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Home   »  Pride in the News

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.”

, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018

Game of the Week: Top prospects in the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista game

, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018

This is a look at the top prospects football fans can see in the azcentral sports Week 8 Game of the Week.

Phoenix Desert Vista and Phoenix Mountain Pointe clash on Friday night at Mountain Pointe in the ‘Ahwatukee Bowl’. 

Mountain Pointe (3-3)

Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson, CB, 6-2, 180, Sr.

He has reduced his college list to Colorado, Florida and Utah. He has said that he will likely announce his college during the first day of the early signing period on Dec. 19. Pleasant-Johnson will have to watch the edges against Desert Vista, which likes to employ a power run game.

VOTE: Top Performer ballot for Week 7

Anthony Dedrick, TE/DL, 6-4, 230, Sr.

He is on the edge of getting that break-through Power 5 offer. His current offers are from New Mexico State, San Diego State and South Dakota State. Versatile athlete who could play on either side of the ball.

STILL DECIDING: A look at the top uncommitted prospects

Jakim McKinney, RB, 5-8, 170, Sr.

Somebody needs to jump on this guy. His recruiting stock should be going up after what  he has been doing lately, with 768 yards and 10 TDs rushing in 10 games.

SCHEDULE: The list of this week’s football games

Dominique Davis, WR, 6-2, 168, Jr.

He has gotten himself on the major-college coaches’ radar after six strong games. He is averaging 23 yards on 31 catches with eight TDs.

Watch out for: Senior QB Nick Wallterstedt is committed to college baseball but he has recently made big strides. Nobody doubts his speed and his arm strength and accuracy have improved.

Desert Vista (5-1)

Brett Johnson, DT/DL, 6-4, 280, Sr.

Has committed to California but Arizona State still is pursuing him. Johnson’s strength, leverage, athleticism make him one of the more versatile and dynamic defensive linemen in Arizona.

TELL US: Nominate a Boys or Girls Athlete of the Week

Devon Grubbs, RB, 5-10, 170, Fr.

Only a freshman, but he looks like he could be the next great running back to come through Arizona. He was impressive in the loss to Gilbert Highland, breaking off big runs in the second half. He will only get bigger, stronger, faster. He is headed to Power 5 offers. He is averaging 15 yards on his first 13 varsity carries.

TELL US: Nominate an Academic All-Star of the Week

Tyson Grubbs, RB, 5-10, 182, Jr.

He injured his ankle while rushing for 135 yards and a TD against Highland two weeks ago and did not play last week. He has major-college potential, as well. If he can finish strong, he could have big-time Division I offers.

Watch out for: Junior wide receiver Elijah Ervin has the size (6-2, 180) and speed that college coaches like. On a run-oriented team, he leads the Thunder in receiving with 18 catches for 263 yards and four TDs.

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.

Mountain Pointe High handed Highland High its first loss of the season on Friday, Sept. 28 in Gilbert, Ariz.   

Mountain Pointe hands Highland first loss of season

The Highland Hawks came into Friday’s contest against Mountain Pointe favored with an undefeated record, while the Pride knew their playoff hopes were likely on the line.

Mountain Pointe’s offense came alive in the first half and held off a valiant comeback effort by Highland to defeat the Hawks, 48-27.

“Coming out of this game, the biggest thing I’m proud of offensively is that all season long when we got a penalty on a drive we didn’t continue to drive and score,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “It was real pleasing to see them fight through that adversity.”

The Pride got off to a fast start against Highland in the first half, as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt and running back Jakim Mckinney quickly found success against the Hawks’ defense.

Wallerstedt connected with senior tight end Jerrick Dickson early in the first quarter to give the Pride an early lead. Later in the first, senior running back Jakim Mckinney found his way to the end zone.

Wallerstedt and Mckinney would account for two more scores in the first half to push Mountain Pointe’s lead to 27-7 at halftime.

The senior quarterback shined for Mountain Pointe against a strong Highland defense, completing 15 of his 19 attempts for 163 yards and four touchdowns.

“He was special tonight,” Wellbrock said of Wallerstedt. “He did a little bit of everything. But he still has got a ways to get better.”

Facing a large deficit, Highland flipped a switch coming out of halftime, scoring two quick touchdowns – one of which a fumble — to narrow Mountain Pointe’s lead.

But the Pride answered.

Wallerstedt led Mountain Pointe on a long drive, eventually calling his own number from 10 yards out to once again make it a two-score game.

While Highland again scored to narrow the margin, Mountain Pointe answered, ending the Hawks’ hopes of an undefeated season.

Mountain Pointe’s defensive line played a vital role in the Pride’s upset victory, limiting Highland’s potent run-game.

“Their defensive line caused problems early,” Highland coach Brock Farrel said. “But really we only ran 17 offensive plays in the first half. Three of which were in the last two minutes when we did nothing. We just need to hang on to the ball.”

Highland (6-1) will look to bounce back next week as they travel to take on Corona del Sol (1-6).

As for Mountain Pointe (3-3), the win over talented Highland team is the type of confidence boost the Pride needed heading into the annual Ahwatukee Bowl next week against Desert Vista (5-1).

In his first year as head coach at Mountain Pointe, it will be the first time Wellbrock experiences one of best prep football rivalries in the Arizona. But he is prepared for what it has to offer. 

“We know what this rivalry is about and the kids will make sure we are on point next week,” Wellbrock said. “I guarantee you.”

Mountain Pointe 48, Highland 27

Mountain Pointe      20 7  7 14 – 48     

Highland                  7 0  20 0  – 27

First

Mtn Pt – Dickson 5 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 7:43

Mtn Pt – McKinney 7 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:01

Highland – Huffman 13 run (Mcnamara kick), 5:15

Mtn Pt – Dickson 10 pass from Wallerstedt (kick failed), 1:24

Second

Mtn Pt – McKinney 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:08

Third

Highland – Hester 15 pass from Herbert (Mcnamara kick), 7:58

Highland – Fumble recovery (Mcnamara kick), 7:51

Mtn Pt – Wallerstedt 10 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:54

Highland – Cullimore 64 run (kick failed), 1:43

Fourth

Mtn Pt – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 3:48

Mtn Pt – Washington 30 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:29

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe–McKinney 29-114, Sanders 16-85, Wallerstedt 12-119, Dickson 2-4. Highland – Cullimore 10-167, Huffman 3-38, Herbert 2-4.

Passing

Mountin Pointe – Wallerstedt 15-19-163. Highland – Herbert 9-13-89.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Dickson 2-13, Washington 6-93, Williams 1-4, Davis 4-53, Sanders 1-5, McKinney 1-12. Highland – Burdick 2-18, Crandell 4-25, Hester 1-13, Cullimore 1-8, Huffman 1-23.

Team Statistics 

                                 Mtn Pt           Highland

First Downs                  29                    8 

Rush Yards                 59-322          15-209

Comp-Att-Int             15-19-0          9-13-0

Pass Yards                  163                  89

Total Yards                 485                 298

Fumbles/Lost              1/1                 2/2

Penalties                   6-58                5-42

Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney prepares to squeeze through a hole and score to close the first half in Pride’s 48-27 win over Highland. (AzPreps365 photo).

Mountain Pointe deals Highland first loss

September 28, 2018 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Les Willsey
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock has been patient with his team as they grow together in year one of his tenure. Wellbrock has said severall times he believes Mountain Pointe will be a different team come October.

October arrives in two days and Wellbrock may be on to something. Mountain Pointe was impressive all night on offense with quarterback Nick Wallerstedt piloting five 80-yard scoring drives and accounting for five touchdowns as the Pride knocked Highland from the unbeaten ranks with a 48-27 victory at Highland.

Mountain Pointe, No. 12 this week in the 6A power rankings, evened its record at 3-3 and bounced back impressively from a tough 29-28 loss to Queen Creek a week ago. Highland (6-1), under second-year coach Brock Farrel, was No. 1 in the power-rankings this week. Highland is 14-5 with Farrel at the helm and three of the five losses are to Mountain Pointe.

Wallerstedt, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior, completed TD passes of 5, 10, 17 and 30 yards to four different receivers. He added a fifth TD on a 10-yard run with 3:54 left in the third quarter . That TD served to a potential huge rally by Highland in the thrid period that saw the Hawks shave a 27-7 halftime lead to 27-21.

“We were emotionally invested  this week,” Wellbrock said. “We played with more of a sense of urgency. Nick was special tonight. He did a little bit of everything.”

Wallerstedt rushed for 120 yards on 14 carries and completed 15 of 19 passes for 190 yards. In the first period he connected on 7 of 8 passes in a 20-point quarter. In the fourth period he was 5 for 5 as the Pride tacked on two scores to cut Highland’s comeback bid short. 

Mountain Pointe got its offense rolling early mixing the run and pass in the first quarter that saw the Pride bolt to a 14-0 lead. Wallerstedt tossed the first of his four TD passes for the first score to Eli Sanders. The pride stunned Highland for a the second TD 42 seconds after the first. A fumble set Mountain Pointe up at Highland’s 36 and three plays later senior running back Jakim McKinney tallied from 8 yards out.

Mountain Pointe’s rushing attack was more than just Wallerstedt. The Pride netted a tad more than 300 yards for the game. McKinney checked in with 126 yards on 34 carries and Sanders added 67 yards on 17 rushes.

Highland pulled within 14-7 as its offense cranked out a scoring drive on its second possession. Dayton Huffman did the honors with a 13-yard run. That was all for Highland’s offense in the first half as they went to intermission down by 20.

As dominant as Mountain Pointe was in the first half, running 45 plays to 16 for Highland and having the ball for 18 of 24 minutes. its 27-7 lead nearly vanished. The Hawks drove 69 yards to begin the second half with quarterback Kaleb Herbert completing five passes for 58 yards, including the score to tight end Kyle Hester.

Seven seconds later an untouched McKinney fumbled and the ball was snatched out of the air and returned 20 yards for a TD by Highland defensive eend Cooper Holman. The large Pride lead was a single TD now midway through the third period.

Wallerstedt followed up and marched Mountain Pointe 80 yards in four minutes for its only score of the third period. Wallerstedt rushed for 48 yards on the drive.

Kohner Culliimore had several long runs, including a 64-yard jaunt to paydirt that briefly closed the gap to a TD again as the third period ended. Cullimore carried eight times for 149 yards.

 

Mountain Pointe senior cornerback Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson (Photo: Carlos Salcedo/azcentral sports)

Mountain Pointe CB Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson focusing recruiting on 3 colleges

, Arizona RepublicPublished 1:27 p.m. MT Sept. 24, 2018

Phoenix Mountain Pointe senior cornerback Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson announced on social media the three colleges with whom he’ll focus his recruiting:

Utah. Florida. Colorado.

Johnson, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, wrote on a Twitter post, “Pressure coming my direction and I’ll never fold.”

View image on Twitter

Johnson commented on each of his three finalists to azcentral sports:

On Utah: “My opportunity to get on the field early and they have great business and communications programs.”

On Florida: “That’s DB-U. There’s nothing like playing in the SEC.”

On Colorado: “Colorado has had a great history for sending their DBs to the NFL. It’s a chance to play early there, as well.”

Johnson said the plan is to commit on the early Signing Day on Dec. 19 for seniors. That early signing period runs through Dec. 21.

The regular National Signing Day is Feb. 6. That signing period goes through April 1 for Division I colleges and Aug. 1 for Division II.

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.

Mountain Pointe receiver Dominique Davis hits his stride on a 72-yard scoring pass play Friday night in Ahwatukee. The Pride lost a lead in the final 50 seconds and fell to Queen Creek, 29-28.  

Queen Creek’s late touchdown dooms Mountain Pointe

Updated 

Mountain Pointe High’s mission to re-establish itself among the top football teams in 6A has hinged on finishing games. 

On Friday, against visiting Queen Creek, the Pride didn’t slam the door.

The Bulldogs orchestrated an 80-yard scoring drive in the closing 2 minutes to knock off the Pride, 29-28, in Ahwatukee.

“At the end of the day, when you play a good football team for 48 minutes you have to knock them out when you have the opportunity to knock them out,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “We knew we would have to play a good football game to win, but hats off to them.

“We need to get better.”    

Leading 28-23, Mountain Pointe had an opportunity deep in Queen Creek territory to clinch the victory.

But a holding penalty forced the Pride to punt, setting up Queen Creek quarterback Devin Larsen for the game-winning drive. 

With wide-receiver screens mixed with quarterback scrambles, the Bulldogs quickly drove down the field, capping it with a two-yard run by sophomore Trey Reynolds — his second TD of the night — with 50 seconds remaining. 

“As a kid I dreamed of those game-winning drives,” Larsen said. “Our line came up huge and it was an all-around team drive right there. Having (Reynolds) punch it in like that for us is amazing.”

Larsen struggled throughout the first half, completing just four of 10 passes  for 57 yards and a touchdown. Constant pressure from Mountain Pointe’s aggressive, blitzing defense had Larsen on the run, resulting in a loss of yards or short gains.

But the senior picked things up in the second half, finishing 14 of 25 for 191 yards. He also rushed for 42 yards.

“Devin proved his worth tonight,” Queen Creek coach Travis Schureman said. “He put it on his shoulder and made the plays when he needed to. I’m just happy our kids are going to get the recognition they deserve. I’m happy with where we are at.”

Mountain Pointe had one last chance in the closing 50 seconds, but senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt’s pass to junior wideout Dominique Davis was broken up downfield as time expired.

Wallerstedt and Davis had been a force throughout the game, connecting seven times for 144 yards and two touchdowns – one a 73-yarder that gave Mountain Pointe the lead in the third quarter.

Along with completing 14 of 19 pass attempts for 195 yards, Wallerstedt added 45 yards on the ground, the second-most for the Pride, behind senior running back Jakim McKinnney’ 100.  

At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, McKinney’s ability to stay low to the ground has made it difficult for opposing teams to bring him down all season. His strength coupled with his breakaway speed make him among the most dynamic backs in the state.

The Bulldogs’ defense never allowed McKinney to break free, though. Whether it was a shoelace tackle in the trenches or a safety coming up to make a play just beyond the line of scrimmage, Queen Creek’s defense always had multiple players swarming the ball to limit the Pride’s big-play ability.

“Our defense has been playing their butts off all year,” Schureman said. “It’s great to see all of those guys flying to the ball, and they’re going to hit you. Hats off to our coaches. They work these guys every week and they are well prepared.”

Queen Creek – which made the jump to 6A this season – improved to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in region play. It takes on Corona del Sol (1-5, 0-1) next week.

The rigorous schedule of the Pride (2-3, 0-1) continues with a visit to Highland (6-0, 1-0) in Gilbert. 

“At the end of the day it’s all about details,” Wellbrock said. “We need to make sure we do the things that need to be done in order to play championship football.”

Queen Creek 29, Mountain Pointe 28

Queen Creek             7  7  9  6  – 29

Mountain Pointe        7  7 14  0 – 28

First

MP – Nitura 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 5:59.

QC – Reynolds 36 run (Kaupe kick), 2:57.

Second

QC – Dobbs 31 pass from Larsen (Kaupe kick), 7:30.

MP – Davis 12 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), :43.

Third

QC – Larsen 1 run, 10:16

MP – Davis 73 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 9:54.

MP – McKinney 2 run (Abercrombie kick), 5:12.

QC – FG, Kaupe 22, :48.

Fourth

QC – Reynolds 2 run, :50.

Team statistics

                              Queen Creek                Mountain Pointe

First downs                  13                                     15

Rush-yards                25-146                             39-173

Comp-Att-Int             14-25-0                           14-19-2

Pass yard                    191                                   195

Total yards                  321                                   368

Fumbles-lost               2-1                                    1-1

Penalties                    6-45                                  5-42

Individual statistics

Rushing

Queen Creek – Borja 16-51, Larsen 4-42, Reynolds 2-38, Bond 1-8, Coleman 1-5,  Berry 1-2. Mountain Pointe – McKinney 28-100, Wallerstedt 7-45, Sanders 3-27,  Nitura 1-1.

Passing

Queen Creek – Larsen 14-25-0, 191 yards. Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 14-19-2, 195.

Receiving

Queen Creek – Aldecca 4-55, Prochazka 3-43, Dobbs 2-47, Borja 5-46. Mountain Pointe – Davis 7-140, Dickson 3-24, Sanders 2-13, Washington 1-20, Gomez 1-(-2). 

Mountain Pointe receiver Dominique Davis has studied, and in some cases idolized, greats who play his position since he was 7. It has paid off. The rangy and speedy junior is emerging as the Pride’s big-play threat with a 26.7-yard average and five touchdowns in four games.   

Mountain Pointe’s Double-D spells doom for Ds

Running pass routes at a park near his house since he was 7, Dominique Davis has been preparing himself.

To this day, the Mountain Pointe High junior receiver imagines himself as some of his favorite football players, particularly Houston Texans star DeAndre Hopkins.

Davis tries to emulate their production, but he knows his best chance to join their ranks is to run his own route.

He’s doing it. Davis, a 6-foot-2 junior, has burst upon the scene as the Pride’s big-play receiver, with 20 catches for 533 yards, five touchdowns and a whopping 26.7-yard average in the opening four games.

“From high school all the way to the pros, I love watching film of receivers,” Davis said. “I mimic them, really. If there’s moves I see, I’ll try to use them, but I really do want to be my own player.”

His production is even more eye popping given that he’s done it in an offense that focuses primarily on the rush.

Senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt lit up at the mention of his top target, whom he said makes his job much easier when a pass-play is called.

“I know he’s a mismatch one-on-one against just about any corner he goes up against. I can just put it up there anywhere near him and I have faith that he’s got it and going to run the right route,” Wallerstedt said.

Because the Pride are so efficient at running, with several talented running backs carrying the ball behind a stout offensive line, opposing defenses often bring additional players into the box. This leaves Davis and the other Mountain Pointe receivers one-on-one, in prime position to make big gains off play action.

In Sept. 14’s 55-20 victory over Hamilton, Davis took a screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown against a defense sucked in to halt the Pride’s run. Senior offensive lineman Alex Vogel said those plays are crucial to balancing the offense.

“That’s what we had last year with the power running offense, that guy who can get open on a long pass play for a touchdown to keep the defense off us a little bit and not just crashing the run all the time. So hopefully he can keep doing that,” Vogel said.

Paying attention to the “little details” on each practice and game snap, Davis will walk to the sideline after a drive to review shoulder and hand positioning, or just ask advice on how to tighten up his routes.

The coaches have taken notice. A constant voice in Davis’ ear is Pride coach Rich Wellbrock, one of his biggest supporters. Mountain Pointe’s staff regularly calls plays designed for Davis to simply streak down the sideline and grab the ball over defenders in jump balls.

Wellbrock said Davis has plenty of room to improve, though.

“He’s special, but we’ve got to get him to elite status,” Wellbrock said. “That’s being there and being that threat every play, to where defenses have to pay extra attention to what he’s doing.”

While the Pride offense boasts plenty of talented players, there aren’t that many that say much in the huddle or off the field.

Davis, hearing his coach implore the juniors to make their voices heard in the locker room, has taken a more-active role in pushing for improvement, not only in his own game, but also in those of teammates.

“I try to be a vocal leader, and I talk a lot off the field, encouraging guys and stuff like that,” Davis said. “But on the field, it’s really just trying to lead with how I play and prepare.

“I’m definitely getting better at that, though.”

Davis and the Pride will be tested Friday in a home contest against 4-1 Queen Creek. It will be both teams’ first 6A Central Section game

Mountain Pointe running back Jakim McKinney breaks away from Hamilton’s defense for a long touchdown run in high school football Friday night in Ahwatukee. McKinney and Eli Sanders did most of the damage as the Pride rushed for 416 yards in a 55-20 rout.  

Mountain Pointe rolls past Hamilton

With a short week of preparation and the memory of a bitter loss to the nation’s No. 15 team lingering, Mountain Pointe shook it off, unleashed its speedy rushing game and ran past Hamilton, 55-20, in high school football Friday night in Ahwatukee.

Mountain Pointe rolled to 416 rushing yards and 643 yards total offense against a program not far removed from its days as Arizona’s big-school dynasty.

But the Huskies were overmatched from the outset, as Pride running backs Jakim McKinney, a senior, and Eli Sanders, a sophomore, blasted through Hamilton’s front seven into the second level and raced away.

Meanwhile, the Pride’s blitzing, aggressive defense smothered Hamilton’s rushing game and consistently was in the face of Hamilton passers, making sacks or forcing hurried throws. Pride linebacker Rashion Hodge was a menace to the Huskies.

Last Saturday, the Pride was on the doorstep of upsetting 15th-ranked South Jordan (Utah) Bingham in Henderson, Nev., but inside the Bingham 5-yard line in the closing 2 minutes, Mountain Pointe’s fourth-down pass was deflected at the goal line.

There was no apparent hangover. Mountain Pointe struck quickly, manhandling the Huskies up front to open holes for McKinney and Sanders.

That, in turn, set up quarterback Nick Wallerstedt in the play-action and short passing game. The Pride also continued to take shots down the field and had receivers open deep most of the evening, but Wallerstedt overthrew several long balls.

The score reached 41-3 and the Pride threatened to put the game into running time before Hamilton regrouped and scored two late touchdowns, one of the drives set up by a recovered onside kick.

Mountain Pointe (2-2) plays host to Queen Creek (4-1), up this year to 6A, next Friday, while Hamilton (2-3) plays host to Dobson (1-4).

Mountain Pointe junior middle linebacker Rashion Hodge says help from a knowledgeable source – his brother, Rashie, who was one of the best in the state at the position two years ago – is helping him grow into the leader of a stingy Pride defense.   Zach Alvira/Tribune Staff

Pride linebacker Hodge emerging as playmaker on stingy defense

Mountain Pointe’s Rashion Hodge knew at a young age that he was destined to be a linebacker.

He heard stories about his father playing it at South Mountain High and he saw his older brother, Rashie, transform into one of the best linebackers in the state as a senior for the Pride in 2016.

Rashie went on to play for South Dakota State but has since transferred to Glendale Community College as a running back.

With his brother back in the Valley, Rashion uses Rashie as a resource for advice, and it seems to be working.

“I picked a lot up from my brother,” Rashion said. “He taught me how to work hard. He had to work his way up to where he was. He worked hard and made a name for himself on varsity.”

Now a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, it’s Rashion who is starting to make a name for himself.

Through the Pride’s first three games, Hodge leads the Pride with 23 tackles, including one for a loss and a safety against Mountain View.

Last Saturday, Hodge and the Pride took on national power South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, ranked 15th, in the Polynesian Classic in Henderson, Nevada. Despite the 21-14 loss, Hodge registered 11 tackles.

It’s not easy for a junior to take control of an experienced defense.

“He is becoming a leader in the right way and that’s what we look forward to,” Mountain Pointe linebackers coach Brandon Whitener said. “He is already barking at guys if they line up in the wrong spot. That’s a good thing because he knows what is going on around him and will help him play even faster.”

Hodge has speed and range. His ability to run from sideline to sideline and maintain his balance while making a hit are traits that have jumped out to Whitener and the rest of the coaching staff in their first season at Mountain Pointe.

Beyond that, it’s Hodge’s length. His long arms give him the ability to shed an opposing blocker and make a play.

“You look at him and without bending over he can almost scratch his knee caps,” Whitener said, laughing. “That’s a long kid, and being able to run and still move and work in space is impressive.”

It’s been a seamless transition for Hodge under new head coach Rich Wellbrock and his staff.

Along with Whitener, Hodge has learned the Pride’s new defense from coordinator Conrad Hamilton, who spent six years in the NFL as a defensive back.

From the style of coaching to the overall scheme, Hodge said he feels like there is a new vibe about the Mountain Pointe program, one that will lead to success.

“We have a different level of coaching now,” Hodge said. “There is more of a college feel here now. Coach Hamilton knows how colleges and pros work and we know that we need to listen to him because he has the experience.

“I’ve learned a lot from him and Coach Whitener, like breaking down in pass coverage and foot work.”

Only three games into his first varsity season, Hodge has yet to receive a Division 1 college offer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t schools interested. They’re waiting to see how Hodge pans out. Hodge said the Oregon State coaching staff, where former Pride players Timmy Hernandez and Wesley Payne play, has expressed interest.

Whitener, however, hopes Hodge remains under the radar for the duration of the season. He believes that would allow Hodge to further improve.

“As a first-year starter, it can put a lot of pressure on a kid to perform, especially coming after his brother, who had a lot of success at Mountain Pointe,” Whitener said. “Right now, I just want him to be his own guy and understand what he needs to do with this defense. I want him to carve out his own path as far as what his future is going to entail.”

Exactly what his path is remains to be seen, but with coaches in place who want him to succeed, as well as an older brother sharing advice from his time playing the same position, Hodge is on the path to becoming one of the best linebackers in the class of 2020 in Arizona.

Before that, he has another goal in mind.

“I’m just trying to execute and work hard,” Hodge said. “I want to be the hardest-working man on the field and get my team to the championship.”

This motley crew is a goofy bunch – just don’t get in its way. The Mountain Pointe offensive shoves foes around to opens holes for a relentless ground game. It also enjoys mirth with line coach Frantz Pierre-Louis – known among the players as “Coach Zoe.”   Zach Alvira/AFN Staff

Pride’s physical – and playful – offensive line getting the last laugh

Football games often are won in the trenches. An offensive line that is big and physical to open holes for runners and protect the quarterback is every coach’s dream.

Coach Rich Wellbrock and Mountain Pointe High believe that they have that this season.

Why wouldn’t they? Mountain Pointe seems to have that every season. Physical play by dominating lines has been their trademark as they marched to the state semifinals or beyond eight of the past nine seasons.

“They’re the cornerstone of this team,” Wellbrock said of his linemen. “You can always count on them to do the right thing on the field, at the school and in the community. It’s a great group to have around.”

In their first season directing the Pride, Wellbrock and his staff inherited starters all over the field, including the offensive line. Seniors Cole Cundary, Alex Vogel, Zach Quihuis and Eriq Williams lead the way up front. The unit also has talented juniors Will Haire, Steven Williams and Kaleb Whitethorne.

The group averages 6-feet, 275 pounds – near the average for prep football teams in Arizona. They believe it’s their work ethic that separates them.

Mountain Pointe’s line will be tested Saturday when it takes on South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, ranked 15th nationally in MaxPreps Xcellent 25, in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada, as part of the Touchdowns Against Cancer Games. Kickoff is 8 p.m. at Liberty High.

“It’s a position that doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s a group that comes out and does their job,” Wellbrock said of the line. “It’s hard to pinpoint anytime one of them does better than the other.”

Their daily work ethic is inspired by a position coach who has experience. Line coach Frantz Pierre-Louis – known among the players as “Coach Zoe” – is in his sixth year working at the varsity level. He was offensive coordinator and line coach at Phoenix Christian before joining the Chaparral staff in 2017.

The linemen say that the transition to the new coaching staff has been easy because Zoe has a similar coaching style to that of former coach Norris Vaughan and his staff.

“At least from our standpoint, they coach pretty much the same,” Quihuis said. “They teach us all the same types of technique. Coach Zoe may yell a little more but that would be about it.”

A strong bond with Zoe has been built in short order. Playful banter is common in the group.

“These guys are clowns,” Zoe said, laughing. “They speak their mind, they’re free spirits. I think we are the best unit on the team.”

From their time on the practice field to dinner afterward, Zoe says this tight-knit offensive line is among the most important units on the team.

Vocal leaders among the group have emerged, among them Quihuis. His leadership has stood out to teammates and coaches.

“Every day he does his job. He’s ready to go and he pulls everyone along with him,” Wellbrock said. “He pushes everyone to meet his level of intensity.”

That intensity fuels the success of the Pride’s offensive line during Quihuis’ two years as a starter.

Last season, Mountain Pointe had 5,495 yards of offense, most of it on the ground from running back Jakim McKinney, who has built a close bond with the line.

“They mean a lot to me,” McKinney said. “I do love them. We’ve been through a lot, especially in games and even outside of games. We all hang out and sometimes go to dinner. It’s a good connection for us.”

Mountain Pointe opened with a loss to Pinnacle, among the favorites to win the 6A state championship. The Pride rolled up 437 total yards and 34 points, totals that should be enough to win on most Fridays. They lost to the Pioneers by 22.

Zoe says there is always room for improvement.