No. 8 Mountain Pointe is the last in-state opponent to beat No. 1 Chandler. The two will meet on Friday at 7 p.m. in the 6A quarterfinals.
Mountain Pointe looks to continue its four-game streak when it visits top-seeded Chandler, which has won 10 in a row, at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Pride are coming alive at the right time, using an arsenal of offensive weapons and strong defense to blow out Brophy, 40-7, in the first round.
MP quarterback Nick Wallerstedt had a breakout performance, completing 8 of 13 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. The senior also rushed for 100 yards and four more scores.
As expected, the Wolves cruised to an opening-round rout of No. 16 Boulder Creek.
Chandler rolled up 562 yards in its 62-14 win, with senior quarterback Jacob Conover completing 12 of 17 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns.
This is the first meeting between these traditional powers since Sept. 8, 2017, when the Pride defeated the Wolves, 24-21, the last time Chandler fell to an in-state opponent.
No. 8 Mountain Pointe cruised to convincing victory over No. 9 Brophy in the first round of the 6A playoffs.
No. 8 Mountain Pointe was in control from start to finish, defeating No. 9 Brophy Prep 40-7 in the first round of the AIA 6A football playoffs.
After deferring the opening kick, Mountain Pointe’s defense forced an easy three-and-out. It would be the first of many, as the Pride did not give up a point to Brophy’s offense.
The Pride offense started slow, feeling out the Brophy defense that put a lot of players into the box to stop the three-headed rushing attack.
Just like Brophy, the Pride punted on their first possession and faced a tough third down on their second drive. Out of the shotgun, senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt faked a hand-off to running back Jakim McKinney and ran 44 yards for a touchdown.
The score was his longest of six – four rushing and two passing – on the night. Furthermore, it was huge in lighting a fire under the Pride offense that would last until the end of the game.
“It definitely ignited us,” Wallerstedt said. “We were kind of taking it slow and simple at first and then we had that breakout play, and it really helped us to get down and score.”
While the Pride offense rolled, the defense kept attacking the Brophy offensive line and making solid tackles.
Normally a high-octane passing team, the Broncos were held to just 17 yards through the air in the first half. Brophy had to resort to quick screen passes to offset the pass rush and quality downfield-coverage the Pride seemed to have on every play.
It never got any easier, as quarterback Jalen Kitna ended the game with just 44 yards and two interceptions.
Brophy’s only score came on a kick return.
“I think we played well defensively all night, and had a couple great fourth-down stops,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “It helps when the offense is on the field a little longer, too.”
At the end of the first half, the Broncos drove down the field to get into the red zone. It would be the only time they got there, or even very close. With the clock running out, Brophy threw a jump-ball. Pride senior corner Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson came down with it for a half-ending interception.
“The momentum changed a lot. It was right before the second half, and we’re a really good second-half team,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “The coaches put me in a great spot to make a pick, and it felt really good.”
In the second half, the Pride kept running the ball, with the threat of deep passes off play action always looming to not allow Brophy to put too many defenders up front.
The Pride rolled until McKinney exited the game with a hurt leg after a long run in the third quarter. The Pride’s medical staff gave him treatment and eventually cleared him to play, but the coaches elected to hold him out to prevent further injury. Wellbrock said he should be ready to play next week.
In McKinney’s absence, sophomore Sanders carried the load late, and finished with 19 carries for 80 yards.
“I think the game was pretty well in-hand for us at that point,” Wellbrock said. “Eli’s been pretty great for us for the last five or six weeks, so it’s not anything we didn’t expect. We knew he could jump in there when he was needed.
The home win was the last for the Pride seniors, as the team will travel to Chandler High to take on the top-ranked Wolves.
The win was a great last memory at home for the seniors, and there will be time to reflect on all the fond memories and wins each of them experienced in a Pride uniform after the season. However, at least for one more week, there’s more football to play.
“I probably won’t think about all that until the season’s over,” Wallerstedt said. “Right now we’ve got a big game and there’s still a lot of time and preparation we have to do.”
The seeding favors No. 1 Chandler, but Mountain Pointe is the last Arizona-based team to defeat the Wolves, in the regular season of 2016.
Brophy 7, Mountain Pointe 40
Brophy 0 7 0 0 – 7
Mountain Pointe 14 14 6 6 – 40
MP – Wallerstedt 44 run (Abercrombie kick), 5:32
MP – Wallerstedt 16 run (Rasmussen kick), 1:16
MP – Washington 69 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 8:33
BRO – Ogbonna 80 kick return (Garcia kick), 8:19
MP – Wallerstedt 7 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:56
MP – Wallerstedt 5 run (Abercrombie pass failed), 10:18
MP – Washington 35 pass from Wallerstedt (kick failed), 10:01
Brophy Mountain Pointe
First downs 10 9
Rush-yards 21-41 34-232
Comp-Att-Int 14-27-3 7-14-0
Pass yard 75 147
Total yards 116 379
Fumbles/lost 3/1 0/0
Penalties 6-50 7-68
Brophy – White 17-46, Gonzales 2-1, Brown 1- -3, Kitna 1- -3. Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 9-99, Sanders 19-80, McKinney 6-53.
Brophy – Kitna 11-20-44-2, Wondrash 3-7-31-1. Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-13-147-0, Abercrombie 0-1-0-0.
Brophy – White 5-34, Velez 3-18, Burke 3-12, Grindey 2-6, Jones 1-5. Mountain Pointe – Washington 3-111, Davis 3-19, Williams 1-17.
Eli Sanders is a sophomore, which is a good thing and a bad one for the Mountain Pointe running back. As a youngster, he still has a lot to learn as he grows and eases into a key role for the Pride. The good news: The potential Division 1 prospect still has two more seasons ahead of him.
Mountain Pointe running back Eli Sanders doesn’t shy away from the bright lights on Friday nights, even though he is only a sophomore.
“When I get my chance I have to use all of my God-given talent,” Sanders said. “It’s what I worked hard for my entire life. I have to take advantage of my chance.”
Sanders was promoted to the Pride varsity from the JVs after he impressed coach Rich Wellbrock and the new Pride coaching staff during spring ball.
He still had moments that showed how young he is, joking around during a drill or not paying attention, but Mountain Pointe running backs coach Trace Carroll knew there was something special about Sanders.
“I was a little worried about him in the spring because he was still young,” Carroll said. “We knew it would be a slower transition but he started to get the hang of things. The sky really is the limit for him. He can go as far as he wants to.”
Sanders’ athleticism was passed down from his father, Steve, who played wide receiver at the University of Washington. It was Steve and Kelly, Eli’s mother, who gave their son the passion and ability to compete at the highest level.
“They’ve really pushed me and gave me the inspiration to play,” Eli said. “They made me work harder. I want to go out and accomplish everything I have worked for.”
Exactly what Sanders is working toward is a feat that doesn’t happen often: He wants to be the best running back ever from Mountain Pointe.
“He always says how he wants to be great and be the best,” Carroll said. “His work ethic during the week shows that.”
Sanders was the backup to standout senior running back Jakim McKinney, but Sanders’ playing time increased as the season unfolded.
McKinney, who has rushed for 984 yards and 13 touchdowns, has been among the state’s top backs for two years. He was the workhorse early for Mountain Pointe, receiving most of the touches and remaining on the field nearly every offensive snap.
It wasn’t until Mountain Pointe’s close loss to national power South Jordan (Utah) Bingham that Carroll and the coaching staff gave Sanders more touches, in hopes of preserving McKinney for the playoffs with a lighter load while developing Sanders.
Sander’s role has morphed into a change-of-pace back, but not in the traditional way.
“I call them lightning and lightning but Eli is the faster of the two,” Carroll said. “I always say Eli is all gas and no breaks. When he gets into the open field it’s something special to watch.
“But he still has trouble breaking down defenders in open space.”
Sanders (6 feet, 175 pounds) has a bigger body than McKinney (5-8, 170).
Still with room for improvement, Sanders has rushed for 724 yards and nine touchdowns.
That’s where McKinney’s leadership qualities come into play.
Sanders said playing behind McKinney is a constant learning experience with regard to techniques and ways to make defenders miss.
“Jakim is wonderful,” Sanders said. “Every time I watch him I learn something new. He’s a great back. He runs hard, he’s physical, he can make a cut and get away. Everything he does I can learn from him.”
Their relationship is similar to that of brothers. On the field, they are close and constantly motivating one another. Off the field, they joke around and Sanders often becomes the victim of friendly pranks.
Their friendship and ability to feed off each other has helped both as Mountain Pointe prepares to host rival Brophy Prep in a 7 p.m. first-round playoff game on Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.
“Eli really looks up to Jakim,” Carroll said. “Their relationship is probably the best for a two-back system that I have had coaching for 10 years.”
In recent games, the two have been on the field together, on either side of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt in the shotgun, a formation that has been nearly unstoppable with three threats to take it all the way on every snap.
Sanders’ speed has transferred to the track for Mountain Pointe. As a freshman, he was part of the 4×100-meter relay state-championship team. He also competes in long jump.
Running back has been his passion his entire life, and Sanders hopes to capitalize on the knowledge he gains from McKinney and other Pride seniors as his career continues.
“I’ve coached a lot of great backs in my time, including Devonte Neal and Darvon Hubbard at Chaparral last year,” Carroll said. “He is a mixture of them with speed and power. As a sophomore, he is up there at the elite level. He just has to keep going.”
Mountain Pointe enters the 6A playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a 6-4 record.
The Pride played the second-toughest schedule of any team in Arizona, according to the AIA. Mountain Pointe ends the regular season 6-4, having lost three games by a touchdown or less.
Mountain Pointe’s defense has talented players at all levels, and the Pride have not allowed more than 27 points since an opening-game loss at Pinnacle. Senior receiver Rashion Hodge leads all tacklers with 82.
On offense, the Pride run the ball frequently behind a large offensive line. Mountain Pointe has developed somewhat of a three-headed rushing attack with senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, senior running back Jakim McKinney and sophomore running back Eli Sanders. All three are fast and can shake off potential tacklers. Play action opens one-on-one match-ups for the Pride’s quick receivers down the field as well.
Through seven weeks, the Pride were 3-4 but turned the season around by winning three in a row.
“We’re really just happy to be on this three-game win-streak,” coach Rich Wellbrock said. “We’ve had some good second halves, now if we can play like that in the first half we’ll be good to go.”
The Broncos bounced back from a 1-9 2017 season to 7-3 this year, under first-year head coach Jon Kitna. Brophy lost two of its final three games in road matches against heavyweights Chandler and Perry in respective weeks. But, the Broncos pulled out a season-ending home win against playoff-bound Basha on senior night.
Brophy is led by its defense, which has allowed just a touchdown or less in six of its ten games this year. The Broncos’ leading tackler is senior Sully Shannon (86) and Will Broucek has added 81 and a team-high seven sacks.
While the defense has been stout, Brophy’s offense has struggled to move the ball at times. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Kitna has 1,431 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, but has also thrown 15 interceptions. Senior Marques White is Brophy’s leading rusher, with just 420 yards and two scores on the ground.
Mountain Pointe vs Brophy | Friday | November 2 | 7:00 pm | Mountain Pointe High School
Click here for 6A Football Championship Bracket
Please note AIA ticket prices for playoffs:
$10 – Adults
$5 – Students 9th-12th grades with current school ID
$10 – Students 9th – 12th grade without current school ID
$5 – Students 1st-8th grades
$5 – Senior Citizens
$5 – Military personnel with ID
Mountain Pointe defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepts Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returns it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee. the Pride rolled to a 49-14 victory.
With playoffs on their minds, the Mountain Pointe Pride had one last job to do in their regular-season finale Friday, and they took their sweet time doing it.
Tied at halftime against Corona del Sol, a 1-8 team, Mountain Pointe erupted with 28 points in the third quarter and added an insurance touchdown in the fourth to roll past the Aztecs, 49-14, at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.
The win assured the Pride (6-4), who played the toughest regular-season schedule in 6A, their 10thstraight winning record and likely assured them a first-round home playoff game on Friday, Nov. 2. Playoff seeding will be announced Saturday morning.
“I told them (at halftime) to do their job,” said Mountain Pointe first-year coach Rich Wellbrock. “When you do your job, it becomes a simple game and things seem to flow. It’s when we don’t do our job and we start thinking we have to do someone else’s job (that we struggle). That was our simple adjustment at halftime.”
A disquieting opening half has become a recurring theme for Mountain Pointe, which trailed Desert Ridge by 14 points a week earlier, Chaparral by 10 two weeks earlier, and squandered several scoring opportunities and was tied with Desert Vista at the half three weeks earlier.
At the outset Friday, though, it appeared the Pride was primed for the anticipated rout of an opponent that had lost seven straight games. Pride defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepted Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game.
But the Aztecs would fight back and put together two solid scoring drives to keep pace with the Pride, whose offensive line struggled with pass protection and run blocking.
The opening snap of the second half was just as electrifying as the first for the Pride as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt kept the ball and dashed 79 yards around right end along the sideline for a touchdown that seemed to awaken a sleeping giant.
The Pride went back to a formation that has been effective, with running backs Eli Sanders, a sophomore, and Jakim McKinney, a senior, in the game together on either side of Wallerstedt in the shotgun. Mountain Pointe kept the Corona del Sol defense guessing as the trio of backs combined for 388 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Sanders scored on runs of 48, 38 and 46 yards.
“I thought our kids ran the ball hard in the second half,” Wellbrock said. “The holes were there and when we needed someone to make the plays, Nick, Eli and Jakim were there to make the plays. And that helps.”
The Pride defense also upped their game, applying more pressure to Helt, sticking with receivers and stuffing the rush as they shut out the Aztecs in the second half.
Mountain Pointe is in the playoffs for the 10th straight season. In eight of the previous nine years, the Pride reached the semifinals or beyond, including one state title.
“Once we figure out who it is we need to get back to the details, make sure we are focused on the details, and that goes across the board offensively, defensively, and special teams,” Wellbrock said of playoff preparation.
Corona del Sol ends its season at 1-9.
Mountain Pointe 49, Corona del Sol 14
Corona del Sol 7 7 0 0 – 14
Mountain Pointe 7 7 28 7 – 49
MP – Dedrick 25 interception return (Abercrombie kick), 11:45.
Corona – Luscombe 22 run (Echerivel kick), 8:40.
MP – Sanders 48 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:42.
Corona – Bullard 9 pass from Helt (Echerivel kick), 0:43.
MP – Wallerstedt 78 run (Abercrombie kick), 11:36.
MP – Sanders 38 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:35.
MP – Wallerstedt 4 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:05.
MP – Sanders 46 run (Abercrombie kick), 0:50.
MP – McKinney 19 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:29.
First downs 16 11
Rush-yards 41-438 19-110
Comp-Att-Int 7-14-0 20-42-2
Pass yards 25 186
Total yards 463 296
Fumbles/lost 1/0 3/2
Penalties 10-84 2-20
Mountain Pointe –Sanders 10-164, Wallerstedt 10-146, McKinney 12-78, Rivera 6-27, Washington 3-23. Corona del Sol – Luscombe 11-61, Gutierrez 4-38, Shaw 2-6, Helt 2-5.
Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 25 yards. Corona del Sol – Helt 20-42-2, 186.
Mountain Pointe – Davis 2-9, Sanders 2-7, Gomez 2-3, Washington 1-6. Corona del Sol – Pearsall 9-122, Blackwell 2-21, Bullard 2-14, Luscombe 2-9, Rock 1-12, Echerivel 1-11, Shaw 1-6, Gutierrez 1-2, Brice 1- (-1).
Seniors and their families will be honored on the field at 6:25 pm.
Dominic Davis of Mountain Pointe hauls in a reception during the Pride’s 28-20 win at Desert Ridge in Mesa on Friday. |
No one can accuse Mountain Pointe of not putting a little drama into their games.
After failing to make a single first down and trailing 14-0 at halftime, the Pride, fighting for a first-round home playoff game, scored three touchdowns in less than 5 minutes in the third quarter and then hung on for a 28-20 victory over Desert Ridge on Friday night in far east Mesa.
The previous week, the Pride trailed Chaparral 10-0 after a quarter before rallying for a win.
“They did a phenomenal job on offense, as well as they obviously controlled the clock,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said of the Jaguars. “I think the first drive they scored on was over nine minutes. They did a great job. Coach (Jeremy) Hathcock and his staff and his kids implemented that game plan to the fullest and limited our possessions. We couldn’t get into a rhythm in the first half.”
Desert Ridge, now firmly on the playoff bubble at 3-6, had a bye the previous week and made the most of the time formulating its game plan against the Pride. Mountain Pointe had only 29 total yards at the half.
Meanwhile, Jaguars running back Lucas Wright had 103 rushing yards by halftime and 240 for the game, feasting on toss sweeps to the right side. Wright also converted a third-down with a 35-yard completion to the 2 on a halfback pass to set up Desert Ridge’s second touchdown just before halftime.
While it seemed that Desert Ridge was doing everything right in every facet of the game, Wellbrock wanted his team to focus on taking care of the little things rather than coming back in one play.
“At halftime, we came back out and I said, ‘Fellas, let’s just get a first down,’” Wellbrock said. “Let’s get into a little bit of a rhythm and let’s see what happens. Obviously, we got a couple of plays. Defense made a couple of big plays. We flipped it pretty good.”
On the first possession of the second half, Mountain Pointe scored in less than two minutes and gained momentum.
“Right after that first touchdown, I felt like we were going to have the game,” Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt said.
The next possession didn’t last much longer. Sophomore running back Eli Sanders capped a drive with a 37-yard touchdown run that tied the game.
A couple of minutes later, the Pride took the lead for good when defensive end Kenneth Lofton picked up a fumble and rambled 30 yards for a score.
After allowing 208 total yards in the first half, the Pride defense clamped down and limited the Jaguars to 153 total yards and six points in the second, aided by two fumble recoveries and an interception.
“Our defensive players bailed us out tonight,” Wallerstedt said. “Definitely, we’ll put the ‘W’ on them. They helped us out, helped us get the ball back and they just did what they needed to do. They do this every week. They ball out and that’s all we needed them to do this week, and they did.”
After Wallerstedt put the Pride up by eight points with a 16-yard scoring run with just under 2 minutes to go, their defense had to stop Desert Ridge one last time.
“They manned up,” Wellbrock said. “There was a lot of guys out there that were in brand new positions (because of widespread injuries). When the bell rang, they ran out there and did some really good things for us and it’s just fun to watch these kids fly around sometimes.”
An interception by defensive back Diamante Landrum in the closing minute sealed the game and allowed Mountain Pointe to take a knee and walk away with a winning record (5-4) for the first time this season.
“I just told (the team), ‘Let’s get out of here, because the team in the first half is not the team we want to remember this game by,’” Wellbrock said.
The Pride, ninth in AIA Class 6A playoff seeding going into the game, all but sealed a playoff berth with the win. They close the season at home Friday against Corona del Sol (1-8) hoping that a victory will lift them into the top eight and a first-round home playoff game.
Desert Ridge (3-6)14th in seeding going into the game, closes against Highland (8-1) and likely needing a win to a void failing to make the playoffs for the first time in Hathcock’s 13 years at the school.
Mountain Pointe 28, Desert Ridge 20
Mountain Pointe 0 0 21 7– 28
Desert Ridge 0 14 0 6 – 20
DR – Hathcock 1 run (Edwards kick), 9:01.
DR – Wright 2 run (Edwards kick), 1:01.
High – Cullimore 46 run (McNamara kick), 4:20
MP – Washington 25 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 10:17.
MP – Sanders 37 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:33.
MP – Lofton 30 fumble recovery (Abercrombie kick), 7:15.
DR – Wright 1 run (kick failed), 5:51.
MP – Wallerstedt 16 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:50.
Rush-yards 27-98 52-320
Comp-Att-Int 7-14-0 2-5-1
Pass yard 81 39
Total yards 179 359
Fumbles/lost 0/0 5/3
Penalties 5-50 4-25
Mountain Pointe – Sanders 17-98, Wallerstedt 6-41, McKinney 4-2. Desert Ridge – Wright 31-240, Segura 14-58, Hathcock 6-24, Salazar 1- (-2).
Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 81 yards. Desert Ridge –Kolb 1-3-1, 4; Wright 1-2-0, 35.
Mountain Pointe – Davis 4-45, Barker 3-36. Desert Ridge – Butler 1-35, Lee 1-4.