Week 9 GAMEDAY! Mountain Pointe @ Desert Ridge Tonight, October 12th 7pm
Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds faces off against new Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock in the 22nd annual Ahwatukee Bowl.
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.”
Can’t make it to to the game Friday night? Stream it FREE here: Tukee Bowl 2018
Desert Vista vs. Mountain Pointe Football
10-5-18 at 7pm
Week 7 | TUKEE BOWL | Desert Vista @ Mountain Pointe | Friday, October 5th | 7:00 pm | “Blackout” |
No food, open containers or backpacks will be allowed into stadium. A “backpack check” will be available at the small gym for only $1.00.
$3.00 – High school students WITH a current school ID (Must show an actual current high school ID card)
$5.00 – High school students WITHOUT a current school ID
$3.00 – 1st – 8th grade students
$5.00 – Adults
$3.00 – Senior Citizens
Free – children Kindergarten and under
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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
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
Mtn Pt – McKinney 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:08
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
Mtn Pt – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 3:48
Mtn Pt – Washington 30 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:29
Mountain Pointe–McKinney 29-114, Sanders 16-85, Wallerstedt 12-119, Dickson 2-4. Highland – Cullimore 10-167, Huffman 3-38, Herbert 2-4.
Mountin Pointe – Wallerstedt 15-19-163. Highland – Herbert 9-13-89.
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.
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
Hamilton @ Mountain Pointe | September 14th | 7:00 pm
Mountain Pointe High’s LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson (left) says values instilled by his late mother helped him develop into an elite football player. The cornerback-receiver has offers from nine Division I schools, including Florida, Missouri and Nebraska. Mountain Pointe opens Aug. 24 at Pinnacle. Zach Alvira/Tribune Sports Editor
The road has been rugged for Mountain Pointe High’s LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson, yet he has persevered, just as someone special to him would have wanted.
Among the gut-kicks that life deals, his greatest disappointment is that his mother did not get to see him become one of the best defensive backs in the nation.
“My mom really instilled the motivation I have in myself,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “I really do work hard for her.”
Jacquel Pleasant lost her battle with Stage 4 kidney cancer in 2011.
LaCarea was just 11 years old.
“I heard my uncle on the phone say, ‘I have to go to the hospital to see if my sister has cancer,’” Pleasant-Johnson. “I was torn.”
When Pleasant-Johnson was a child, his mom would wake him early to go for a jog, always making him stay active as he got into athletics.
She always asked how he was doing when they sat down for dinner, offering words of wisdom during times of struggle.
Those memories have stuck with Pleasant-Johnson.
“She’s my protector, my provider. She’s always on my side,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. God gives the hardest battles to his strongest warriors.
“My mom played a big role in the person I am today.”
Pleasant-Johnson is a team captain and a vocal leader of the Pride defense on the field. Those around him say his personality brings out the best out in people off the field.
“He is always in a good mood,” new Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “He’s always got a big smile. He went through a lot when he was younger, but he always brings a light to every room he walks into.”
Wellbrock acknowledges that he didn’t know much about Pleasant-Johnson when he took over the program in February.
He had heard of a player getting attention from numerous college programs, but Pleasant-Johnson shocked Wellbrock with just how athletic he is.
“He’s got the DNA and is so long that he is able to get to places other athletes aren’t able to get to from a defensive back and receiver standpoint,” Wellbrock said. “His athleticism allows us to do some things on defense other teams I have had wouldn’t be able to do.”
Pleasant-Johnson, rangy at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, will cover some of the best receivers in the state. He’ll likely be busy when Mountain Pointe opens Aug.24 at Pinnacle, with Oklahoma-bound quarterback Spencer Rattler tossing the ball.
New Pride defensive coordinator Conrad Hamilton loves the flexibility that Pleasant-Johnson gives him.
“I’ve never had a corner with his size and length,” Hamilton said. “He’s really a receiver by nature but has upside with his ability to learn the different techniques on defense.”
Pleasant-Johnson was primarily a receiver coming into Mountain Pointe. Last season, he led the Pride with 27 catches for 436 yards and four touchdowns. This season, he plans to focus more on defense, but Wellbrock said that Pleasant-Johnson likely will still be in the mix on the other side of the ball, too.
“We want to make sure we have the right match ups in every game,” Wellbrock said. “One week, that might be LaCarea playing on another side of the ball and another week it could be someone else.”
Pleasant-Johnson’s ability to play on both sides has boosted his college recruitment. Rated as a three-star cornerback, he has offers from nine Division I programs, including Florida, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State.
Pleasant-Johnson has a top five but isn’t ready to announce it because he anticipates that more offers may come and his rating could improve as recruiters get more film of him.
The thought of playing college football is always there, but as he begins to navigate his senior season, he has two goals: Win a championship and make his mother proud.
“Not a lot of people can handle what I’ve been through,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “I am blessed. My mom really instilled the motivation I have in myself and I feel like since she passed the sky is the limit.”
This is the “island” position, where nobody wants to be left behind, watching wide receivers wheeling down the sideline for touchdowns.
These are azcentral sports’ top 10 cornerbacks for the 2018 Arizona high school football season.
No. 1 Kelee Ringo, Scottsdale Saguaro, 6-2, 192, Jr.
He has a five-star ranking is the No. 1-ranked cornerback in the nation in 247Sports composite. And to think he came to Saguaro from Washington state last summer, thinking he would just play receiver.
No. 2 Javin Wright, Chandler Hamilton, 6-3, 195, Sr.
Another long corner who can maneuver the field quickly and get in front of passes to break them up. He is bigger than his dad, Toby Wright, who ended up with a pretty good football career at cornerback coming out of Mesa Dobson, playing at Nebraska and in the NFL. This year, Toby will be coaching him as a position coach under head coach Mike Zdebski.
No. 3 Brandon Shivers, Saguaro, 6-1, 175, Sr.
He had major colleges all over him, before committing this summer to San Diego State. With Ringo and manning the corners, Saguaro’s secondary is off-the-charts talented.
No. 4 Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson,6-2, 180, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Sr.
He is a three-star with offers from the likes of Nebraska, Iowa State, Utah and Missouri. His speed sets him apart. He has the length, as well, to cover big receivers. A physical, quick corner who can change the game.
No. 5 Tashumbrae “Scooter” Brown Jr., 5-9, 180, Gilbert Williams Field, Sr.
He transferred in the spring from San Marcos, Texas, where he alternated from free safety to corner and had 85 tackles and two interceptions. His versatility in the a loaded secondary will make Williams Field tough to throw against.
No. 6 Kieran Clark, Peoria Centennial, 6-0, 185, Sr.
He became a hot recruiting prospect during track when he blazed his trails with fast times. He has the skill set to make himself a major player in Centennial’s plans to repeat as 5A state champs.
No. 7 David Eppinger, Chandler, 5-11, 180, Sr.
He transferred from Gilbert Perry, which finished second to Chandler last season in the 6A state playoffs. Eppinger started on varsity his first three years at Perry. It’s uncertain whether he will miss any of the season provided he has a hardship. But he could make a difference the second half of the season when the Wolves typically peak.
INSIDE TRACK: Top 10 linebackers for 2018 Arizona high school football
No. 8 Denzel Burke, Phoenix Brophy Prep, 5-11, 160, So.
He started on varsity as a freshman and had 25 tackles, an interceptions and two pass break-ups. He is a lot better now and will likely see a lot of time on offense at receiver.
No. 9 Shaq Daniels, Mesa Red Mountain, 6-0, 170, Sr.
He had 26 tackles and three interceptions last season. He will play another big role on a tough defense. He is quick with great ball skills and isn’t afraid to dig in and make the hit.
No. 10 Jaiden Hayes, Phoenix South Mountain, 5-10, 175, Sr.
Hayes is a leader on and off the field and will be counted on to play an even greater role after having a solid junior season with 64 tackles and an interception. He will probably see time at running back, so Hayes has worked hard to make this a special season.
Mountain Pointe High School football practices with new coach Rich Wellbrock on July 25, 2018. Nick Oza/azcentral sports
Rich Wellbrock keeps seeing Spencer Rattler.
In his first loss as Chandler Basha’s coach last season, Wellbrock watched the Phoenix Pinnacle quarterback carve up his defense with four touchdown passes.
When he saw Rattler with his Oklahoma visor this June at 7-on-7 passing tournaments, Wellbrock would joke with him.
“I told him, ‘I just can’t get away from you,’ ” Wellbrock said.
For better or worse, Wellbrock will see Rattler again on Aug. 24 when Phoenix Mountain Pointe begins its Wellbrock coaching era. Rattler is 0-3 in his varsity career leading the Pinnacle offense against the Pride.
Mountain Pointe is moving past the Norris Vaughan era, a tough transition for any coach.
Vaughan set the bar extremely high. Mountain Pointe reached no less than the 6A state semifinals in eight of Vaughan’s nine seasons as coach.
His 2013 team was the last Arizona team to beat national powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. It opened the season with a win at Bishop Gorman on national TV on its way to a 14-0 record and the school’s only state championship.
Wellbrock is an established coach (he won a state championship at Goodyear Desert Edge), and he brought with him one of the best defensive coordinators in the state in Conrad Hamilton, who served in that capacity for two of Scottsdale Chaparral’s state championships in the Charlie Ragle era.
“It’s still going to be punishing,” said senior cornerback Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson, who is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, has a long wingspan, off-the-charts athleticism and picked up eight college football offers in one week.
“Us losing Coach Vaughan, we didn’t lose nothing much. We’ve got a great head coach and defensive coach coming in. We come in with a lot of energy. We can run cover 1, 2, 3, 4. We’re going to execute. This is going to be a good season.”
Mountain Pointe will soon see how good it still is as it transitions from it’s greatest football era under Norris Vaughan. Richard Obert, azcentral sports
Wellbrock will lean heavily on a loaded, fast defense, especially up front where he has three guys who could dominate off the edge.
Mountain Pointe’s offense may have a faster tempo than it did under Vaughan and should remain electric.
But who will lead it?
Wellbrock has two good quarterback options – the veteran Nick Wallerstedt and the ultra-athletic Ahmen Williams, who is ready to break out.
“Nick has done a phenomenal job, great kid,” Wellbrock said. “The other young man is a senior. They had even reps all summer. Now it’s ‘Who’s going to be the best leader?’
“I think both kids are tough kids and they’re going to want us to win football games. And that’s the biggest thing.”
A punishing, big-play run game and physical defense have always been the Pride’s strong suits, and this team should be no different with running back Jakim McKinney (5-foot-8, 175 pounds) fresh off leading the Pride last season with 1,334 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing.
Wallerstedt is back after passing for 1,567 yards and rushing for 711 yards and totaling 20 TDs.
Pleasant-Johnson had 10 pass breakups, leading a fast secondary.
Defensive end Kenneth Lofton (6-3, 220) had 12 sacks.
Ready to break out
Senior slot Jathan Washington (5-9, 155) has a gear seldom seen on the field. He carried the ball just 10 times last season but averaged more than nine yards a carry. He could be electrifying on bubble screens, getting him out in space.
Defensive end Anthony Dedrick and tight end Jerrick Dickson are monsters on a front line that will make it tough for offenses to get going.
Safety Jatu Gipson is about to emerge as a star in the secondary.
Junior wide receiver Dominique Davis (6-1, 165) is ready to make his name as a big-play threat.
Mountain Pointe opens Aug. 24 at Phoenix Pinnacle, where it will try to keep Rattler, the No. 1-ranked 2019 QB in the nation, from beating the Pride for the first time in his career.
“I feel like they really understand what is going on with us and team and they’re trying to make us get better and win state.” – RB Jakim McKinney.
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.