Running game leads Mountain Pointe to third win. - Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, evades a Mountain View tackle on... [ read more ]

Pride, Thunder both take to the road Friday after big wins - Marshawn Gibson marches down the field to start the fourth quarter against... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe avenges state title loss, upsets Chandler on the road - Tyre Johnson carries the ball against Chandler Friday night at Austin... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe football upsets Chandler on the road - Richard Morin, azcentral sportsPublished 10:14 p.m. MT Sept. 8,... [ read more ]

Pride seeks revenge in game against Chandler tonight - After intercepting his pass, MP’s Isaiah Palo-Mao tries to jump over... [ read more ]

Football Game Preview: Chandler vs. Mountain Pointe - Wednesday, September 6, 2017  |  By: Staff... [ read more ]

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Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, evades a Mountain View tackle on his way into the end zone for the Pride’s first touchdown.  [Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst]

Running game leads Mountain Pointe to third win.

By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor | 9/16/17

For a team that finished third in the 6A Conference in 2016 and fell short in the state title game, Phoenix Mountain Pointe looks to be doing everything they can to avenge last season’s result. 

A week after upsetting then No.1 Chandler on the road, top-ranked Mountain Pointe kept its foot on the gas pedal Friday night, cruising to a 35-3 victory over No. 22 Mesa Mountain View. 

“We were dominant on both offense and defense tonight,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “Our quarterback made plays and our backs ran really hard behind our line for most of the game.”

Mountain Pointe (3-1) wasn’t perfect on either side of the ball by any means. It racked up over a dozen penalties throughout the game, which allowed Mountain View (2-2) a time of possession which nearly seemed like an eternity. Fortunately for the Pride, secondary play from Kenny Churchwell and Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson kept the Toros out of the end-zone numerous times despite the long list of penalties. 

“[They] certainly made their fair share of plays,” Vaughan said. “We were so dominant on defense but it was the penalties that allowed them to stay on the field and keep their drives going.”

For the second straight week, Mountain Pointe got the offensive push up front that they’re accustomed to seeing, which created a plethora of holes for the backfield. 

After a drive early on led to a touchdown run by Jakim McKinney, a hole opened up once again to start the second quarter and Gary Bragg found paydirt for the second rushing touchdown in the game, scampering for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Pride a 14-3 lead.

A critical mistake to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory, came back to bite the Toros right before the half. Mountain Pointe took over possession at the Toros’ 23-yard-line and a few plays later, McKinney ran it in from nine yards out for his second touchdown of the game. 

“We’ve all been working really hard at practice,” McKinney said. “Sometimes the guys up front make mistakes but they get right back up and they got a lot better tonight.”

A few minutes before the half, Mountain View had their best opportunity to get back in the game but another crucial mistake proved costly. On a screen pass out left, quarterback Brandon Nuñez hit Jacobby Dinwiddie in the flat and the offensive line carved out an open path to the end zone and Dinwiddie took it to the house for what seemed like a must-have touchdown. Unfortunately, a holding penalty negated the touchdown pass and Mountain Pointe went into the half with a 21-3 lead.

From there the rout continued as on the opening play of the second half, a hole practically the size of Arizona opened and quarterback Nick Wallerstedt it himself for a 77-yard touchdown run. 

“We knew what to expect tonight and I felt like our guys came out and played really hard on both sides,” Vaughan said. “We just need to cut down on penalties.”

To go along with four touchdowns on the ground, Wallerstedt connected with Pleasant-Johnson late in the fourth on a touchdown pass. He finished with a TD reception and an interception — a pick for a touchback late in the second quarter that stalled a Mountain View drive.

The Pride will return home next week for the first time this season, when they welcome quarterback phenom Spencer Rattler and Pinnacle High School (3-2). 

Marshawn Gibson marches down the field to start the fourth quarter against the Chandler Wolves.  [Photo courtesy of MP Football Facebook]

Pride, Thunder both take to the road Friday after big wins

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

The tough competition doesn’t stop with last weekend’s defeat of Chandler High as Mountain Pointe High will see where it stands against the Arizona’s top football talent in the coming weeks.

This week, the Pride will hit the road for the third straight week, taking on Mesa Mountain View (2-1).

The Toros are 1-0 at home this year, defeating Corona del Sol (1-3) 35-18. They are led by Mike Fell, who won his 200th career game in the season opening victory over Valley Vista.

Friday night will bring a matchup between two experienced head coaches and several talented players.

Mountain Pointe will have the task of locking up the quarterback-receiver tandem of Brandon Nunez and Jacobby Dinwiddie. The pair has hooked up for 283 passing yards and one touchdown so far in 2017. As a sophomore, Dinwiddie was a huge part of the Toros offense, catching 70 passes for 1,012 yards and six touchdowns.

Look for a talented secondary, led by Pride seniors Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, Tyre Johnson and Marshawn Gibson to lock down the pair through the air.

On the ground, the Toros have been led by senior tailback Dean Yamada who has tallied 198 yards on 40 carries.

Mountain Pointe also will have to be on the lookout for the running ability of Nunez. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback has scampered for 63 yards this season, but he showed off his legs in the red zone against Valley Vista, finding the end zone twice.   

If Pride secondary can contain the duo of Nunez and Dinwiddie, the talented trio of running backs from Mountain Pointe should have the opportunity to control the pace of the game like they have all season long.

It’s been a staple of their offense since their first game, when senior Gary Bragg returned from an ACL injury last season with a 131-yard, three-touchdown performance against Sandra Day O’Connor.

Against Chaminade, a top-10 school in California, Bragg was locked up for just 45 yards on 10 carries. But, junior running back Jakim McKinney made his presence known, rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns.

Another important aspect of Mountain Pointe’s matchup with Mountain View will be the play of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt.

With a stout running game behind him and a big offensive line in front of him, the Pride signal-caller has been able to manage games. He has made throws when he has needed to, but also has used his feet when given the opportunity.

His three-yard quarterback keeper against Chandler put the Pride ahead and they never looked back.  

With a big redemption win over the state champions, the Pride look to be back to form after a tough loss against Chaminade. It still has a tough schedule ahead as Pinnacle and the Ahwatukee bowl both await in the weeks ahead.

Desert Vista vs. Brophy Prep

Desert Vista High School (2-1) made it two wins in a row on Friday with a 44-13 win over Mesa Skyline and this week it will look to make it three as they travel to Brophy Prep (1-3) to take on the Broncos.  

Brophy Prep fell to undefeated Highland this past Friday 14-6 in another close contest, a recurring theme for the Broncos. They squeaked out a 28-27 win against Westview and fell to Desert Ridge by nine points.

While their record may not show it, the Broncos boast a talented roster full of playmakers that head coach Daniel Hinds and his team will have to be on the lookout for. The talent of the Broncos starts in the backfield with quarterback Noah Gonzales.

The 6-foot-2 gunslinger has completed 50 percent of his passes in 2017 for 735 yards and five touchdowns. His only game without 200-plus passing yards came in their season opening loss to Pinnacle.

In his first season under center, Gonzales has found two favorite targets in seniors Xavier Juniel and senior Donovan Arthur. The two receivers have combined for 374 yards and three touchdowns in four games.

But he has also struggled at times, throwing three interceptions in the game against Highland.

This is an area of the game that a strong Desert Vista secondary could take advantage of as the combination of James Stagg, Caleb Humphrey and Larry Davis should stymie the Brophy running game. In both of Desert Vista’s victories season, they have held opponents below 200 rushing yards.

Offensively, the Thunder will look to continue to keep up their high scoring efforts as they are clicking in both the passing and running game.

Since throwing two interceptions against Perry, quarterback Derek Kline has been big for the Thunder. He’s completed over 60 percent of his passes in the past two games and he’s also thrown for seven touchdowns.

That streak should continue against Brophy if the Thunder can avoid turning the ball over, which they have done in the past two games other than a lone fumble against Basha.

Along with Kline, look for senior Keishaud White to have a big impact in their fourth game of the season. He has scored in all three games, both through the air and on the ground. But on Friday he added another facet to his scoring repertoire against Skyline, returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

– Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com or by phone at 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

 

Tyre Johnson carries the ball against Chandler Friday night at Austin Field.  |  Photo by Kimberly Carrillo

Mountain Pointe avenges state title loss, upsets Chandler on the road

By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor

From the start, you could tell it weighed heavy on their minds.

After falling in last year’s 6A state championship to Chandler, Mountain Pointe found the best type of redemption on Friday night — knocking off the No.1 team in the state on their own turf.

With a three-headed backfield controlling the running game early on, junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt remained poised behind a stout offensive line as No. 2 Mountain Pointe stunned No.1 Chandler 24-21 on Friday night at Austin Field.

“I’m so proud of these boys, each and every one of them,” coach Norris Vaughan said.

As he shook hands and received congratulatory hugs from his coaching staff following the game, Vaughan yelled, “This ain’t us!”

He was referring to last week’s game against national power Chaminade Prep (Mission Viejo, Calif.) in which the Pride were unable to overcome a slew of mistakes en route to a loss.

A different Mountain Pointe team showed up on Friday night though.

Just before the end of the first quarter, the Pride (2-1) got things started when Wallerstedt took a keeper in from three yards out. Ten seconds later, Jacob Olsen recovered a fumble by Chandler and ran it in from 12 yards out to give the Pride a 14-0 lead.

On their first drive of the second quarter, Chandler made another costly mistake. The punter was unable to kick the ball away after a high snap and the Pride were gifted the ball on Chandler’s 17-yard line.

A few plays later, Jakim McKinney ran in it from two yards out and there was utter silence from the Chandler faithful. 

“That early momentum carried us,” Wallerstedt said. “It was exactly what we needed.”

Chandler (2-2) didn’t just fall back and fold. After four failed drives to start the game, backup quarterback Billy Bolger (replacing the injured Jacob Conover) began finding seams and the offense received some help in the form of a roughing the passer penalty. 

After a run that put them in the red zone was called back on a holding penalty, the Wolves eventually got on the board on a DeCarlos Brooks touchdown run with 4:37 remaining in the half.

For nearly the entire third quarter, both offenses stalled, unable to move the ball down the field. Driving towards the end of the quarter, Bolger found a receiver open across the middle and he took it 36 yards for a touchdown to cut Mountain Pointe’s lead to 21-14 as the third quarter ended.

Wallerstedt and Mountain Pointe’s backfield trio — Gary Bragg, Delano Salgado, and Marshawn Gibson — wore the Chandler defense down as they marched down the field to start the fourth quarter. Taking nearly seven minutes off the clock, Ben Abercrombie capped off the drive with a 16-yard field goal to give the Pride a 24-14 lead with five and half minutes remaining. 

Bolger and the Wolves didn’t feel the pressure though as they answered with a score of their own, running in a short touchdown to cut the lead back to 24-21 with just under three minutes to go. 

Then, on a handoff out left, the ball fell from Bragg’s hands as he turned up field and the Wolves recovered the fumble. The home crowd was the loudest it had been all game long, while the visiting Mountain Pointe fans were in utter shock. 

Just like a strong team does, the defense picked up the mistake made by the offense. On fourth down and the game on the line, Bolger’s pass was tipped up in the air and Salgado secured it to seal the victory. 

On the ground, the Pride ran for an even 200 yards while Wallerstedt accounted for 79 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

“We’re still finding out who we are,” Vaughan said. “But this game helps us in the direction of finding it.”

Mountain Pointe will continue their season on the road next week as they travel to Mesa Mountain View.

, azcentral sportsPublished 10:14 p.m. MT Sept. 8, 2017

Mountain Pointe football upsets Chandler on the road

Following a loss to national power Chaminade Prep (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Phoenix Mountain Pointe stunned top-ranked Chandler, 24-21, on its home turf Friday. 

Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt got the game’s first score by way of a 3-yard keeper with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter. Two plays later, Jacob Olsen recovered a fumble by Chandler’s offense and returned it 12 yards to make it a two-score game. 

The Pride (2-1) kept the pressure on with a four-play, 83-yard drive punctuated by Jakim McKinney’s 2-yard plunge early in the second. 

Chandler (2-2) finally got a defensive stop midway through the second quarter and got on the board with a DeCarlos Brooks touchdown run with just over four minutes remaining in the half. 

Neither team scored in the third until Ben Abercrombie kicked a 16-yard field goal to make it 24-14 in favor of the Pride. 

However, on the next possession, Brooks scored on a 1-yard run to make it a three-point game. Mountain Pointe recovered the onside kick, but fumbled a few plays later and Chandler’s Avery Carrington recovered. 

With the ball and just two minutes left, the Chandler offense just couldn’t pull through and Mountain Pointe held on for the win. 

Standout performer

Nick Wallerstedt took advantage of a sloppy Chandler contingent on Friday, grinding out 79 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. An effective running game behind him allowed the junior quarterback to pick his spots from the pocket – and he did not waste his opportunities. 

More standouts

Jacob Olsen (Mountain Pointe): Recovered and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter and recorded an important sack in the second half. 

Jarick Caldwell (Chandler): In a relatively quiet night for the Wolves’ offense, Caldwell still impressed with six catches for 50 yards.

Star watch

Delano Selgado (Mountain Pointe): Although he didn’t reach the end zone, the speedy back was a productive playmaker for the Pride – finishing with 46 yards on 8 carries and a key interception on defense. 

Jacob Conover and Gunner Romney (Chandler): The Wolves surely missed their standout quarterback-receiver duo on Friday night. Conover – who has offers from Alabama and Arizona, among others – is out with a shoulder sprain. The BYU commit Romney is nursing a knee injury. 

Quote of the game

After a hard-fought loss the previous week, Wallerstedt said his team deserved the win after all the hard work they put in during preparation for Friday’s game. 

“It feels great,” Wallerstedt said. “We’ve been fighting all week, preparing as a team and staying focused. We deserve it.”

Stat of the game

As a team, Mountain Pointe rushed for an even 200 yards. 

Up next

Chandler will travel to face Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor next Friday, and Mountain Pointe will also take to the road for a bout with Mesa Mountain View. 

 

After intercepting his pass, MP’s Isaiah Palo-Mao tries to jump over Chandler’s Jacob Conover (17) downfield. Watching is brother Matthew Palo-Mao.  |  By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor

Pride seeks revenge in game against Chandler tonight

Tonight, Sept. 8, two of the top high school football teams in Arizona will battle it out in a rematch of the 2016 Class 6A state championship – a game that ended with the Chandler Wolves capturing their second state title in three years by defeating Mountain Pointe Pride.

While their seasons ended differently in 2016, the two teams have traveled similar paths since that day in December.

Both teams have lost top players to graduation, including Isaiah Palo-Moa for Mountain Pointe and T.J. Green for Chandler, who were among other great players that contributed to their successes last season.

Players on both sides have also stepped into those vacated roles, hoping to contribute to another winning season.  

To gain experience and see where they stand with the best of the best, Chandler and Mountain Pointe have also faced off against some of the best teams in the nation.

Chandler (2-1) took on No. 2-ranked IMG Academy on Aug. 26,, falling 27-14; Mountain Pointe (1-1) five days later fell to the No. 9-ranked team in California, Chaminade. After the loss to Chaminade, Pride Head Coach Norris Vaughan said the Pride, will just have to get better.

“We gotta improve on everything, we got to get better at everything that we can do,” Vaughan said.

Early on this season, injuries have begun to plague both teams. The Pride started off the season without linemen Matthew Pola-mao and Cole Cundary. The Wolves also have been hit by injury when quarterback Jacob Conover suffered a shoulder injury against IMG, leaving him in a sling for a few weeks. 

As it is still early in the season, both teams still have time to recover from injuries and grow.

The Pride has showcased strength in the run game with the return of Gary Bragg, combined with junior running back Jakim McKinney. And as expected, the defensive trio of Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado and Shomari Hayes will be big for Mountain Pointe.

Expect the Mountain Pointe defense to face off against a talented offense led by senior quarterback Billy Bolger.

 Combined with a potent running game, he led the Wolves to an overtime, 35-28, win over Spencer Rattler and Pinnacle on Friday in his first varsity start, throwing for 240 yards and five touchdowns.

Chandler running back Drake Anderson was a big part of that potent offense, running for 106 yards. But he also added 95 yards through the air and caught four touchdowns.

This game will be big for both teams, it will give them a good idea of where they lie within the state.

As both teams recover from injuries and get better on the field, don’t expect these two teams to look quite the same in November. Last season, Mountain Pointe rolled over Chandler 52-7 in the regular season before falling to the Wolves in the state championship.

“We are looking for growth, were playing two nationally ranked teams, two weeks in a row,” Vaughan said. “This will only make us better, whether or not we can get over the hump and win these games, I don’t know. I mean we still have a chance to win, but they are really strong.”

Desert Vista vs Skyline

On the other side of Ahwatukee, the Desert Vista Thunder recovered from a season opening loss to Perry with a 29-19 win over Basha High School.

The Thunder did it with a sick quarterback who attacked a Basha defense for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

After the game, coach Daniel Hinds called quarterback Derek Kline a warrior after being able to lead his team to its first “W” this season.

The Thunder (1-1) looked like the team everyone has expected them to be, a potent offense with a highly touted, hard-hitting, defense. Now, it looks to carry that energy into the next matchup with Skyline (2-1) on Friday.

The Coyotes come off a big 41-3 victory over the Valley Vista Monsoon last week and will take to the road this Friday for the first time this season.

The Coyotes have been consistent on the ground this season with Aaron Wood and junior quarterback Steven Castle leading the way behind a big and strong offensive line.

Friday’s game will be a battle in the trenches as the offensive line of Skyline will face off with the three-headed monster of James Stagg, Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey.

While the Coyotes may look to stick to their run game, look for the Thunder to play into whatever the Skyline defense gives them, as they have several weapons that can affect games in big ways.

 It has been Hinds’s mindset from the beginning and so far, it has seemed to work for the Thunder after a disappointing week-one loss.

Now, they seem to be back on track.

“We know we have the chemistry and the ability to be a good team, but we didn’t show that on the field against Perry,” senior wide out Jake White said after their victory over Basha.

-Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com or by phone at 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

Mountain Pointe running back Gary Bragg, returning from an ACL injury that kept him out for most of the 2016 season, ran for three touchdowns Friday night against Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.   [Photo by Carmen Jollineau]

Mountain Pointe makes early statement in rout of O’Connor

By Eddie Poe, Tribune Contributor | Updated 

Mountain Pointe wasted no time showing why it is the No. 2-ranked high school football team in Arizona.

Gary Bragg and Delano Salgado ran through and around the defense of Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor with ease on Friday night, cruising to a 46-6 rout at Jack Dillard Stadium in their season opener.

“I’m really proud of the way we came out and played,” coach Norris Vaughan said. “We had a few dropped balls, a few miscues here and there but I thought we played really well.”It looked at first like No.2 Mountain Pointe was going to be faced with a challenge as they were forced to punt the ball away on their first two drives.

The challenge was short-lived as Bragg took a handoff from quarterback Nick Wallerstedt on the following drive, made two O’Connor defensive players miss, and sped down the left side of the field for a 47-yard run.

It later set up Wallerstedt for an 11-yard quarterback draw to score the first points of the game.From that point on, Mountain Pointe grasped hold of the flow of the game and never looked back.“It was good to be able to come out and control the game like we did and go at our own pace,” Braggs said, who finished the game with three rushing touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, the Pride defense mauled opposing quarterback Christian King to the tune of no first downs allowed in the first half.

One of the questions for Mountain Pointe coming into their season opener was whether their defense would present the same type of aggressiveness and force without their star defensive lineman, Matthew Palo-Mao, who was lost for the season to injury. “I wish we had him but we had a number of other guys behind him step up and really perform,” Vaughan said. “A guy goes down, other players step in and do their job. That’s all you can ask for.”

With a week off before their next game, Mountain Pointe will begin preparing for the national stage as they’ll travel to California on Aug. 31 to take on Chaminade High School. The following week, they’ll return home for a matchup with Chandler — a game that’s been marked on their calendar since last season’s state final loss. 

The reality of two early season games on a national stage is crucial for Mountain Pointe’s success in the long run.“[Those] games are definitely going to help us later on in the season,” Wallerstedt said. “We’ll see two of the better teams in the country and after that it’ll just be about treating every game like we’re playing [Chandler] or [Chaminade] because you never know what’s going to happen.” 

Although the preparation for those two matchups will be fairly similar to any other game, there’s no arguing the heightened importance of them. “We always want to play the best teams to start off the season,” Vaughan said. “We think [they] will help us tremendously for the rest of the season.”

“But, they’ll both be just like any other game.”

 

The 2017 high school football season is here.

Here are the top teams in each conference, as well as our preseason picks and our initial rankings.

Arizona high school football conference previews, rankings

, The Republic | azcentral.comPublished 2:01 p.m. MT Aug. 17, 2017

No. 1 Chandler

Among the top 10 in the country by USA TODAY.

No. 2 Phoenix Mountain Pointe

Big, physical, fast and determined to finish strong this time.

No. 3 Gilbert Perry

QB Brock Purdy bigger, stronger and back for more after leading historic season.

No. 4 Mesa Red Mountain 

Lance Lawson on strong defense will be a difference maker.

No. 5 Phoenix Desert Vista

Coach Dan Hinds’ best team since the 2011 champs.

No. 6 Chandler Hamilton

QB Tyler Shough leads a strong senior class.

No. 7 Phoenix Pinnacle

Junior QB Spencer Rattler’s time to stack wins.

No. 8 Mesa Desert Ridge

Eight sophomore starters, but they’re really good.

No. 9 Phoenix Horizon

Under the radar no more.

No. 10 Chandler Basha

Coach Rich Wellbrock is ready to wake the monster.

More: Arizona high school football 2017 schedule – Zero Week

Mountain Pointe wide receiver Kenny Churchwell makes a one-handed catch.  (Photo: Arizona Republic)

Kenny Churchwell, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 6-2, 185, Sr.

5 interceptions, 11 deflections in 2016.

American Family Insurance ALL-USA Arizona preseason football team 2017

, azcentral sportsPublished 5:09 p.m. MT Aug. 15, 2017 | Updated 4:53 p.m. MT Aug. 17, 2017

 

This is the 2017 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Arizona preseason football team.

Offense

Quarterback

Brock Purdy, Gilbert Perry, 6-1, 197, Sr.

All-Arizona last season, despite missing the first three games, and putting up 3,333 yards and 42 TDs passing and running for 842 yards and six scores.

Running back

Zidane Thomas, Peoria Centennial, 5-10, 205, Sr.

A 2,000-yard rusher last year, turned loose this week after having hardship approved by AIA.

Running back

Draycen Hall, Gilbert Higley, 5-8, 165, Sr.

Scored 40 TDs and had 3,908 all-purpose yards in 2016.

Center

Max Wilhite, Goodyear Desert Edge, 6-3, 300, Sr.

Fourth-year varsity starter.

Lineman

Matteo Mele, Tucson Salpointe Catholic, 6-6, 275, Sr.

Washington commit added 20 pounds since last season.

Lineman

David Watson, Tucson Amphitheater, 6-6, 300, Sr.

Committed to Arizona, where both of his parents played sport.

Lineman

Ralph Frias, Safford, 6-7, 320, Sr.

Started at left tackle since freshman year.

Lineman

Joey Ramos, Glendale Deer Valley, 6-4, 290, Sr.

Rated No. 1 offensive lineman in Arizona for 2017 season by azcentral sports.

Tight end

James Stagg, Phoenix Desert Vista, 6-4, 241, Sr.

Will remind people of former Desert Vista standout Zach Miller.

Wide receiver

Solomon Enis, Phoenix North Canyon, 6-4, 190, Sr.

Has ASU, UA in his final seven. 

Wide receiver

Gunner Romney, Chandler, 6-3, 200, Sr.

BYU commit had 70 catches for 1,309 yards, nine TDs last season.

All purpose

Lance Lawson, Mesa Red Mountain, 5-9, 185, Sr.

All-Arizona last year, he is a game changer on both sides of the ball, will be go-to guy on offense.

Defense

Tackle

Chris Manoa, Chandler, 6-0, 300, Sr.

41 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 QB hurries on 6A title team

Tackle

Kai Golden, Marana Mountain View, 6-2, 295, Sr.

40 tackles, 9 for losses in 2016

End

Aaron Romero, Mesa Skyline, 6-3, 245, Sr.

Ready to emerge on the scene as a pass rusher

End

Ty Robinson, Gilbert Higley, 6-5, 255, Jr.

With Jason Harris out, watch for this guy to blow it up in the backfield.

Linebacker

Calib McRae, Marana Mountain View, 6-1, 227, Jr.

39 tackles, 2 sacks in 4 games before injury last season.

Linebacker

Brayden Flynn, Chandler, 6-3, 220, Sr.

Transfer from Hamilton, had 14.5 sacks last year.

Linebacker

Giovanni Miranda, Scottsdale Saguaro, 6-4, 205, Sr.

Game changer on both sides of ball.

Back

Dom Hampton, Peoria Centennial, 6-2, 185, Sr.

30 solo tackles, 2 forced fumbles last year.

Back

Kenny Churchwell, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 6-2, 185, Sr.

5 interceptions, 11 deflections in 2016.

Back

Josiah Bradley, Saguaro, 6-1, 194

Fast, athletic safety had 3 interceptions, 8 deflections during 4A title season.

Back

Donjae Logan, Mesa Desert Ridge, 5-11, 170, Sr.

Stanford commit had 33 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 deflections in 2016.

Special teams

Kicker

Brayden Narveson, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, 6-0, 190, Sr.

Watch to emerge as team’s full-time kicker after he made a 51-yard field goal last season.

Punter

Carlos Ritchie, Laveen Cesar Chavez, 6-1, 175, Sr.

Good all-around athlete who averaged 43 yards a punt last season with seven inside the 20-yard line.

Long snapper

Slater Zellers, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, 6-1, 220, Sr.

The No.1-ranked long snapper in the nation by Kohl’s, he has committed to California.

Kick returner

Aiden Diggs, Goodyear Millennium, 6-0, 170, Sr.

He was second in the nation in average kickoff return yardage last season with 44.7 in 15 attempts.

Punt returner

Keishaud White, Phoenix Desert Vista, 5-6, 160, Sr.

Two years ago, the only two punts he returned went for touchdowns.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.

Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer
“If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to get back to the state championship game, there’s no question,” Vaughn said.

Hut, hut! Pride, Thunder ready for the 2017 season

  • By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  

Ahwatukee always has at least one successful high school football team. But in 2017, the community will have two teams with the talent to make a run for a state championship.

Last year ended the same way for both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools – with losses to Chandler High in the Class 6A State Tournament. Desert Vista was knocked out in the quarterfinals, while Mountain Pointe made a run to the state championship game.

The Pride finished the season ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and had beaten Chandler High earlier in the fall by 45 points.

On its run to the championship and throughout the season, however, the Pride suffered numerous injuries. In its semifinal victory over Red Mountain High the team lost at least four starters.

This season, the Pride will return with another strong defense featuring defensive backs Kenny Churchwell and Delano Salgado, who combined for 93 tackles and six interceptions.

But injuries already have impacted the 2017 Pride.

The defensive line will be missing Matthew Pola-Mao, who will miss the season due to injury, head coach Norris Vaughn said.

Nevertheless, Vaughn said he likes his team’s chances if his players can avoid more major injuries.

“If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to get back to the state championship game, there’s no question,” Vaughn said.

Desert Vista is also feeling confident about its chances on the gridiron.

“I feel like teams are going to have to try and win by their defense,” leading tackler Larry Davis said. “They gotta win by not letting our offense score because I don’t think a lot of people are going to score. Our defense is pretty stacked.”

For Mountain Pointe, look for Jacob Olsen and Shomari Hayes to fill the void left by the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Pola-mao.

Olsen led the team in sacks in 2016 with six and made 87 tackles as well. Hayes was another big piece of the Prides hard-hitting defense last season, racking up 74 tackles, 11.5 of them being for a loss.

The Pride will have a stout defense in 2017, but they will also have another solid offense.

Tailback Gary Bragg returns from an ACL injury that ended his junior season after rushing for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. They will also return quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, who filled in for injured Noah Grover last season, throwing for 558 yards and four touchdowns.

Salgado will also have a significant role in the offense for the Pride. The senior tailback rushed for 730 yards and six touchdowns last season.

After a 7-5 season, the Desert Vista Thunder are looking to return strong in 2017 with a potent offense and an even stronger defense.

They finished their run in 2016 with a devastating 62-7 loss against eventual state champion Chandler High in the quarterfinals, after finishing the regular season ranked 10th in Class 6A.

Although Desert Vista graduated starting QB Nick Thomas and leading rusher Lelon Dillard, the Thunder still have several returning players who will have a larger role in 2017.

With Nevada transplant quarterback Derek Kline under center, the Thunder will boast an offense with plenty of weapons, both in the backfield and on the outside.

James Stagg and Keishaud White both return to the offense after combining for nine touchdowns and 750-plus receiving yards last season.

Defensively, head coach Daniel Hinds said, the Thunder is returning its entire secondary as well as Davis, who made 93 tackles last season and racked up 6.5 sacks as well.

Caleb Humphrey and Stagg also return to a defense that could be dangerous throughout the season.

Of course, a highlight of the season will come Sept. 28, when Desert Vista hosts its crosstown rival in the Tukee Bowl.

Last year’s Tukee Bowl saw seniors on both sides scoring all 43 points of a 27-16 Mountain Pointe win.

Rashie Hodge Jr. and Antwaun Woodberry combined for three touchdowns on the ground while Noah Grover found Isaiah Pola-mao through the air for the only passing touchdown of the game.

For Desert Vista, Lelon Dillard found the end zone on the ground and senior kicker Riley Erickson put two field goals and an extra point through the uprights.

Both Ahwatukee teams always provide exciting matchups for the bowl game.


“Everything about it, you have this community two schools in it, the kids know each other,” Hinds said. “It’s just fun to be a part of.”

 

 

Churchwell Ready To Be A Leader On “Angry” Pride

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.