Congratulations Kenny Churchwell for being invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl. Pictured with Coach Norris Vaughan.
Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer
Pride, Thunder look for comebacks this week
By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor |
For the first time since 2014, both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools are coming off losses in the same week after the Pride was stunned by Desert Ridge and the Thunder fell in double overtime to Highland.
The Thunder (5-3) will carry a two-game losing streak into Mesa, but will be met by a Desert Ridge (7-1) squad that is coming off arguably its biggest win of the season after beating Mountain Pointe 31-20.
Against Mountain Pointe, the Jaguars ran a two-quarterback system with sophomore Matthew Purnell and junior Cooper Schmidt that seemed to give the Pride defense fits all night long.
The two quarterbacks combined for 108 yards on the ground, including a 17-yard Cooper Schmidt touchdown run that gave the Jaguars the lead late in the game.
Schmidt has been more effective on the ground this season, rushing for 406 yards and six touchdowns compared to Purnell’s 99 rushing yards and one touchdown. But, Purnell has been more effective through the air, completing 70 percent of his passes compared to Schmidt’s 57 percent.
While the Thunder defense will have to keep an eye on both quarterbacks, it’ll also have to watch out for the Jaguars’ trio of running backs.
Lucas Wright, Tyrese Allen, and Deonce Elliot all have been strong out of the backfield, as each one has rushed for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Tyrese Allen leads the way with 567 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Thunder seniors Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey will play a major role on Friday in stopping their running game.
How the Desert Vista offense handles the Jaguars defense will be another key to this 6A Central Region matchup. The Desert Ridge defense picked off two passes late in the game and held their running to a minimum.
The Jaguars stacked the box and tried to hold Mountain Pointe’s run game to a minimum, but look for the Thunder to rely on senior quarterback Derek Kline.
The 6-foot-5 Nevada transplant has been huge for Desert Vista all season long, throwing for 1,377 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also been great using his legs to escape pressure and run when no one is open, tallying 305 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Friday night will be a battle at the line of scrimmage between two teams looking to solidify themselves in the playoff picture. And after two straight losses, Desert Vista will be looking to come out strong and catch the Jaguars off guard.
The two teams kick off at 7 p.m. at Desert Ridge High School.
Mountain Pointe vs Corona del Sol
The Pride (6-2) will look to bounce back from their first home loss since 2011 when it takes on the Corona del Sol Aztecs (1-7) on Friday.
Mountain Pointe should be able to bounce back as the Aztecs won’t provide much resistance on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve allowed 285 points this season and haven’t won since their matchup with La Joya Community on Aug. 25.
While the Aztecs don’t provide much of a defensive resistance, they do have a high-powered offense behind junior quarterback Ryan Helt, who has thrown for 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
He’s also thrown 13 interceptions in the process. The 6-foot-1 quarterback has thrown for at least 150 yards in each game and recently threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns against Gilbert.
His favorite target this year has been junior receiver Ricky Pearsall, a 6-foot-1 junior who has caught 61 passes for 1,030 yards and was a big part of Helt’s success against Gilbert, catching 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the pair of Aztecs, they will run into one of the best secondaries in the state.
The Pride secondary hasn’t allowed over 100 yards passing since their matchup with Desert Vista in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
It also has picked off 14 passes this season and deflected 55 more. Helt will run into one of the best all-around defenses he has faced this season, as the Pride boast a big defensive line led by senior Shomari Hayes along with their strong secondary.
After being somewhat silenced against Desert Ridge, look for the Mountain Pointe backfield to break out quickly against a defense that has allowed over 100 yards rushing in every game this season.
With two games left in the season, look for the Mountain Pointe Pride to get back on track before its final game of the season against Gilbert High on Oct. 27. Mountain Pointe and Corona del Sol kick off at 7 p.m. at Corona del Sol high school.
-Reach Sports Editor Greg Macafee at email@example.com. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee
By YurView –
Both Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe are on winning streaks entering Thursday’s contest. Jeremy Hathcock’s Desert Ridge has won four straight games, each of them by 20 points or more. On the other side, the Pride haven’t lost since a Week 2 tilt with California power Chaminade. They’ve won five straight, squeaking out the last two by 5 points and one point respectively.
Run Run Run
Both teams love to hand the ball to their backs. The Jaguars hand it to Tyrese Allen, and he’s racked up nearly 2000 yards over the last two seasons.
Mountain Pointe has a two-headed monster in the backfield, and Norris Vaughan’s Pride run for 267 yards per game. Senior Gary Bragg has almost 700 yards so far this season, while junior Jakim McKinney has a 200 yard, 4 touchdown game to his name this season. He’s the lightning to Bragg’s thunder.
Players to Watch
DB Don’Jae Logan – Desert Ridge
He’s the #4 rated defensive back in Arizona, which is saying something going against all those stud quarterbacks in the state. He’s headed to Stanford next season with his 3.7 GPA.
DT Shomari Hayes – Mountain Pointe
Picking up the slack for injured Mathew Pola-Mao, the #2 ranked 2019 prospect in Arizona, Hayes has received a Fresno State offer and has garnered a lot of interest from Pac-12 schools.
DB Kenny Churchwell – Mountain Pointe
He has Pac-12 interest as well, picking up offers from both Arizona State and Arizona among others. Watch for Mountain Pointe to get him the ball on offense also.
Desert Ridge takes on Mountain Pointe on Yurview Arizona and streaming live on Yurview.com at 7:00pm MST on Thursday October 12th.
Pride’s Delano Salgado, #3, streaks done the line on the way into the end zone to score Mountain Pointe’s first touchdown in the third quarter. [By Cheryl Haselhorst]
By Jacob Rosenfarb AFN Contributor
With the building’s namesake in attendance, Karl Keifer Stadium was brimming with anticipation and excitement Friday evening.
That excitement quickly turned to despair, as a trio of first quarter turnovers put the Mountain Pointe Pride in a hole most teams would not be able to overcome.
But most teams don’t have a player like Delano Salgado.
The senior running back was the most effective of the three backs Mountain Pointe utilized, as he scored the Pride’s first touchdown of the game on a 37 yard carry. He carried the Pride to victory as they defeated Highland high school 14-13 to improve to 6-1.
“He’s really important,” said starting quarterback Nick Wallerstedt. “We like to go to him when we’re down because he can pick us up. He can make a big play anytime.”
The first half of the contest was dominated by Highland, as they forced three first quarter turnovers and jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead. They stifled the vaunted Mountain Pointe running attack and moved methodically down the field. Highland likely would’ve escaped this game with a victory if not for their kicking, as Highland missed two field goals under 30 yards, one of which came in the game’s final five minutes.
Nevertheless, Mountain Pointe emerged victorious, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat for this year’s homecoming game. Fittingly, the homecoming game’s biggest player also happens to be the homecoming king.
“It’s so important to win on homecoming,” Salgado said as he sported a dashing sash and crown. “We haven’t lost on this field in I don’t know how long, so tonight was great.”
Credit is also due to the Mountain Pointe defense. After allowing a touchdown pass late in the first quarter, the Pride defense tightened up and epitomized the old football adage of bending but not breaking. The Highland offense would consistently move their way down the field, but when they reached the redzone, the defense tightened up. They forced field goals when Highland was looking for touchdowns, and that ultimately is what decided the game.
It was not the strongest start for Wallerstedt, who appeared rattled after an interception on one of his first throws of the evening. He proceeded to fumble snaps on two separate drives later in the first quarter as Mountain Pointe failed to mount any plays of semblance. Many coaches would’ve made a quarterback change or lost faith in their starter, but head coach Norris Vaughan did neither.
“I didn’t think it was his fault,” said Vaughn, referring to the two first quarter fumbles. “I just told him to keep playing and do what we do.”
Wallerstedt did recover from his rough start, as he remained poised in the pocket and managed the game well for the Pride. He was also incredibly effective running the ball, as he picked up multiple first downs with his legs. Overall, Wallerstedt provided the intensity and leadership Mountain Pride needed to emerge from this slugfest victorious.
“I told the team we’re not losing this game,” said a stoic Wallerstedt. “We stepped on the gas and we got angry. We needed to win this game.”
While it wasn’t pretty, Mountain Pointe escaped Friday night with a win and cemented their place atop the 6A central division standings.
Mountain Pointe’s Delano Salgado (3) breaks past Desert Vista’s Jacob Schamante (14) in the first half at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. on Sept 28, 2017. Patrick Breen/The Republic
By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor |
A week after the Pride hung on to the Tukee Bowl for another year, both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high school football teams return to Friday night games as they resume regional play.
Mountain Pointe (5-1 on the season, 1-0 in regional play) will host Highland (5-1, 1-0), which is coming off its first loss of the season against No. 1-ranked Perry. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The Hawks drew a bye this past week, meaning they have had almost two weeks to prepare for a Mountain Pointe team that sits at the No. 3 spot in the AZpreps365 power rankings, as of Monday.
Highland is led by first-year coach Brock Farrel, who has instilled a powerful running game and an even stronger defense in his team.
Before the matchup with Perry, where they fell 56-6, the Hawks hadn’t allowed more than 22 points in any game. After dealing with Brock Purdy and a high potent passing offense, the Hawks will now have the challenge of containing Mountain Pointe running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney.
The Pride pair has been almost unstoppable all season and head coach Norris Vaughan has proved his team’s ability to run the football, even after it appears to be stagnant for part of the game. Bragg has reached double-digit carries in every game this season and McKinney has done the same in every game but two.
The key to this game for the Pride will be the battle at the line of scrimmage. If the big offensive line of Mountain Pointe can provide the holes and running lanes that it has all season for McKinney and Bragg, look for the pair to have a big game at home Friday night.
But Mountain Pointe could run into a tough run defense from Highland, led by senior Tate Stevens, who has racked up a team-high 52 tackles this season. As a team, the Hawks have only allowed 200-plus rushing yards twice this season.
One of those games involved the loss to Perry, whose defense Purdy punished for 260 yards through the air and 120 on the ground.
If the Hawks bottle up the running back tandem of Bragg and McKinney, look for quarterback Nick Wallerstedt to have a big impact. He’s been effective with his feet this season, scrambling for 359 yards and four touchdowns.
The successful running game has opened opportunities for play action passes and quarterback draws for the junior, who at times has provided big plays in crucial moments.
Even if the Hawks can limit scoring opportunities for the Pride, they will have a tough time scoring against a defense that has allowed only 116 points all season.
The Pinnacle offense, led by Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler who threw for 302 yards against the Pride, scored 34 points, the highest total Mountain Pointe has allowed all season.
A strong defensive line, led by Shomari Hayes (5.5 sacks) and Kenneth Lofton (6.5 sacks), has wreaked havoc in backfields all season long and will have the challenge of stopping Highland running backs, Jacob Wood and Kohner Cullimore. The two have combined for 625 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Since Highland presents a strong running attack look for the Pride to stack the line of scrimmage Friday night and force Highland quarterback Kaleb Herbert to beat them through the air.
After throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Westview in a 45-16 rout, the 5-foot-11 junior has a total off 444 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on the season. Herbert will have a tough challenge, throwing into a secondary that has picked off at least one pass in every game this season and has deflected 45 more.
Desert Vista vs. Gilbert
The Thunder will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Desert Vista High School.
The Tigers (3-3) are coming off a loss to Desert Ridge in a game where the two teams combined for 115 points.
So far, the Tigers have been led by Plummer on the offensive side of the ball. He has thrown for 1,652 yards and 21 touchdowns while only being picked off only four times. All four interceptions have come in the past two games, against strong secondaries in Desert Ridge and Red Mountain.
The 6-foot-5 quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five receivers have over 200 yards this season and a sixth has 175 yards through six games.
Through those six games, though, senior wide receiver Dawson Tanner has been his favorite target, catching 24 passes for 467 yards and seven touchdowns. Corvan Otanez has been big for Plummer as well, using his 6-foot-3 frame to catch five touchdown passes this season.
While the Tigers have had success through the air, teams have beat them when they have pressured Plummer. In Gilbert’s 41-28 loss to Red Mountain, the Mountain Lions sacked Gilbert nine times, and forced him to throw two interceptions. Plummer still threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns, but had a completion rate of 46 percent.
With defensive standouts Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey, look for the Thunder to put pressure on Plummer and try to force him into a couple of mistakes early.
The Desert Vista defense has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, tallying 11 sacks and 23 tackles for loss this season. They also have forced quarterbacks into throwing five interceptions this season.
Offensively, quarterback Derek Kline has been a stud for the Thunder in 2017, passing for 1,153 yards and 12 touchdowns and adding 216 yards on the ground. He and his offensive line will face off with a Gilbert defense that has picked off six passes and tallied 13 sacks through six games.
The Tigers are led by strong safety Tyler Laganke and Otanez, who have 71 and 60 tackles a piece. Laganke has found his way into the backfield on multiple occasions, racking up four sacks and seven tackles for a loss.
Look for the Thunder to bring a balanced attack as it did against Mountain Pointe.
Mountain Pointe’s Gary Bragg runs past Desert Vista’s Colby Humphrey in the first half at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. on September 28, 2017. (Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic)
Mountain Pointe grinds out win over Desert Vista in Ahwatukee Bowl
With emotions playing a part in the Ahwatukee Bowl, Phoenix Mountain Pointe fumbled on the opening kickoff. It had a rash of penalties, including a personal foul that helped a Phoenix Desert Vista scoring drive.
But, in the end, visiting Mountain Pointe prevailed 21-16, behind stellar defense, quarterback Nick Wallerstedt’s ability to escape defenders, defensive lineman Shomari Hayes’ wreaking havoc in the backfield and another great rushing game by Jakim McKinney.
McKinney, coming off a 200-yard game, whisked away Desert Vista’s momentum with a 61-yard scoring run with 7:53 left to give the Pride a 21-10 lead.
Desert Vista (4-2) scored on the last play – a 60-yard strike from Derek Kline to sophomore Tyson Grubbs – to make it look closer.
It was the sixth consecutive season that second-ranked (6A) Mountain Pointe (5-1) beat Desert Vista. The last time Desert Vista beat Mountain Pointe was the 2011 season when it won the state championship.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said.
It was the sixth straight year Mountain Pointe beat its Ahwatukee rival in football
Junior RB Jakim McKinney, 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, ran for 154 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He had 200 yards and four TDs on 19 carries last week in a 58-34 win over Phoenix Pinnacle.
- Mountain Pointe senior defensive lineman Shomari Hayes, 6-2, 290, was in Desert Vista’s backfield much of the night, making life miserable for Kline. He had three sacks and slowed down Desert Vista’s run game.
- Wallerstedt, a junior quarterback, gave Mountain Pointe a 14-3 lead on a 15-yard scramble early in the second quarter. He was able to extend drives most of the night with his left, escaping trouble and finding the sideline after first-down runs.
- Bragg, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury, once again showed great burst. He gave Mountain Pointe a 7-3 lead with a 34-yard run after Desert Vista cashed in on Mountain Pointe’s fumble on a kickoff to start the game with Matt Lewis’ 42-yard field goal.
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan lauded the play of Desert Vista junior defensive tackle Brett Johnson, 6-3, 250, who was key to clogging the middle and slowing down Mountain Pointe’s power run game and making Wallerstedt really work for tough yardage.
- “Too many mistakes, too much emotion,” Vaughan said. “We didn’t play well, and they did.”
- “They were blitzing and I got some good blocks and I was able to break it,” McKinney on his long TD run.
Stat of the game
Desert Vista took the second-half kickoff and drove 87 yards on 13 plays, scoring on Travon Offutt’s 4-yard run that cut the score to 14-10. Kline completed three passes on the drive and was helped after an 11-yard run on a late hit by Mountain Pointe that gave the Thunder another 15 yards.
Desert Vista plays host to Gilbert next week, while Mountain Pointe plays host to Gilbert Highland.
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert. Watch the azcentral sports high school football show on the azcentral sports Facebook page, with a new episode live every Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Jakim McKinney breaks a run to the outside Thursday night against Desert Vista. [Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst]
By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor | 9/29/17
Led by another stellar running performance from running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney, the Mountain Pointe Pride took the overall lead in the annual Ahwatukee Bowl with a 21-16 lead over Desert Vista Thursday night at Desert Vista High School.
Just like they have all season long, the Pride pounded the football on the ground throughout the night. Although the Thunder defense kept Bragg and McKinney contained for most of the night, both broke off long touchdown runs.
Bragg’s lone touchdown of the night came on a 34-yard scamper at the 7:11 mark of the 1st quarter. The 5-10, 175 pound running back broke to the outside and sprinted up the sideline for Mountain Pointe’s first score of the ball game.
McKinney’s score with 7:53 left in the 4th quarter put the game away for the Pride. Like he had done multiple times throughout the ball game, he broke it to the outside, avoided a tackle or two and streaked down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown run.
“Coach Vaughan likes to keep pounding it and keep on doing it,” junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt said of the consistency of Mountain Pointe’s running game. “Because one play they are just going to give up and it’s going to be a big play.”
Wallerstedt was a big part of Mountain Pointe’s success Thursday night as well, scampering for a rushing touchdown of his own from 14-yards out to put the Pride up 14-3 in the 1st half. In the end, Wallerstedt he was just trying to pick up a few yards when he did not see anyone open downfield.
The only blemish for the junior quarterback came in the 2nd quarter, just 12 seconds before half. Their seemed to be a miscommunication between him and his wide receiver, and senior defensive back Austin Werbelow was all alone to come down with the ball.
Although the Pride got the last laugh, it was the Thunder who started off on the right foot. After the Thunder won the toss and deferred to the second half, the Pride chose to receive. Delano Salgado received the kickoff and took off up the left side of the field. But when he reached an open section of the field, the ball suddenly popped out and the Thunder recovered.
The Thunder ended the ensuing offensive drive with a 42-yard field goal from junior kicker Matt Lewis. But it would be the only points of the first half for the Thunder as a hyped-up Mountain Pointe defensive line, led by senior Shomari Hayes, found their way into the backfield plenty of times throughout the night.
“We came in here energized man, it’s fun playing them, the Tukee Bowl it’s always fun,” Hayes said. “I came in here energized up and anything I can do for the team I’ll do it, whether that means getting in the backfield every play or sitting on the bench, whatever it takes to help this team win.
Even after multiple three-and-outs throughout the first half, the Thunder offense never gave up. Coming out of the locker room to start the second half they put together their longest drive of the game.
Starting on the 15-yard line, the Thunder drove 85 yards for a score. The drive was led by Derek Kline, who completed a pass to Werbelow on 4th down to keep it alive. But, it was finished off by running back Travon Offut. The 5-foot- junior carried the ball the final three plays of the drive, before punching it into the end zone from four yards out.
“He ran hard tonight and these kids are getting better every week,” Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds said of Offut.
The Thunder added a touchdown as time expired when Derek Kline found a receiver from 60-yards out for the 21-16 final score of the 21st annual Ahwatukee Bowl.
The Pride improve to 5-1 on the season and will face Highland (5-1) on October 6. Desert Vista falls to 4-2 on the season, with both losses coming to teams in top three of the AZPreps365 power rankings, will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the No. 12-ranked Gilbert Tigers.
Do you have a human-interest or feature story idea? Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee email@example.com or by phone at 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee
By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor | Sep 27, 2017
Tukee Bowl: Some of the players to watch
Both the Pride and Thunder are loaded with talent. Here are a few to watch on the field Thursday.
• Nick Wallerstedt, quarterback
Everyone knows about Mountain Pointe’s running backs. Once the running game gets established, look for the junior QB to affect the game in a big way. He’s already run for 303 yards and three touchdowns this season and he has been effective through the air in 2017 as well, throwing for 520 yards and three touchdowns.
• Jakim McKinney, running back
Heading into this season, the back to watch in the Mountain Pointe backfield was Gary Bragg, who started off last year as one of the top backs in the state before tearing his ACL. Although he is still one of the top backs in the state, McKinney has put his mark on the Pride backfield. While Bragg has rushed for 445 yards and four touchdowns, McKinney has 518 yards and nine touchdowns, complementing Bragg perfectly.
• Shomari Hayes, defensive lineman
After the injury to Matthew Pola-Mao, fellow defensive lineman Shomari Hayes has emerged as a major weapon for the Pride. He leads the team in tackles and has recorded three sacks in five games this season. If Hayes can wreak havoc in the backfield Thursday, Kline and the Thunder run game could be in for a long night.
• Larry Davis, linebacker
Davis is the anchor for the Desert Vista defense. He led the Thunder in tackles as a junior and continued that success this season for a strong DV defense. With the strength of the Pride’s running game, Davis will be a big factor if the Thunder look to come out on top, and he will need to lead the charge at the line of scrimmage.
• Derek Kline, quarterback
Kline is a newcomer to the Tukee Bowl, but he could arguably be the biggest factor of whether the Thunder will come out on top. Since starting the season throwing two interceptions against Perry, he’s been exceptional. But, he’ll be going up against one of the best secondarys in the state, led by Delano Salgado and Kenny Churchwell.
• James Stagg, tight end
One of the more intriguing matchups of this year’s Tukee Bowl will be Kline vs. a strong Mountain Pointe secondary. This is where Stagg could play a big role for the Thunder. As a big-bodied tight end, the Naval Academy commit could must go up against a fast and strong secondary for Mountain Pointe.
Photo: Cheryl Hasehorst/AFN Contributor
By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor | Sep 27, 2017
It’s an annual event that draws close to 10,000 people, pits two of the best high school football teams in Arizona against each other and showcases some of the best talent in the state.
It’s the Ahwatukee Bowl.
This year’s game may be more difficult to predict than any in the past as both teams will take the field at Desert Vista high school Thursday night with records of 4-1. They both bring strong defenses and an ability to score the football in more ways than one.
Mountain Pointe has had a strong start to the season while it battled with crucial injuries early in the season.
Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney have become one of the best running back duos in the state, racking up 963 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has proved to be just as dangerous running the ball, rushing for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
The Pride scored 20-plus points in all five of their games and has allowed their defense to shine early this season. A strong secondary consisting of Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson and Marshawn Gibson have been lights out, picking off six passes and deflecting 24 more.
The defensive line has been just as strong. Shomari Hayes and Tyre Johnson have combined for 61 tackles and four sacks and junior Kenneth Lofton has also broken into the backfield for five sacks this season.
Altogether, the defense has allowed opposing teams to score a total of only 100 points this season, with 70 of those points coming in two games.
The Thunder has attacked its opponents in a different way from the Pride, but it has a strong approach on the defensive side of the ball that has kept most of their opponents quiet.
The team has only allowed their opponents to score 95 points, with 49 of them coming in their season-opening loss to a strong Perry squad that has since taken the 6A scene by storm.
Since that game, Desert Vista has been as strong as ever, recently pitching a shutout against Dobson High.
The defense has been led by senior linebacker Larry Davis, who has racked up a total of 47 tackles this season and has sacked the opposing quarterback four times this season.
Offensively, the Thunder has relied on new quarterback Derek Kline, who had thrown for 849 yards and nine touchdowns leading into a 42-0 win over Dobson last Friday.
Kline has shown his ability to spread the ball around to several of his weapons as four different receivers have 100-plus yards and five have found the end zone in 2017.
Heading into their matchup with Dobson, Kline had also led the Thunder in rushing with 150 yards and sophomore Tyson Grubbs has added 142 yards on the ground as well.
While the Thunder has been somewhat pass heavy, it has still been able to find the end zone on the ground as senior Keishaud White has scored three touchdowns on the ground.
The Thunder established an ability to adapt to whatever opposing defenses throw at them so far through 2017 and come Thursday its ability to do that will be more important than ever.
As both teams have established where their strengths lie, the 2017 Tukee Bowl will come down to a couple of different things.
How Kline fares against a strong Mountain Pointe secondary will be huge. If the 6-foot-5 gunslinger, who will experience his first Ahwatukee Bowl experience, can be affective and avoid turnovers, the Thunder could establish an early lead. Look for White and Navy commit James Stagg to play a big role in the passing game.
The Thunder may also try to establish a run game with a stable of backs in Grubbs, White, and Travon Offut, who is coming off a 15 carry 92-yard performance against Dobson. With the strong defensive play of the Mountain Pointe lineman, this may prove difficult for the Thunder.
Another key piece will be Mountain Pointe’s ability to establish the run game.
It hasn’t had a problem accomplishing that this year, which in turn has opened a lot of possibilities for the rest of the Pride offense. The main benefactor of that has been Wallerstedt, who has taken advantage of defenses keying on Bragg and McKinney with option runs and play action passes.
Keying in on the run game and forcing Mountain Pointe to beat them through the air could be a major factor for the Desert Vista defenders.
This is where Davis and Humphrey will be crucial for the home team as the Mountain Pointe run game has been devastating teams all season long.
Both teams are filled with loads of talent and many different players could emerge to fill a major role in one of the most highly anticipated rivalry games in Arizona.
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe will kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School.
-Do you have a human-interest or feature story idea? Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee
Tukee Bowl 2016: Defensive back Isaiah Pola-Mao #9 of Mountain Pointe takes down #84 of Desert Vista during the 20th annual Tukee Bowl on Friday, September 30, 2016. [Photo courtesey of Bill Hardiman, special to Tribune]
By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor |
Rivalries often develop between two teams or two individuals, but when two high school teams share the same community, it adds even more meaning to a game.
That’s how it has always been in Ahwatukee when Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools take to the field for the annual Tukee Bowl. The stands are full and you can feel the fans’ energy.
“It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s a big-game atmosphere, every year,” said Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds. “It’s a lot of people and there’s a lot of energy. You can feel it. I think the players, naturally get excited about that game.
“There aren’t too many rivalries around the state that are quite like this one and the reason I say that is because you have two high schools that are nestled back here in the Ahwatukee Foothills in a real tight-knit community and the kids all know each other, so it makes it really cool.”
Phoenix City Councilman and Ahwatukee representative Sal DiCiccio said he has attended most of the contests, including the first, and added that “it’s huge for the community.”
Even though the scores present a different story, the last two contests have been close, with Mountain Pointe coming out on top both times to even the overall bowl record to 10 apiece.
The Pride went on to finish with records of 12-1 and 13-1 and appeared in the state semi-finals and the state championship. The Thunder finished the 2014 and 2015 seasons with identical 7-5 records, falling to Chandler High in the state playoffs both years.
Hinds has been on the sidelines every year for the matchup between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe.
He remembers when the rivalry started. While the Thunder staff has stayed consistent, Mountain Pointe has gone through a couple of changes over the years. In the beginning, Hinds even had the opportunity to coach against an old friend.
“A rivalry is a rivalry, but when it first started for me, the guy I played for in high school, Karl Kiefer, was the head coach at Mountain Pointe,” Hinds said. “So, it made it real special, real neat and pretty fun.”
Players on both sides have personal connections with each other as well. Two of the best defensive players in this year’s matchup, Kenny Churchwell of Mountain Pointe, and Desert Vista’s Larry Davis, have been best friends for quite some time.
“Seeing them again for the last time on the same field together, that is going to be something special,” Davis said.
The competition between the two schools doesn’t just take place on the field, but off it as well.
For the past two years, both schools have used the week leading up to the game to fundraise for the Make-a-Wish foundation in a weeklong competition. They call it “Wish Week.”
“We know many are excited and looking forward to the game, so our student body started raising money for Make-a-Wish during the week of this game,” Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said. “I am proud of our students for wanting to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Added Desert Vista Principal Christine Barela: “Everyone enjoys winning, but the overall spirit and positive atmosphere it brings to the school the week of the game and game night is positively electrifying! It is so much fun.”
Outside of fundraising, the game also is a social event for both student bodies that is a must-see event.
Brandon Schmoll, a Desert Vista alumnus and a member of the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, said that if there was one football game you went to, it was the Tukee Bowl.
“Even if you’re not a student or a parent, but you like the feel of being close to the field watching a high-energy game and at the same time support your local school, it’s perfect,” Schmoll said.
The game equals some of the best rivalries in Arizona, like the “Battle for Arizona Avenue” between Chandler High and Hamilton. Hinds added that the rivalry reminded him of the old matchups between McClintock and Tempe high schools.
“This is very rare to have a rivalry like this. People think it happens all over but it’s not true,” DiCiccio said. “It’s been interesting to watch the power shift over the years. First, Desert Vista was strong, then Mountain Pointe and now they’re kind of even. That’s the great thing about this game – anything can happen.”
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School as they look to add another memorable game into the long history of the Ahwatukee Bowl.
-Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at email@example.com or 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee.