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Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Mountain Pointe again enters playoffs as top seed

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  Nov 2, 2017

For the third time in five years, head coach Norris Vaughan and the Mountain Pointe High School football team will enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed.

It may have come as a surprise to some, as Desert Ridge, the only in-state team that handed Mountain Pointe a loss this season, received the No. 2 seed. But, the Pride have proved themselves time and time again as one of the best teams in Arizona.

Junior kicker Ben Abercrombie drilled a 31-yard field goal as time expired to deliver another win for the Pride Friday and secure their 8-2 regular season record. Now, the Pride will look to No. 16-seed Cibola (5-5) on Friday at Karl Kiefer stadium.

The Raiders enter the 6A State Tournament high off a big 28-15 win over Tucson High Magnet School, capturing a piece of the 6A Southern Region and an automatic bid into the state playoffs.

As the Raiders were ranked at No. 21 in the final AZPreps365 rankings of the season, capturing the region championship knocked bubble teams like No. 15-ranked Desert Vista and No. 16-ranked Gilbert out of the playoff picture.

The Raiders, led by longtime head coach Lucky Arvizo, are riding a three-game winning streak heading into their first-round matchup. While the Raiders sport a record of 5-5, they have won four of those games on the road as they head to Ahwatukee on Friday  

Offensively for the Raiders, it has been a heavy dose of Jesse Escott all season long. The senior running back has carried the ball 194 times for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns.

But the 5-foot-7, 200-pound back has played in only seven games this season and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in every game. He has scored at least one touchdown in every game but one, a 28-25 loss to Valley Vista.

The Raiders are led by an Arvizo on the sideline and under center, as junior quarterback Ethan Arvizo holds the reins on the offensive side. He’s completed 104 passes for 1,488 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. He’s also only thrown five interceptions in 2017 and two of those came in a 41-0 blowout loss to Southwest EC at the beginning of the season.

The junior gunslinger has spread the ball around this season with 13 different Raiders catching passes, but nearly half of his completions have gone to Gabriel Ramirez. The junior receiver has caught 50 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017.

The only other Raider with over 200 yards receiving is sophomore Zeke Rios, who has caught 16 passes for 232 yards.

The Raiders’ three offensive weapons will run into one of the strongest defenses that they will have faced.

While Arvizo will have to throw into a secondary that has picked off 17 passes and deflected 69 more this season, Escott will run into a defensive line that limited Chandler running backs Drake Anderson and DeCarlos Brooks to 114 yards on Sept. 8.

Defensive linemen Shomari Hayes and Kenneth Lofton have combined for 15 sacks this season and were recently joined by junior lineman Matthew Pola-Mao, who returned from an injury Friday night to make his first appearance of the season.

In the secondary, Ramirez will have to find a way to deal Delano Salgado, Marshawn Gibson and Kenny Churchwell to have any impact on the game.

All season long the Pride have relied on their running back tandem of senior Gary Bragg and junior Jakim McKinney, who have combined for 1,858 yards and 22 touchdowns.

But recently, junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has solidified himself as a solid throwing quarterback, passing for a combined 276 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games.

The Mountain Pointe offense will run into a strong grouping of linebackers from Cibola. Senior Sebastian Torres leads the group, and the team, with 96 tackles in 2017 and is averaging 10.7 tackles per game. He’s also caused a fumble and recovered two more.

Along with Torres, junior Elijah Contreras and senior Jacob Mcghee have been big for the No. 16 seed. Contreras has tallied 89 tackles on the season, leads the Raiders in sacks, and has caused two fumbles.

Mcghee has only racked up 25 tackles on the season but has picked off two passes and has forced four fumbles. These three, along with defensive tackle Damian Magdaleno, will look to contain the Mountain Pointe offense and try to upset the No. 1 team in 6A.

If the Pride can stay disciplined on both sides of the ball and avoid major penalties – something the team didn’t do a lot in its season finale against Gilbert last Friday – look for the No. 1 seed to race into the second round and face the winner of No. 8 Highland vs. No. 9 Desert Mountain.

Mountain Pointe hosts this Friday’s playoff game at 7 p.m.

Around the rest of 6A, Desert Ridge will face off with No. 15-seed Westview. Chandler, Perry and Hamilton were given the three, four and five seeds and will match up with Mesa Mountain View, Boulder Creek and Skyline, respectively.

In 5A, the defending state champion Williams Field drew the No. 7-seed after upsetting previously undefeated Queen Creek on Friday. The Blackhawks will face-off with No. 10-seeded Chaparral.

The Firebirds handed the Blackhawks their last loss of the season on September 15. Since then, the defending state champions have snapped off five straight wins, including a 28-27 last-minute win over No. 14-seed Campo Verde.

In the 4A conference, the Higley Knights received the No. 3-seed and Seton Catholic received the No. 6 seed, which could set up another rematch of their season finale matchup from Friday, in the second round.

Marcos de Niza earned the No. 9 seed and a matchup with No. 8 Cactus Shadows.

While 6A, 5A and 4A conferences will play on Friday night, the 3A and 2A games will take place on Saturday.

In the 3A conference, Casteel will look to continue their undefeated season after receiving the No. 3 seed and a matchup with No. 14-seed Empire. No. 2-seeded American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek, which lost its only game of the season in week two against No. 1-seed Pusch Ridge, will face off with Ganado in the first round as they seem to be on a collision course with the Colts.

Finally, in the 2A conference, three East Valley teams remain and two of them will face off in the first round, as No. 7-seed Gilbert Christian will take on No. 10-seed Tempe Prep. The No. 11-seeded San Tan Foothills squad will have the opportunity to host a first-round game after capturing the 2A Metro East regional title with an overall record of 8-2. The Sabercats will host No. 6-seeded St. Johns on Saturday at 6 p.m.

 

Gilbert’s Aiden Halley, #54, makes a last effort to stop Pride’s Je’on Moss, #13, as he heads into the endzone for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter.  |  Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

Mountain Pointe squeaks by Gilbert

By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor  |  October 27, 2017

From the opening kickoff, it was the quintessential showing of fortitude from both teams.

As the clock ran out and teams shook hands, players from the winning side raised their helmets and yelled with excitement and satisfaction as they jumped in the air in unison. On the losing side, players shed tears while others simply hung their heads in defeat.

Led by JaKim McKinney’s 200-plus yard showing on the ground and Ben Abercrombie’s two field goals — including the 31-yard game winner as time expired — No. 2-ranked Mountain Pointe defeated No.17-ranked Gilbert on Friday night at Karl Kiefer Stadium, 33-30.

Purdue-commit Jack Plummer went aerial on the Mountain Pointe (8-2) defense all night long to the tune of four touchdown passes, but a steady running game led by McKinney, Delano Salgado and Je’on Moss proved to be too much in the end for Gilbert (4-6).

“We played one heck of a quarterback tonight,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “We had a tough time getting to him.”

Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, Plummer and the Tigers caught the Pride off guard.

On a flea flicker play, Plummer launched a pass downfield, connecting with Dawson Tanner for 47 yards and the first sign of movement for Gilbert. A few plays later, Plummer found Oscar Lopez in the back of the end zone for the Tigers’ first score of the game. A successful two-point conversion gave them an 8-7 lead with just under a minute remaining in the first quarter.

Wasting little time, Mountain Pointe fed McKinney for two quick first down gains and on the third play of the ensuing drive, Moss took it to the house.

Barreling over several Gilbert players and breaking a handful of tackles, Moss trucked through the Tigers’ defense for a 30-yard touchdown run to give Mountain Pointe a 13-8 lead.

No less than five minutes later, Salgado fielded a punt from Gilbert and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown. Except, the Pride were called for a holding penalty and the touchdown was swiftly called back.

All disappointment was thrown out the window on the ensuing play as Wallerstedt handed off to McKinney and the Gilbert defense could only watch in awe as the 5’7 running back turned on the jets and scampered the length of the field for an 83-yard touchdown run.

“We ran hard tonight,” Vaughan said.

From that point on until late in the third quarter, Mountain Pointe and Gilbert traded blows, eventually setting up a game tying drive in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 30-23 and following a forced Mountain Pointe punt by Gilbert, Plummer took the Tigers the length of the field for a game tying drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock.

After moving the chains and completing four consecutive passes, a costly defensive pass interference penalty committed by the Pride moved Gilbert into the red zone. One play later, Plummer found Drew Hudson on an out route from seven yards out to tie the game 30-30 with just over four minutes remaining.

Starting from its own 37-yard line, Mountain Pointe returned to the one thing it knew best. With the help of McKinney on the ground and a 17-yard pass to Marshawn Gibson, the Pride moved well within Abercrombie’s range.

With two seconds remaining, Abercrombie drilled it through the uprights from 31 yards out and the Mountain Pointe players rushed the field to greet their savior.

Rushing for well over 200 yards on the night, McKinney eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season. Kenneth Lofton recorded a sack of Plummer in the third quarter to finish the season with a team leading 8.5 sacks.

Unable to hide amongst the many positives, penalties haunted Mountain Pointe for the game’s entirety. A number of long plays were called back on costly penalties and in most other scenarios, would have been the nail in the coffin for the Pride.

Vaughan and Mountain Pride will look to drastically improve upon its mistakes as it now prepares for the 6A playoffs, beginning next week. 

     

    Quarterback Nick Wallerstedt of Mountain Pointe dives for yardage during the first half of the High School football game between Pinnacle and Mountain Pointe at Mountain Pointe High School on Friday, September 22, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Billy Hardiman/azcentral sports, Billy Hardiman/azcentral sports)

    Mountain Pointe football runs away with victory over Pinnacle

    , azcentral sportsPublished 10:06 p.m. MT Sept. 22, 2017

    Mountain Pointe defeated visiting Pinnacle 58-34 on Friday in a matchup of two formidable 6A opponents. 

    The Pride got on the board first by way of a 30-yard field goal off the foot of Ben Abercrombie. 

    Mountain Pointe later took a 10-0 lead on a 20-yard pass from Nick Wallerstedt to Delano Selgado. 

    However, on Pinnacle’s next possession, the Pioneers found the scoreboard with a 25-yard run by Amalec Juntunen. 

    Mountain Pointe took a two-score lead with a 1-yard rush by Jakim McKinney with two minutes left in the half, but Pinnacle quarterback Spencer Rattler connected with Kaleb Covington for an 18-yard score to make it 17-14 at the break. 

    The Pride opened the second half with a 17-play drive that spanned 9 minutes and ended in a 3-yard touchdown rush by Gary Bragg. 

    After a Pinnacle three-and-out, Mountain Pointe made it 31-14 at the end of three quarters. McKinney then scored two quick touchdowns to give the Pride a sizable lead in the fourth. 

    But Rattler wouldn’t go down without a fight. He hauled a 9-yard TD pass to Quinton Powell. After the Pioneers recovered an onside kick, Rattler found Covington to make it 44-34.

    However, the Pinnacle defense could not hold the Pride offense in the final minutes, as McKinney rushed for his fourth TD in the final minutes to put the game out of reach. 

    Standout performer

    Jakim McKinney scored four rushing touchdowns and rushed for 174 yards that aided a dominant second-half performance. 

    More standouts

    Gary Bragg (Mountain Pointe): The running back rushed for a game-high 160 yards in a balanced Pride running attack. 

    Kaleb Covington (Pinnacle): The versatile back caught two touchdowns out of the backfield. 

    Star watch

    Spencer Rattler (Pinnacle): The top-rated 2019 dual-threat quarterback in the country had a slow start to the game but recovered to keep his team in it. The Oklahoma commit also had a nifty 60-yard punt in the second quarter. 

    Stat of the game

    The Pride rushed for over 300 yards in the game. 

    Up next

    Both teams have Thursday matchups next week. Pinnacle will host Desert Mountain, while Mountain Pointe will travel to face Desert Vista. 

    Photo: Carlos Salcedo, azcentral sports

    By:  | September 9, 2017

    Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) takes down No. 10 Chandler (Ariz.) on the road

    Following a loss to national power Chaminade Prep (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Phoenix Mountain Pointe stunned top-ranked Chandler, 24-21, on its home turf Friday.

    MORE: How the Super 25 fared for Sep. 8-Sept. 9

    Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt got the game’s first score by way of a 3-yard keeper with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter. Two plays later, Jacob Olsen recovered a fumble by Chandler’s offense and returned it 12 yards to make it a two-score game.

    The Pride (2-1) kept the pressure on with a four-play, 83-yard drive punctuated by Jakim McKinney’s 2-yard plunge early in the second.

    Chandler (2-2) finally got a defensive stop midway through the second quarter and got on the board with a DeCarlos Brooks touchdown run with just over four minutes remaining in the half.

    Neither team scored in the third until Ben Abercrombie kicked a 16-yard field goal to make it 24-14 in favor of the Pride.

    However, on the next possession, Brooks scored on a 1-yard run to make it a three-point game. Mountain Pointe recovered the onside kick, but fumbled a few plays later and Chandler’s Avery Carrington recovered.

    With the ball and just two minutes left, the Chandler offense just couldn’t pull through and Mountain Pointe held on for the win.

    , azcentral sportsPublished 10:14 p.m. MT Sept. 8, 2017

    Mountain Pointe football upsets Chandler on the road

    Following a loss to national power Chaminade Prep (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Phoenix Mountain Pointe stunned top-ranked Chandler, 24-21, on its home turf Friday. 

    Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt got the game’s first score by way of a 3-yard keeper with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter. Two plays later, Jacob Olsen recovered a fumble by Chandler’s offense and returned it 12 yards to make it a two-score game. 

    The Pride (2-1) kept the pressure on with a four-play, 83-yard drive punctuated by Jakim McKinney’s 2-yard plunge early in the second. 

    Chandler (2-2) finally got a defensive stop midway through the second quarter and got on the board with a DeCarlos Brooks touchdown run with just over four minutes remaining in the half. 

    Neither team scored in the third until Ben Abercrombie kicked a 16-yard field goal to make it 24-14 in favor of the Pride. 

    However, on the next possession, Brooks scored on a 1-yard run to make it a three-point game. Mountain Pointe recovered the onside kick, but fumbled a few plays later and Chandler’s Avery Carrington recovered. 

    With the ball and just two minutes left, the Chandler offense just couldn’t pull through and Mountain Pointe held on for the win. 

    Standout performer

    Nick Wallerstedt took advantage of a sloppy Chandler contingent on Friday, grinding out 79 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. An effective running game behind him allowed the junior quarterback to pick his spots from the pocket – and he did not waste his opportunities. 

    More standouts

    Jacob Olsen (Mountain Pointe): Recovered and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter and recorded an important sack in the second half. 

    Jarick Caldwell (Chandler): In a relatively quiet night for the Wolves’ offense, Caldwell still impressed with six catches for 50 yards.

    Star watch

    Delano Selgado (Mountain Pointe): Although he didn’t reach the end zone, the speedy back was a productive playmaker for the Pride – finishing with 46 yards on 8 carries and a key interception on defense. 

    Jacob Conover and Gunner Romney (Chandler): The Wolves surely missed their standout quarterback-receiver duo on Friday night. Conover – who has offers from Alabama and Arizona, among others – is out with a shoulder sprain. The BYU commit Romney is nursing a knee injury. 

    Quote of the game

    After a hard-fought loss the previous week, Wallerstedt said his team deserved the win after all the hard work they put in during preparation for Friday’s game. 

    “It feels great,” Wallerstedt said. “We’ve been fighting all week, preparing as a team and staying focused. We deserve it.”

    Stat of the game

    As a team, Mountain Pointe rushed for an even 200 yards. 

    Up next

    Chandler will travel to face Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor next Friday, and Mountain Pointe will also take to the road for a bout with Mesa Mountain View.