All family and friends are invited to celebrate the 2018 football season on Tuesday, December 11th. Awards will begin at 7:00 pm in the Pride Arts Center (Auditorium), with a dessert reception following in the lobby.
Chandler High again is beginning to look unbeatable in the 6A high school football playoffs.
On Friday, Mountain Pointe, which had won four straight games, could not keep up with the Wolves and fell, 49-21, in the state quarterfinals at Chandler.
It was only the second time in six games that the two-time defending 6A state champion Wolves have been held under 50 points.
Mountain Pointe finishes 7-5, its worst record since 2011. On the other hand, the Pride have reached the state quarterfinals nine times in 10 years.
The victory gives Chandler (11-1) a semifinal date with Highland (11-1) next Friday at Hamilton High in Chandler. Highland held off Liberty, 15-12, in a quarterfinal on Friday.
Chandler senior running back DeCarlos Brooks scored on a 71-yard run in the first quarter, on a night in which he had 248 rushing yards and six touchdowns, five on the ground and one on a 40-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Conover.
“That’s crazy,” Brooks said. “I have to give a shout out to my offensive line. They gave me holes to make cutbacks and do everything like I can do.
“They played phenomenal today and the defense played their butts off and kept getting us the ball so we could score. We just executed the game plan.”
Conover echoed his running back.
“It was an overall team effort. No matter what, we had to win,” Conover said. “The offensive line opened up great holes for the run game. Their protection was great, which was ultimately the team aspect of the win.”
Chandler coach Shaun Aguano, pleased with the win, already was thinking about pesky Highland in Friday’s semifinal at Hamilton.
“We’re coming in early and getting ready for the game next week by going over film and fixing the mistakes we had,” Aguano said. “We had a few turnovers that we can’t have if we are going to play in the championship game.
“I loved our physicality on both sides of the line, and if we can keep it up, we will be fine.”
Brooks and Conover agreed.
“We just have to execute the plays, play hard and physical, aggressive football like we have all year and we will get the win,” Brooks said of the semifinal match up.
According to Conover, “There will be a lot of preparation but ultimately we have to focus on what we can do.”
No. 8 Mountain Pointe was without injured rushing leading Jakim McKinney, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Brophy in the first round a week earlier.
“It was one of those situations where we were going to wait until game time, and come that time, (McKinney) couldn’t put enough pressure on it,” Pride coach Rich Wellbrock said. “Unfortunately, his really good career with Mountain Pointe had to end with him watching. I know he didn’t want any part of that.”
Chandler 49, Mountain Pointe 21
Mountain Pointe 0 14 7 0 – 21
Chandler 14 14 14 0 – 49
CH – Brooks 71 run (Peterman kick), 8:02.
CH – Brooks 1 run (Peterman kick), 4:20.
MP – Davis 28 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 11:21.
CH – Brooks 11 run (Peterman kick), 7:49.
MP – Wallerstedt 71 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:27.
CH – Brooks 40 pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 5:49.
CH – Brooks 43 run (Peterman kick), 7:49.
CH – Conover 5 run (Peterman Kick), 4:47.
MP – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:25.
Mountain Pointe cornerback Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson announced his commitment to the University of Utah on Twitter Wednesday, dedicating it to his mother, Jaquel Pleasant, who passed away when he was 11 years old. Zach Alvira/AFN Staff
It’s been a long road for Mountain Pointe’s Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson, but it all came to fruition on Wednesday when the three-star cornerback announced his commitment to the University of Utah on Twitter.
Pleasant-Johnson dedicated his commitment to his mother, Jaquel Pleasant, who passed away when he was just 11 years old.
“Dear mom, ever since you’ve been gone I’ve been out here staying out the way and being humble like you taught me,” Pleasant-Johnson wrote. “I promised you that I would go to a division I football program and make an early impact on that university and put the family on the map.
“All those early morning jogs and steady conversations willing my success in the name of Jesus paid off and I thank you for those blessings. I have not arrived yet but I am on my way … With that being said I love and miss you mom and I am more solid than ever. With that being said my commitment is for you and I thank you for birthing me. This is my commitment letter to you.”
Pleasant-Johnson chose Utah over eight other division I programs who had offered full-ride scholarships, including Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Nebraska.
He leads the Pride’s secondary this season with 13 passes defensed and is tied for a team-high three interceptions.
Pleasant-Johnson’s commitment comes just two days before eighth-ranked Mountain Pointe plays No. 1 Chandler in the 6A quarterfinals.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday at Chandler High School.
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
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. Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor
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.”
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