Mountain Pointe sophomore running back Eli Sanders breaks away Friday in a 6A quarterfinal game at Chandler. The Pride’s season ended at 7-5 with the 49-21 loss.
Chandler High again is beginning to look unbeatable in the 6A high school football playoffs.
On Friday, Mountain Pointe, which had won four straight games, could not keep up with the Wolves and fell, 49-21, in the state quarterfinals at Chandler.
It was only the second time in six games that the two-time defending 6A state champion Wolves have been held under 50 points.
Here we go. It’s getting closer to the truth. Who will survive to hold up the gold ball at Sun Devil Stadium on Dec. 1?
Let’s break down the 6A state football quarterfinals with a prediction on each game.
On Tuesday, we’ll look at 5A, Wednesday will be 4A and Thursday is 3A, 2A and 1A.
No. 8 Phoenix Mountain Pointe (7-4) at No. 1 Chandler (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
This might be the only team on Chandler’s side of the bracket that really has a shot at slowing down the Wolves. But Pride coach Rich Wellbrock will see first-hand why it has been so difficult for anybody in Arizona to contain the Wolves. It starts with third-year varsity starting quarterback Jacob Conover. It ends with a solid defensive front and linebacking corps. If QB Nick Wallerstedt can crack through Chandler’s secondary, the Pride has a chance. RB Jakim McKinney will be needed at full strength. And the receivers are going to have to get open. Wallerstedt’s speed turning up field will have to be something the Wolves watch out for. He’s fast and tough. Chandler’s secondary will be challenged. But who is going to slow down Chandler’s game breakers on offense?
Prediction: Chandler 42, Mountain Pointe 31
Washington: “It was just a good team victory.” Eric Norwood, Special to azcsports
No. 5 Gilbert Highland (10-1) at No. 4 Peoria Liberty (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Highland’s only loss was to Mountain Pointe. Liberty’s only loss was to Pinnacle, a one-point heart-breaker. These are two of the better defensive teams in 6A. Liberty’s defense is led by DL Braxten Croteau and LB Ryan Puskas, both Cal commits. Croteau leads the Lions in sacks and Puskas leads them in tackles. Highland RB/SS Kohner Cullimore holds down a stingy defense and makes enough big plays on offense to open it up for the Hawks. Highland has been playing so well the last few weeks, that it’s going to take Liberty’s best game for four quarters to win.
Prediction: Highland 24, Liberty 20
No. 6 Gilbert Perry (9-2) at No. 3 Phoenix Desert Vista (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
This is a chance for the Thunder to show what it is made of. The team feels like it has been flying under the radar all season with the only loss coming against Highland, where Desert Vista lost top rusher Tyson Grubbs for the season with an injury. Colby Humphrey is coming off maybe his best game running the ball last week for the Thunder. Desert Vista will need to control the clock and not let junior QB Chubba Purdy take over the game for Perry with his legs. He has run for more than 150 yards in each of his last two games. Perry’s defense, led by safety Travis Calloway, took a big step in the right direction last week, forcing five Basha turnovers in a 38-21 win.
Prediction: Perry 33, Desert Vista 28
Chubba Purdy leads Perry’s high-powered offense against Basha in first round state playoff game.Richard Obert, azcentral sports
No. 10 Mesa Red Mountain (9-2) at No. 2 Phoenix Pinnacle (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Pinnacle has shown great fortitude, coming back from deficits against Liberty and last week against Mesa Desert Ridge in the second half to win. QB J.D. Johnson will have to be spot on, because Red Mountain’s defense is tough. It likes to blitz and put pressure on the quarterback. Shaq Daniels leads a strong shut-down secondary for the Lions, who withstood a late rally by Queen Creek last week to move on. But this will be the fastest team Red Mountain has seen with a next-man-up mentality on offense carrying the Pioneers.
Prediction: Pinnacle 31, Red Mountain 28
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at email@example.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.
No. 8 Mountain Pointe is the last in-state opponent to beat No. 1 Chandler. The two will meet on Friday at 7 p.m. in the 6A quarterfinals.
Mountain Pointe looks to continue its four-game streak when it visits top-seeded Chandler, which has won 10 in a row, at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Pride are coming alive at the right time, using an arsenal of offensive weapons and strong defense to blow out Brophy, 40-7, in the first round.
MP quarterback Nick Wallerstedt had a breakout performance, completing 8 of 13 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. The senior also rushed for 100 yards and four more scores.
As expected, the Wolves cruised to an opening-round rout of No. 16 Boulder Creek.
Chandler rolled up 562 yards in its 62-14 win, with senior quarterback Jacob Conover completing 12 of 17 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns.
This is the first meeting between these traditional powers since Sept. 8, 2017, when the Pride defeated the Wolves, 24-21, the last time Chandler fell to an in-state opponent.
Mountain Pointe enters the 6A playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a 6-4 record.
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.”
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
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.
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
MP – Dedrick 25 interception return (Abercrombie kick), 11:45.
Corona – Luscombe 22 run (Echerivel kick), 8:40.
MP – Sanders 48 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:42.
Corona – Bullard 9 pass from Helt (Echerivel kick), 0:43.
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.
MP – McKinney 19 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:29.
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
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.
Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 25 yards. Corona del Sol – Helt 20-42-2, 186.
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. |
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
DR – Hathcock 1 run (Edwards kick), 9:01.
DR – Wright 2 run (Edwards kick), 1:01.
High – Cullimore 46 run (McNamara kick), 4:20
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.
DR – Wright 1 run (kick failed), 5:51.
MP – Wallerstedt 16 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:50.
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
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).
Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 81 yards. Desert Ridge –Kolb 1-3-1, 4; Wright 1-2-0, 35.
Mountain Pointe – Davis 4-45, Barker 3-36. Desert Ridge – Butler 1-35, Lee 1-4.