly.
He was impressed with Penn State’s urgency and enthusiasm — things missing at times from other teams. He said the continual positive energy Franklin and his assistants show their players during practice and before the Fiesta Bowl can resonate much deeper than most realize.
Lauer said he saw the reinforcement throughout, from hugs and handshakes and pats on the back. There were one-on-one teaching moments. There was yelling and whistle-blowing but no cursing.
Every staff member was “up on his toes, bouncing … running the entire practice,” Lauer said.
“You could tell these were things they were doing for a while. This wasn’t a show.”
He said it was almost as if the players were searching out those interactions.
“It was like, ‘It’s game time, I get my hug.’ It’s coaching from love, not coaching from fear. And when I get that I’m going to just play that much harder for you.
“When you’re coaching in love, in accountable love, there’s nothing greater.”
Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (13) reacts after a score during the 47th PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday, December 30, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. Billy Hardiman, Billy Hardiman/Special for azcentral sports
It’s always been great covering Coach Norris Vaughan and the Mountain Pointe Pride. Yearly, the squad is feared, admired and among the best in Arizona.
Vaughan is the one who deserves credit for building the program. In his nine years on campus, the squad made the playoffs every year, including three finals appearances and won the state title in 2013 going a perfect 14-0.
In the last six years, Vaughan posted an amazing record of 71 and 10. The man knows how to coach!
But Vaughan wants to be closer to his family in Georgia, so he recently stepped down as Mountain Pointe’s Head Coach.
Vaughan told me he loves Mountain Point and the people have been good to him, but it’s time for a new challenge. He will be sorely missed as the coaching search is underway.
Vaughan is a vibrant guy with a lot of energy and even though he is retiring from coaching in Arizona, he won’t say the “R” word because he has the wheels in motion.
Vaughan told me he is talking to several high schools about potential coaching jobs in the Atlanta area. He has to stay busy, because Vaughan is not one to just sit around, he has to stay active.
In his nine years at Mountain Pointe, Vaughan did more than just win games. He instilled discipline and toughness with the bigger picture in mind. He wanted his players to be battled tested and be the best they could possibly be for their lives. For me, personally, I will miss the Georgia native. He was great for Mountain Points and high school football as a whole.
Arizona’s loss is Georgia’s gain as Vaughan leaves as one of the sports’ greatest ambassadors and leaders.
Mountain Pointe Mafia support crew: from left Alan Tripp, Mark Blom, Ellen and Norris Vaughan, Lee Shappell, and George Shook
By Lee Shappell | Former Treasurer and Program Editor, MPHS Football Booster Club
December 18, 2017
Nine years ago tonight, Mountain Pointe was coming off a two-win season, and some of us were wondering if the school was ever going to give thought to elevating football to a varsity sport.
The Pride was looking for a new coach, and at that time it wasn’t exactly a plum job. So when they hired some guy from Wickenburg – Wickenburg! That’s a couple of divisions lower!” It wasn’t a surprise, but not many were excited about the choice, either.
If somebody had told us then that over the next nine years we’d have nine winning seasons, go 8-1 against our rival and reclaim the series lead, make eight state semifinal playoff appearances, three championship games, win a state title and finish among the top five in the country, we’d have taken it on the spot right then.
Nobody would have believed it, yet that’s where we are tonight as we say goodbye to Coach Norris Vaughan and his much, much better half, Ellen.
In his first year, the Pride went 10-0 and advanced to the semifinals, falling two yards short of a TD that would have put them in the title game. It was an incredible turnaround, and it was only the beginning.
Now, Coach Vaughan is not for everyone. He does it his way, and you’re going to do it his way, or you can go play soccer. Some parents didn’t like him. Some players didn’t like him. And I can say unequivocally that none of the referees liked him.
But he IS for anyone who wants to win and is willing to work hard to reach a goal.
In announcing Coach Vaughan’s resignation last week, the school principal was quoted as saying that Coach Vaughan not only turned around a football program, he changed the culture at Mountain Pointe. At a school where more than 60 percent of the student body comes from outside the attendance boundaries through open enrollment, from places like Maricopa, Laveen and south Phoenix, I believe this to be true.
The football team’s success seemed to say to everyone on campus that no matter who you are, or where you’re from, or what you have or don’t have, if you set a goal and are committed to being successful, you can do it.
I find all of that to my liking, so it was my great pleasure to play a small role peripherally in supporting the program. More than that, I made two new friends. I could sit and listen to Norris talk for hours, and have. And if there is a nicer, more genuine human being than Ellen, I’ve yet to meet her.
The Pride went 99-19 under Coach Vaughan. Add 47-5 in four seasons at Wickenburg and he is the winningest high school football coach in Arizona over those 13 years. That covers a lot of coaches at a lot of elite programs.
It was hard to say goodbye tonight at the sendoff for Norris and Ellen. They are on their way to Georgia on Wednesday, moving back home to be near their grandkids.
It could be a sad time, but I’d rather focus on all the great memories from nine years and be grateful for them. I have a smile rather than a tear.
I thank them both and wish them good health and much happiness.
And on his way out of town, I hope Norris puts a yellow hanky in an envelope and mails it to the AIA.
Richard Obert, azcentral sports | Published 1:23 p.m. MT Dec. 13, 2017 | Updated 3:22 p.m. MT Dec. 13, 2017
Norris Vaughan, who led Phoenix Mountain Pointe through its greatest football era, has resigned as head coach.
Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said he was informed Wednesday morning by Vaughan that he and his wife are returning to Georgia to be closer to family.
“As of now, he has no plans to coach, but he has a lot of years left in him,” Kipper said. “I want to thank Coach Vaughan for nine great years. Not only has he built a championship caliber football program, but he has also helped transform our school culture. He has had a tremendous impact on all of us. As far as I am concerned, he will always be a member of the Pride.”
In eight of his nine seasons leading the Pride, Vaughan guided Mountain Pointe to no worse than the semifinals in the state’s biggest division, reaching the final game three times, and going 14-0, capturing the school’s only state football championship in 2013, when it finished ranked among the top five teams in the country.
In Vaughan’s last six years, Mountain Pointe had one of the state’s best runs, going 71-10 and reaching the final three times.
Vaughan, 70, moved from Georgia in 2004, after 20 years as a high school coach, believing he was heading into retirement, playing in pro-am golf tournaments.
But after he helped out as an assistant football coach at a school in the Valley, Vaughan took the Wickenburg job in 2005. He lost only five games in four seasons, compiling 47 wins, playing at the 3A level.
Vaughan said he and his wife are moving to an area north of Atlanta.
“I’m not going to use the ‘R’ word,” Vaughan said. “I’m not retiring. I’m in conversations with other schools in Georgia. I’m still a young man.”
Vaughan leaves Mountain Pointe well-stocked. Although the defense will need some rebuilding, Mountain Pointe returns nine starters on offense from a team that lost to Gilbert Perry in the 6A semifinals.
Mountain Pointe is the third major high school football coaching job in the Valley that has opened since the end of the season. Scooter Molander resigned at Phoenix Brophy Prep and Dick Banisziewski served only the one season as interim coach at Chandler Hamilton.
Norris Vaughan era at Mountain Pointe
2017: 10-3, lost to Gilbert Perry in semifinals
2016: 13-1, lost to Chandler in final
2015: 12-1, lost to Peoria Centennial in semifinals
2014: 10-3, lost to Chandler in semifinals
2013: 14-0, beat Chandler Hamilton in final
2012: 12-2, lost to Hamilton in final
2011: 6-5, lost to Phoenix Brophy Prep in first round
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