Breaking down 6A football state quarterfinals with predictions - Breaking down 6A football state quarterfinals with predictions Richard... [ read more ]

No. 8 Mountain Pointe runs over No. 9 Brophy Prep - No. 8 Mountain Pointe cruised to convincing victory over No. 9 Brophy in... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe rolls past Aztecs - Mountain Pointe defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepts Corona del... [ read more ]

Mtn. Pointe scores 21 points in 5 minutes in comeback win over Desert Ridge - Dominic Davis of Mountain Pointe hauls in a reception during the... [ read more ]

Game of the Week: Top prospects in the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista game - Richard Obert, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018 Game of... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe hands Highland first loss of season - Mountain Pointe High handed Highland High its first loss of the season on... [ read more ]

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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.   

Pride’s Eli Sanders making most of opportunity on varsity

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.   

6A playoff preview: No. 9 Brophy at No. 8 Mountain Pointe

Updated 

Mountain Pointe

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.”

Brophy Prep

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

 

Watch the game live at or listen on radio with .

The football postseason here, and the GOW presented by is bringing you a 6A matchup. is back in the playoffs to face on Friday at 7 pm.

 

 

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.   

Big second half lifts Mountain Pointe to 10th straight winning season

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 

First

MP – Dedrick 25 interception return (Abercrombie kick), 11:45.

Corona – Luscombe 22 run (Echerivel kick), 8:40.

Second

MP – Sanders 48 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:42.

Corona – Bullard 9 pass from Helt (Echerivel kick), 0:43.

Third

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.

Fourth

MP – McKinney 19 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:29. 

 

Team Statistics

                                    MP          Corona

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 

Individual Statistics

Rushing

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.

Passing

Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 25 yards. Corona del Sol – Helt 20-42-2, 186.

Receiving

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.  |  

Mtn. Pointe scores 21 points in 5 minutes in comeback win over Desert Ridge

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

Second

DR – Hathcock 1 run (Edwards kick), 9:01.

DR – Wright 2 run (Edwards kick), 1:01.

High – Cullimore 46 run (McNamara kick), 4:20

Third

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.

Fourth

DR – Wright 1 run (kick failed), 5:51.

MP – Wallerstedt 16 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:50.

 

Team statistics

                       MP          DR

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

Individual statistics

Rushing

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).

Passing

Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 81 yards. Desert Ridge –Kolb 1-3-1, 4; Wright 1-2-0, 35.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Davis 4-45, Barker 3-36. Desert Ridge – Butler 1-35, Lee 1-4.

 

Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt attempts a rare pass Friday during the Pride’s 42-24 win at Chaparral. Wallerstedt did most of his damage with his feet, rushing for 105 yards, but his biggest play might have been his leaping one-handed grab of an errant punt snap that could have given the Firebirds great field position for a fourth-quarter comeback attempt.  

Pride unleash fierce running game in big win at Chaparral

Updated 

With its season hanging in the balance, Mountain Pointe turned to its running game and its defense to rally from a 10-0 deficit and wallop Chaparral, 42-24, in high school football Friday night in Scottsdale.

The Pride (4-4) couldn’t afford another setback and hope to sneak into the top eight and a first-round home game in the playoffs, yet they appeared listless and disinterested as they fell behind early.

Then, coach Rich Wellbrock, who had alternated running backs Jakim McKinney and Eli Sanders all season, sent them into the game together. Combined with the running of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, the trio kept the Firebirds’ defense guessing as they unleashed counter plays, sweeps and keepers.

McKinney rushed for 134 yards on 16 carries, Wallerstedt for 105 on 21 and Sanders was a carry away from the 100-yard club with 92 on 16 carries.

MP’s offensive line got a large push, and its receivers made key blocks to allow rushers to get outside the tackles and find space.

“Their defense blitzed a lot and we just had to take advantage of the gaps that they gave up. After the first couple of drives we got together and kind of figured it out,” senior lineman Alex Vogel said.

Among those relieved that they did was Sanders, a sophomore.

“We really needed this win,” Sanders said. “And a lot of our coaches came from Chaparral, so, it was kind of personal to us. We wanted to do it for them.”

Wallerstedt’s six-yard touchdown pass to senior Jathan Washington was his only completion of the second quarter and his last of the game. Wallerstedt would attempt only two more passes in the second half as the Pride kept the ball on the ground and kept the clock moving.

“It really helps us so we don’t get injured, and we all share the load,” Sanders said of the three-headed monster in the backfield. “I give a lot of the credit to the offensive line. They’re the best O-line in the state.”

While Wallerstedt was making plays with his feet rather than his arm, it was a play with his hand that might have saved both the game and the Pride’s season. In the fourth quarter with the Pride clinging to the lead, Wallerstedt, who doubles as the Pride’s punter, made a highlight-reel, leaping, one-handed catch of an errant snap deep in Chaparral territory and then got the punt away before the Chaparral punt rush could get to him. Had the ball gotten away from him, the game likely would have changed.

Once the Pride weathered Chaparral’s early barrage their defense dug in. The front seven kept pressure on Chaparral quarterback Jack Miller, often forcing him to hurry throws or throw on the run, and the secondary stuck to Firebirds’ receivers, knocking down balls downfield.

Miller, who has committed to play at Ohio State in 2020, had 235 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He had no choice but to throw because the Mountain Pointe defense all but shut down Chaparral’s rushing game.

Like Mountain Pointe, Chaparral was fighting for playoff seeding, and several times play became heated.

Near the end of the third quarter, McKinney burst through a gap on fourth-and-five for a first down and his helmet came off during the tackle. While at the bottom of the pile, Chaparral junior Ben Eddleblute kicked him in the head. McKinney did not suffer an injury, and even scored a touchdown to finish the drive, but Eddleblute was ejected.

Just minutes later, on the Pride’s next possession, Mountain Pointe had to do a punt over due to two sets of offsetting penalties. Both teams committed personal fouls during the kick and then both received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties afterward.

“It was a really chippy game,” Mountain Pointe junior Cameron Rasmussen said. “Even when we came out for warm-up kicks, there was already some talking going on.”

There were 22 accepted penalties – 11 by each team – and several more that were declined or offset.

In the fourth quarter, Chaparral continued trash-talking. Though Pride players certainly chirped on the sideline, Wellbrock got his team to focus on the game and not draw a foolish penalty that would give up field position.

“We were able to have conversations with all of our kids and tell them that obviously there’s a bigger picture than that personal battle they want to get into,” Wellbrock said.

Wellbrock said he was proud of the way his team finished. Mountain Pointe had lost three games in the closing two minutes by a single score. That is counterbalanced by quality wins over Highland and now Chaparral, both on the road, against a schedule that statistically is the toughest in 6A.

“We know we can’t end the season less than .500 now,” Vogel said. “We didn’t need to say it out loud, but everybody kind of got the vibe for tonight.”

Mountain Pointe visits Desert Ridge (3-5) in the far East Valley on Friday. Chaparral (5-3) visits Pinnacle (7-1).

Mountain Pointe 42, Chaparral 24

Mountain Pointe         0  14  7  21 – 42

Chaparral                     10  0  7   7 – 24

First

CHAP – Cervantes 32 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 8:37.

CHAP – FG, Christakos 49, 4:32.

Second

MP – Wallerstedt 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 9:03.

MP – Washington 6 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 0:41.

Third

CHAP – Norvell 10 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 6:57.

MP – McKinney 3 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:17.

Fourth

MP – Wallerstedt 10 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:13.

MP – McKinney 4 run (Abercrombie kick), 5:14.

CHAP – Norvell 24 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 3:52.

MP – Wallerstedt 3 run (Abercrombie kick), 0:59.

Individual statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe – McKinney 16-134, Wallerstedt 21-105, Sanders 16-92, Washington 1-4. Chaparral – Hubbard 18-37, Miller 1-9, Williams 1-0.

Passing

Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 4-12-1, 17 yards. Chaparral – Miller 16-39-1, 235.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Davis 2-9, Washington 1-6, Delco 1-1. Chaparral – Christakos 5-119, Norvell 4-57, Hubbard 4-18, Cervantes 1-32, Crawford 1-9.

Team Statistics

                                               MP                 Chaparral

First downs                             21                  15

Rush-yards                              53-335           20-46

Comp-app-int                          4-12-1            16-39-1

Pass yards                               17                   235

Total yards                              352                  281

Fumbles/lost                            0/0                  3/1

Penalties-yards                        11-87               11-93

Will it be baseball or football at the next level? Nick Wallerstedt has committed to a baseball offer from Arizona State. That could change, however, if the Mountain Pointe quarterback gets the right football offer.  |  

Pride QB Wallerstedt ready to play ball; what kind still iffy

Arizona State University has always held a special place in the heart of Mountain Pointe High quarterback Nick Wallerstedt.

Growing up he would attend games with his family. His father, Brett, often shared stories about his time suiting up for the Sun Devils as a linebacker from 1989-92.

So when the younger Wallerstedt received an offer to play Division I baseball for the school he grew up watching, making the commitment was easy.

“I knew I had my heart there,” Wallerstedt said. “It was exciting when I got the offer. I knew it would be my top choice.”

Wallerstedt became a force on the diamond for the Pride last season. As a junior, he batted .408 with 32 RBI and three home runs.

On the mound, he posted a 4.60 ERA, striking out 32 batters and limiting his opponent’s batting average to .287.

Wallerstedt plans to play outfield and pitch for the Sun Devils next season.

Maybe.

Despite his verbal commitment in baseball, his recruitment for football remains open. If the right opportunity comes, it could alter his plans regarding which sport he plays in college, and where.

“I would definitely have to take any offer I get into consideration,” Wallerstedt said. “If an ASU football offer comes around I would do both.”

Walking away from football would be difficult. He has passion for both sports.

While some would think about ending a football career after committing to another sport, Wallerstedt continues to embrace the physicality of the gridiron.

“There are a lot of times I will yell at him to slide,” Mountain Pointe offensive coordinator Ross Crow said. “I will say, ‘Nick! You’re a baseball player. You know how to slide!’ But he likes to get the extra yards for his team.

“It says a lot about his character and how much love he has for this program.”

Wallerstedt has become accustomed to his role as a physical quarterback, lowering his shoulder on scrambles and often delivering the blow or a stiff-arm to an opposing defender.

Through six games, Wallerstedt has carried the ball 61 times for 244 yards and two touchdowns, adding to an already lethal rushing attack led by senior Jakim McKinney.

Through the air, Wallerstedt has completed 74 of 119 pass attempts for 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns.

His leadership is the most impressive aspect about him, according to his coaches.

“He is as-advertised, the role-model type,” Crow said. “I have him in my class and he is a quiet kid who always gets his work done. At times he jokes with the guys and knows what buttons to push with everyone.

“Nick knows how to play the chess game on offense and put the pieces into place. That’s huge for us this year.”

The transition for Wallerstedt under Crow and new head coach Rich Wellbrock has been easy. Wallerstedt believes that the new offense allows him to expand his role.

Each play call gives him options. From handing off to McKinney to throwing a screen pass to junior wideout Dominique Davis, Wallerstedt said that his job this season has been easier thanks to the scheme and talent around him.

“It feels great knowing that we have a lot of starters that know what is going on,” Wallerstedt said. “I feel good under Coach Crow’s offense. It feels like a D-I offense and it’s widened my quarterback skills.”

Whether or not Wallerstedt will continue his run as a quarterback at the next level remains to be seen.

When asked about the upcoming baseball season for the Pride, Wallerstedt shakes off the question, saying that it’s “too early.”

His focus remains on football. He hopes to lead the Pride to the playoffs and a chance to play for a state title in December.

“I’m proud of him,” Crow said. “I want him to keep building on his leadership qualities. That will transfer to any sport he plays or whatever he does in the future.”

Desert Vista’s defensive line, including Thomas Jackson (55), who dropped 50 pounds during the off season, was a menace to Mountain Pointe all night long in the Ahwatukee Bowl on Friday. The Thunder ended a six-game skid in the series with a heart-stopping 28-27 win at Karl Kiefer Stadium.   

Desert Vista lets the Dawgs out in throttling Mountain Pointe’s offense

Up just a point in the waning seconds of the rivalry game at Mountain Pointe on Friday night, the Desert Vista “Dawg Pound” defensive line that had stood tall all night made the deciding play.

With the ball on Desert Vista’s side of the field and 11 seconds to play, Mountain Pointe senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt felt pressure – as he had all game – from the Thunder defensive line, and threw a hurried ball up-for-grabs that was intercepted in the end zone as time expired.

Thunder fans rushed the field as their team escaped with a 28-27 victory in the Ahwatukee Bowl.

The Thunder (6-1) forced three Pride turnovers, including two interceptions and a fumble, largely because of the push up front by the defensive line.

The Thunder defense took away Mountain Pointe’s two leading offensive weapons. Jakim McKinney, the Pride’s senior running back, who was averaging 110 rushing yards a game, carried twice for six yards. Dominic Davis, the Pride’s junior big-play receiver, who was averaging 111 yards a game and a whopping 21 yards a catch, caught five balls for 49 yards (9.8-yard average).

Desert Vista senior lineman Brett Johnson said he believed that the defensive front would have to play extremely well to win the game that Mountain Pointe had dominated with six straight wins and eight in nine years.

Johnson said that the defensive strategy the Thunder implemented worked to perfection.

“I usually play tackle, and I switched with our nose guard, and we played an odd front. That gave me the ability to push the center back as far as I could,” Johnson said. “We saw in film that they pull a lot, so we clogged up a lot of their pulls, and they had two guys on me most of the time, so that allowed space for the other guys to make plays.”

The Thunder defensive front, known as the “Dawg Pound,” caused pressure on nearly every snap, getting into the backfield quickly to hurry Wallerstedt’s passes and hit rushing attempts in the backfield.

Wallerstedt kept the Pride in the game with 205 passing yards (17-29-2) and 131 rushing yards on 12 carries, many of them designed runs.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to ever stop him, but we had to contain him, and our defensive line did that,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said.

The Thunder knew the Pride would try to pound the ball but Mountain Pointe’s backs had a rough go. Because the DV defensive front had the rush under control, the back seven made plays on the ball when it was thrown.

“Our game plan was that us as a defensive line had the running backs, and the secondary was responsible for the other stuff. So, we shut down those runners, and it made it hard for them to move the ball,” senior Tyler Roberts said.

Defensive line coach Derek Kennard, Jr., who nicknamed the line the “Dawg Pound,” said he was disappointed by the gashing Wallerstedt put on the Thunder’s defense with his legs, but was proud of the way his team stuck to the game plan.

“They’re getting better, but it’s nothing that I didn’t already foresee. I knew early on that this was going to be a great group,” Kennard said. “It’s my ninth year coaching, and I’ve had a lot of D-lines. This is a special one, with a lot of talent and depth throughout the whole line.”

With the game on the line in the Ahwatukee Bowl, Kennard said his “Dawg Pound” wanted to be responsible for deciding it. The takeaway for the unit is confidence that it can compete against any offensive line it faces the rest of the season.

“I told them that we’re built for this, we want the game on our back. We always do because I trust they’ll get it done,” Kennard said.

Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds faces off against new Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock in the 22nd annual Ahwatukee Bowl.  

Ahwatukee Bowl still touches soul of the entire community

For 22 years, Ahwatukee has come together for one night a year, albeit on opposite sides of a stadium, for what has become one of the best high school football rivalries in Arizona.

The annual battle between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, separated by just four miles, creates a friendly rivalry in the community, as well, in the game that has become known as the Ahwatukee Bowl.

“Anytime you have two schools right down the street from each other it adds to the intrigue of the game,” said David Hines, executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body of Arizona high school sports. “Especially in this day in age, this is one of the rivalries that is a very great game to be able to go see.”

The 22nd installment of the Ahwatukee Bowl between the Pride and Thunder is Friday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at Mountain Pointe’s Karl Kiefer Stadium. The game will be telecast live by YurView Arizona on Cox channels 4 and 1004, and then replayed immediately following the live telecast.

The Ahwatukee Bowl dates to 1997, the first year Desert Vista fielded a varsity football team. 

Having already established a tradition under legendary coach Karl Kiefer, Mountain Pointe was victorious in the first-ever meeting.

But Desert Vista, led by yet another legendary prep football coach, Jim Rattay, quickly found success of its own.

As of late, it’s been Mountain Pointe that has dominated the series. The Pride have defeated the Thunder in six straight games and eight of the past nine to regain the series lead, 11-10.

“People in the community will talk across the nail salon or when they enter restaurants and see the schools’ colors,” said Dr. Anna Battle, the chief leadership development officer at ASU Prep. “But ultimately, it reminds them why there was a purpose to live in the community in which they live. It has created a new energy within Ahwatukee. People get really excited about it.”

Before joining the staff at ASU Prep, Battle was an integral part of the rivalry. She was assistant principal and athletic director at Desert Vista for five years and then, after a four-year stint at Tempe High, she returned to DV as principal until 2014.

Battle has seen the rivalry grow to heights she couldn’t imagine back in 1997, especially given the success both programs have had since.

Desert Vista won its first state championship in 1998, just two years after the school opened. In 2011, under current coach Dan Hinds, the Thunder again won the state title.

Two years later, it was Mountain Pointe at the top of prep football in Arizona, as then-coach Norris Vaughan led the Pride to a perfect 14-0 record, the state title and No. 5 national ranking.

The successes of the programs fueled the quest for Ahwatukee bragging rights.

“It’s like two brothers going at it,” said Bruce Kipper, athletic director of the Tempe Union High School District. “It’s about school pride and not letting your brother get the best of you, so to speak.”

Having spent 20 years at Mountain Pointe in various positions, including the last 10 as principal before joining the district staff this year, Kipper often compares the Ahwatukee Bowl to one in his home town in northern Idaho. Kipper spent his high school career playing against a rival just across a river, drawing large crowds similar to the Ahwatukee Bowl.

“You have two large schools in a small community,” Kipper said. “This game draws out people in the community that don’t normally come to the games. They aren’t loyal to either school, but it’s the community aspect that interests them.”

Despite the dominance of Desert Vista in the early years and Mountain Pointe’s dominance in recent years, the intensity and interest in the game remains high across the state, perhaps even more so this season given what has transpired since the two schools last met.

For the first time since 2009, Mountain Pointe has a new coach. Rich Wellbrock was hired to take over for Vaughan in January. The transition for Pride players to the new staff and system has had its challenges, especially given a tough schedule to start the season.

The Pride enter Friday’s contest with Desert Vista at 3-3, but are coming off a dominating performance over previously unbeaten Highland.

Desert Vista is 5-1, its only loss coming against Highland two weeks ago. The Thunder have benefited from a lighter schedule to start the season, but have key victories over Carlsbad (Calif.) and Desert Ridge.

“Desert Vista has some dudes and Mountain Pointe has some dudes,” Kipper said. “I think this has potential to be one of the best games we have ever had in this rivalry.”

If there is one thing that has remained consistent throughout the rivalry, it’s that all expectations go out the window.

“Both programs during the rivalry at times have been very strong,” Battle said. “But with this game, it doesn’t matter what the record of each team is. They are coming to play.”