Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor
By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor | 10.27.17
With one week remaining in the regular season, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista come into their final week’s matchup at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Pride bounced backed from a loss to Desert Ridge with a blowout victory of Corona del Sol, and the Thunder fell to that same Desert Ridge squad last week for its third straight loss.
Both teams remain optimistic as the state playoff tournament approaches.
Mountain Pointe vs. Gilbert
In its final regular season matchup of the season, the Pride (7-2) will take on Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers (4-5).
Mountain Pointe has faced off with talented quarterbacks all season long, but mobile signal callers have given the team fits this season.
Although the result was a win, Spencer Rattler and the Pinnacle offense got to a talented Pride defense for 34 points.
Derek Kline and Desert Vista scored 16 in a hard-fought battle.
Desert Ridge tormented the Pride with an option run game.
Plummer has pummeled defenses all season long, throwing for 2,550 yards, 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions on just under 300 attempts.
Although Plummer looks like a pocket passer with a 6-foot-5 stature, he has a deceptive ability to run the ball as well, tallying 370 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season.
If the talented Pride defensive line can keep Plummer contained in the pocket, it should be able to pick up some easy stops in the backfield.
Look for Mountain Pointe’s secondary to take advantage of Plummer’s quick decisions as it has given opposing quarterbacks fits all season long, picking off 16 passes in the process.
The biggest threat through the air for the Tigers has been senior Dawson Tanner. The 5-foot-10 receiver has caught a team-high 48 passes for 795 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has been Plummer’s favorite target all season long.
Along with Tanner, Plummer has also spread the ball around to Domonick Amendolara and Drew Hudson, who both have over 300 yards receiving and have combined for six touchdowns.
Kenny Churchwell, Marshawn Gibson, Delano Salgado and company will present a formidable opposition for this trio of receivers, though.
Offensively, the game plan hasn’t really changed all season long for the Pride. Although the lead back has changed from game to game, Jakim McKinney, Gary Bragg and Delano Salgado have almost been unstoppable this year, averaging close to 260 yards per game.
When the rushing game has been stymied, quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has been more than comfortable using his legs in passing situations.
He is also coming into his own as a passer, throwing for a season-high three touchdowns against Corona del Sol on Friday, his first game this season with more than one passing touchdown.
The Mountain Pointe offense will be met by tough defense, however.
It is led by Tyler Laganke, Corvan Otanez and Kawai Lucio. Laganke has been the leader for the Tigers defense, leading the team in both tackles with 107 and sacks with six.
Otanez is second on the team in tackles with 91 but leads the team in interceptions. These two alone should provide plenty of resistance, especially with a berth in the state playoffs on the line for Gilbert.
The Pride play at home on Friday; the two teams kick off at 7 p.m.
Desert Vista vs Corona del Sol
This game is an absolute must-win for the Thunder as a loss to Corona del Sol, a team with only one win, could push Desert Vista out of the playoff picture.
After providing some resistance for part of the night against No. 2-ranked Desert Ridge, the Thunder head into Friday night with some confidence and a hope that some of their injured starters can make a return for the season finale.
Coach Daniel Hinds said he has been hit with injuries this year more than any other in his 16 years of coaching.
Without the presence of Jake Smith, Keishaud White and Navy commit James Stagg, who are three of the Thunder’s top four receivers, the Desert Vista offense has been somewhat stagnant.
The defense has stepped up in situations, but after a 35-7 loss to Desert Ridge, Hinds admitted they can only do that for so long.
Although their record doesn’t reflect it, the Thunder will be met by a high-powered offense from Corona del Sol led by junior quarterback Ryan Helt and junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall.
Just recently, Pearsall set a new single-game record for receiving yards when he caught 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns. In the same game, Helt threw for 510 yards total.
If the defense can hold Helt and Pearsall to a minimum, look for the Desert Vista offense to have a breakout game one week before state as the Aztecs defense has allowed 341 points this season and are currently on a seven-game losing streak.
Quarterback Derek Kline should be able to take on this struggling Corona del Sol defense and lead his Thunder into the state tournament. If the Thunder can creep in, don’t be surprised if they surprise a few teams in the playoffs when they return to full health, as they showed earlier this season.
Desert Vista hosts with kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday.