Game of the Week: Top prospects in the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista game - Richard Obert, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018 Game of... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe hands Highland first loss of season - Mountain Pointe High handed Highland High its first loss of the season on... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe deals Highland first loss - Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney prepares to squeeze through a hole... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe safety Kenny Churchwell feints toward ASU football, picks UCLA - Kenny Churchwell holds up four fingers as he sports a UCLA hat on Friday,... [ read more ]

Arizona Safety Kenny Churchwell is a Bruin - Arizona Safety Kenny Churchwell is a Bruin UCLA gets a commitment from... [ read more ]

Kenny Churchwell Commits To UCLA - Kenny Churchwell announced his commitment to UCLA on Friday morning. Kenny... [ read more ]

Will it be baseball or football at the next level? Nick Wallerstedt has committed to a baseball offer from Arizona State. That could change, however, if the Mountain Pointe quarterback gets the right football offer.  |  

Pride QB Wallerstedt ready to play ball; what kind still iffy

Arizona State University has always held a special place in the heart of Mountain Pointe High quarterback Nick Wallerstedt.

Growing up he would attend games with his family. His father, Brett, often shared stories about his time suiting up for the Sun Devils as a linebacker from 1989-92.

So when the younger Wallerstedt received an offer to play Division I baseball for the school he grew up watching, making the commitment was easy.

“I knew I had my heart there,” Wallerstedt said. “It was exciting when I got the offer. I knew it would be my top choice.”

Wallerstedt became a force on the diamond for the Pride last season. As a junior, he batted .408 with 32 RBI and three home runs.

On the mound, he posted a 4.60 ERA, striking out 32 batters and limiting his opponent’s batting average to .287.

Wallerstedt plans to play outfield and pitch for the Sun Devils next season.

Maybe.

Despite his verbal commitment in baseball, his recruitment for football remains open. If the right opportunity comes, it could alter his plans regarding which sport he plays in college, and where.

“I would definitely have to take any offer I get into consideration,” Wallerstedt said. “If an ASU football offer comes around I would do both.”

Walking away from football would be difficult. He has passion for both sports.

While some would think about ending a football career after committing to another sport, Wallerstedt continues to embrace the physicality of the gridiron.

“There are a lot of times I will yell at him to slide,” Mountain Pointe offensive coordinator Ross Crow said. “I will say, ‘Nick! You’re a baseball player. You know how to slide!’ But he likes to get the extra yards for his team.

“It says a lot about his character and how much love he has for this program.”

Wallerstedt has become accustomed to his role as a physical quarterback, lowering his shoulder on scrambles and often delivering the blow or a stiff-arm to an opposing defender.

Through six games, Wallerstedt has carried the ball 61 times for 244 yards and two touchdowns, adding to an already lethal rushing attack led by senior Jakim McKinney.

Through the air, Wallerstedt has completed 74 of 119 pass attempts for 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns.

His leadership is the most impressive aspect about him, according to his coaches.

“He is as-advertised, the role-model type,” Crow said. “I have him in my class and he is a quiet kid who always gets his work done. At times he jokes with the guys and knows what buttons to push with everyone.

“Nick knows how to play the chess game on offense and put the pieces into place. That’s huge for us this year.”

The transition for Wallerstedt under Crow and new head coach Rich Wellbrock has been easy. Wallerstedt believes that the new offense allows him to expand his role.

Each play call gives him options. From handing off to McKinney to throwing a screen pass to junior wideout Dominique Davis, Wallerstedt said that his job this season has been easier thanks to the scheme and talent around him.

“It feels great knowing that we have a lot of starters that know what is going on,” Wallerstedt said. “I feel good under Coach Crow’s offense. It feels like a D-I offense and it’s widened my quarterback skills.”

Whether or not Wallerstedt will continue his run as a quarterback at the next level remains to be seen.

When asked about the upcoming baseball season for the Pride, Wallerstedt shakes off the question, saying that it’s “too early.”

His focus remains on football. He hopes to lead the Pride to the playoffs and a chance to play for a state title in December.

“I’m proud of him,” Crow said. “I want him to keep building on his leadership qualities. That will transfer to any sport he plays or whatever he does in the future.”

, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018

Game of the Week: Top prospects in the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista game

, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018

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.

VOTE: Top Performer ballot for Week 7

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.

TELL US: Nominate a Boys or Girls Athlete of the Week

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.

TELL US: Nominate an Academic All-Star of the Week

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 richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.

Mountain Pointe receiver Dominique Davis has studied, and in some cases idolized, greats who play his position since he was 7. It has paid off. The rangy and speedy junior is emerging as the Pride’s big-play threat with a 26.7-yard average and five touchdowns in four games.   

Mountain Pointe’s Double-D spells doom for Ds

Running pass routes at a park near his house since he was 7, Dominique Davis has been preparing himself.

To this day, the Mountain Pointe High junior receiver imagines himself as some of his favorite football players, particularly Houston Texans star DeAndre Hopkins.

Davis tries to emulate their production, but he knows his best chance to join their ranks is to run his own route.

He’s doing it. Davis, a 6-foot-2 junior, has burst upon the scene as the Pride’s big-play receiver, with 20 catches for 533 yards, five touchdowns and a whopping 26.7-yard average in the opening four games.

“From high school all the way to the pros, I love watching film of receivers,” Davis said. “I mimic them, really. If there’s moves I see, I’ll try to use them, but I really do want to be my own player.”

His production is even more eye popping given that he’s done it in an offense that focuses primarily on the rush.

Senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt lit up at the mention of his top target, whom he said makes his job much easier when a pass-play is called.

“I know he’s a mismatch one-on-one against just about any corner he goes up against. I can just put it up there anywhere near him and I have faith that he’s got it and going to run the right route,” Wallerstedt said.

Because the Pride are so efficient at running, with several talented running backs carrying the ball behind a stout offensive line, opposing defenses often bring additional players into the box. This leaves Davis and the other Mountain Pointe receivers one-on-one, in prime position to make big gains off play action.

In Sept. 14’s 55-20 victory over Hamilton, Davis took a screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown against a defense sucked in to halt the Pride’s run. Senior offensive lineman Alex Vogel said those plays are crucial to balancing the offense.

“That’s what we had last year with the power running offense, that guy who can get open on a long pass play for a touchdown to keep the defense off us a little bit and not just crashing the run all the time. So hopefully he can keep doing that,” Vogel said.

Paying attention to the “little details” on each practice and game snap, Davis will walk to the sideline after a drive to review shoulder and hand positioning, or just ask advice on how to tighten up his routes.

The coaches have taken notice. A constant voice in Davis’ ear is Pride coach Rich Wellbrock, one of his biggest supporters. Mountain Pointe’s staff regularly calls plays designed for Davis to simply streak down the sideline and grab the ball over defenders in jump balls.

Wellbrock said Davis has plenty of room to improve, though.

“He’s special, but we’ve got to get him to elite status,” Wellbrock said. “That’s being there and being that threat every play, to where defenses have to pay extra attention to what he’s doing.”

While the Pride offense boasts plenty of talented players, there aren’t that many that say much in the huddle or off the field.

Davis, hearing his coach implore the juniors to make their voices heard in the locker room, has taken a more-active role in pushing for improvement, not only in his own game, but also in those of teammates.

“I try to be a vocal leader, and I talk a lot off the field, encouraging guys and stuff like that,” Davis said. “But on the field, it’s really just trying to lead with how I play and prepare.

“I’m definitely getting better at that, though.”

Davis and the Pride will be tested Friday in a home contest against 4-1 Queen Creek. It will be both teams’ first 6A Central Section game

Mountain Pointe High football coach Rich Wellbrock addresses his team after falling to No. 15 South Jordan (Utah) Bingham (Utah), 21-14, in the final minute on Saturday night in Henderson, Nev. The Pride had first and goal at the 5 in the final two minutes but were unable to score.  

Mtn. Pointe comes up short at goal line in Nevada vs. national power

HENDERSON, Nev. – Mountain Pointe’s late comeback attempt fell three yards short Saturday night against the No. 15 team in the country, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham.

Facing a fourth and goal at the 3 inside of 2 minutes left in the game, Pride quarterback Nick Wallerstedt’s pass to the right flat was deflected and the Miners (4-0) kneeled out the clock to hand the Pride (1-2) a 21-14 defeat.

“They had our receiver uncovered all the way until right before the snap, then he runs out there and was in a great position to take the slant away,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “It’s football. And things like that happen.”

Four plays prior, Wallerstedt found Ahmen Williams for a 31-yard gain to the 5 on a fourth-and-22 play. Three consecutive runs netted two yards leading to the failed fourth-down play.

“That was a really good high school game between two good teams, “Bingham coach John Lambourne said. “I suspect that (Mountain Pointe) is going to go on and do pretty good Anyone that is able to compete with us in that manner, is going to be pretty good.”

Mountain Pointe’s final drive started at its 20-yard line with 6:17 left after Bingham’s 26-yard field goal attempt that would have made it a two-score game bounced off the right upright, ending a seven-minute drive.

“Defensively, we just battled and battled,” Lambourne said. “Our guys up front are pretty tough dudes to start with. That wasn’t just a one-play stand. That was a four-play stand. And that’s pretty tough to do.”

The Pride pulled within 21-14 late in the third when the Miners muffed a punt and could not corral it at the 5. The Pride recovered and three plays later Finley Nitura went untouched across the plane.

Wallerstedt completed 15 of 29 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. His 26-yard scoring pass to a leaping Williams (three receptions, 56 yards) tied the game at 7 in the first quarter.

Pride running back Jakim McKinney, averaging 105 rushing yards a game, found the going difficult against a stout Bingham front. He was held to 58 yards on 27 carries. Wellbrock said Bingham’s 6-foot-4, 330-pound defensive lineman Simote Pepa is among the best he’s coached against.

Mountain Pointe’s big-play receiver, Dominique Davis, who came in with 10 catches for a 33.4-yard average, was limited to six receptions for 60 yards.

Defensively, Mountain Pointe held up well against the national power. Nearly half of Bingham’s 295 yards of offense came on two plays. Evona Hall put Bingham in front 14-7 with a 92-yard touchdown run with 8:51 left in the first half.

That score held until the Miners dug into their bag of tricks midway through the third quarter. Wide receiver Jared Greenfield took a handoff and then found a wide-open Jake Cragun running down the right sideline for a 50-yard touchdown on the pass.

Hall rushed for 180 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. Nobody else in a Miner uniform accounted for more than 50 yards of offense. Bingham was limited to 55 yards passing.

“The biggest thing I take away from a game like this is I thought our defense really toed the line,” Wellbrock said. “Besides the long run and the halfback pass, other than that, I was really pleased with how they played.”

Mountain Pointe has a history of coming up big against national powers on visits to the Las Vegas area. Five years ago, it upset nationally ranked Bishop Gorman, joining the few teams ever to beat the Gaels on their home field. That started an undefeated season that ended with the state championship and No. 5 national ranking for the Pride.

This game begins a critical stretch for this Pride team. In the coming five weeks, Mountain Pointe, which plays the toughest schedule in Arizona this season, faces Hamilton (2-2) – which on Friday upset Las Vegas Arbor View Hills – with a short preparation week, and then Queen Creek (3-1), Highland (4-0), Desert Vista (3-0) in the Ahwatukee Bowl, Chaparral (3-0) and Desert Ridge (2-2) – which took unbeaten Liberty to the wire Friday.

The Pride’s losses are to Pinnacle (3-1), the nation’s 44th-ranked team with Oklahoma-bound quarterback Spencer Rattler, and now to No. 15 Bingham.

Bingham (Utah) 21, Mtn. 14

Mountain Pointe  7    0    7    0 – 14

Bingham              7    7    7    0 – 21

First

Bingham – Hall 2 run (Smith kick) 7:37

MP – Williams 26 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick) 2:43

Second

Bingham – Hall 92 run (Smith kick) 8:51

Third

Bingham – Cragun 50 pass from Greenfield (Smith kick) 6:23

MP – Nitura 1 run (Abercrombie kick) 0:39

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Bingham – Hall 17-180, Wimmer 9-31, Jones 6-9, Marx 2-10. Mountain Pointe – McKinney 27-58, Wallerstedt 9- -15, Washington 1- (-2), Nitura 1-1, Sansers 1-4.

Passing

Bingham – Jones 2-8-0, 5 yards, Greenfield 1-1-0, 50. Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 15-29-0, 191.

Receiving

Bingham – Cragun 1-50, Wimmer 1-7, Parikh 1- (-2). Mountain Pointe  – Washington 4-39, Davis 6-60, Williams 3-56, Dickson 2-31, Gomez 1-5.

Mountain Pointe’s Diamante Landrum goes high to make an interception in front of teammate Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson in the first quarter of Friday’s football game against Mountain View at Karl Kiefer Stadium. The Pride downed the Toros,45-18.   

Mountain Pointe’s defense gains redemption in rout of Mountain View

Mountain Pointe High’s defense, roughed up by Pinnacle in the season opener a week earlier, came ready Friday, shutting down Mountain View, 45-18, at Karl Kiefer Stadium.

Just seven days removed from giving up 56 points at Pinnacle, some against Pioneer backups, the Pride got to Mountain View quarterback Brandon Nunez often, not allowing him time or space to throw.

Motivated by that opening loss and hungry for the first home win, and the first win under new coach Rich Wellbrock, Mountain Pointe’s defense set the tone starting with a tackle for a safety by junior Rashion Hodge.

“Last week we lost and we knew we had to come back stronger,” Hodge said. “The defense was a little less complicated than last week.”

Noting that his defense was moving better and making quicker reads, Wellbrock said he was happy with the effort. His defense shut down the Toros in the first half as the Pride built a 25-0 lead and coasted home.

“We hit and flew around a little bit more early. That was something that I’m really pleased with. The linebackers played much better, and it was good to have them running around and having some fun out there,” Welbrock said.

Offensively, once again the connection between Pride senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt and junior receiver Dominique Davis could not be stopped. The pair connected on three touchdown passes. In the opener, Davis caught five passes for 211 yards and a score.

After the safety in the first quarter, MP returned the ensuing punt to the Toros 37-yard line. It took one play for Wallerstedt to find Davis streaking down the field uncovered for an easy touchdown. Wellbrock told an assistant coach early that “our play is open.”

“We always try to make sure we connect on the deep ball,” Davis said.

Wallerstedt consistently threw Davis’ way, lobbing the ball and allowing 6-foot-2 Davis to elevate and grab it.

“I love it, and the post is my favorite route,” Davis said. “We just worked in practice over and over.”

Mountain View did not go down easily. An early defensive stop in the third quarter and good punt return gave some momentum to the Toros. Nunez suddenly made plays deep down the field, leading touchdown drives on successive possessions. Suddenly the lead was 13 midway through the third quarter.

“They hit us with something harder than we thought they would,” Hodge said.

Then Mountain View muffed a punt deep in its territory and Mountain Pointe recovered. That turnover seemingly gave away not only the ball but also the momentum.

“I think everybody in the building knew that was probably the end of their run. If they could have gotten the ball there and scored, we’d have a whole different ball game,” Wellbrock said.

As excited as he was to secure his first win with the Pride, Wellbrock said he still saw a lot of room for improvement.

Despite two interceptions and a recovered fumble, the Pride defense dropped a few interception chances and blew others with penalties. On offense, even though Davis caught three touchdown passes from Wallerstedt, he dropped a couple of long balls and Wallerstedt overthrew a couple of open receivers downfield.

Wellbrock views those mistakes as a chance to improve.

“I think they got better (since the opener). I’ve been telling everybody for quite a while that we’re going to be a different team come October and November. And, I still believe that,” Wellbrock said. “We left a lot of points out there tonight on both sides of the ball. This isn’t a finished product by any means, and that’s exciting as a coach.”

The Pride (1-1) head to Henderson, Nevada, next Saturday to face the No. 17 team in the nation, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, as part of the Touchdowns Against Cancer Games.

The loss drops Mountain View to 1-2. The Toros visit Queen Creek on Friday.

Mountain Pointe 45, Mountain View 18

 

Mountain View    0    0   12    6 – 18

Mountain Pointe  9  16    7   13 – 45

Mountain Pointe High receiver Dominique Davis rips off another big play in Friday’s football game at Pinnacle. Davis, with five catches for 211 yards and a touchdown, was among the few bright spots for the Pride in their 56-34 season-opening loss to the Pioneers.   

Pride clobbered by Pinnacle backups as injured Rattler sits

  |  8.25.18

Mountain Pointe High’s secondary was bitten but not by a Rattler on Friday night.

Pride coach Rich Wellbrock’s debut was spoiled by a Pinnacle High quarterback who was not expected to play at all, J.D. Johnson, who was superb replacing injured Spencer Rattler as the top-ranked Pioneers rolled, 56-34.

Rattler left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. By halftime, top-ranked Pinnacle’s starting running back, Matt Goodlow, also was injured and on the sideline.

It didn’t seem to matter. The third-ranked Pride (0-1) defense was just as flummoxed by the backups. Johnson led Pinnacle (2-0) with Oklahoma-bound Rattler, among the best high school football players in the country, watching from the sideline. Rattler came into the game 0-3 against Mountain Pointe.

Johnson took advantage of his opportunity, passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns, completing 13 of 17 passes.

“I was a little nervous,” Johnson said. “But, I was just ready to step up.”

Pinnacle jumped to a 14-0 lead before Mountain Pointe gained a first down. However, two big plays by Pride quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, a 61 yard completion to Dominique Davis to set up a 17 yard touchdown run by Jakim McKinney, and then a Wallerstedt 54-yard touchdown run, pulled Mountain Pointe even at 14.

Then Wallerstedt threw an interception on his second pass of the second half and that ended his night. He was replaced by Ahmen Williams.

“That first drive was so critical and getting that interception and getting short field and getting that score right on, I think that took a little wind out of their sail,” said Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke. “I think that really got us control of the second half right away.”

Wallerstedt completed five of 10 passes for 118 yards and had the interception. He also rushed for 108 yards. Williams threw a pick as he completed only three of nine passes, but they gained 118 yards.

Davis had five catches for 211 yards and a touchdown.

Rattler completed his first five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown before he was injured. He was confident that his teammate could carry the team to victory when it became evident that he was not going to make it back into the game.

“I compete with him every day and it makes us both better,” Rattler said. “I knew once he got up he would do his thing. I’m real happy for him.”

It was a tough introduction to Mountain Pointe football for Wellbrock, the 2015-16 coach of the year at Desert Edge, but coming off a two-win record in his only season at Basha.

Mountain Pointe hosts Mountain View (1-1) on Friday.

Returning Mountain Pointe starters Nick Wallerstedt, at quarterback, and running back Jakim McKinney give the Pride a solid nucleus on offense. MP reached the 6A semifinals last season.  [Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer]

Mountain Pointe reloads under new coach with eye on wins

One by one, players on the Mountain Pointe football team walked across the school parking lot to the practice field, placing a hand on the sign that reads “Mark Lovett Field” before entering.

It’s a tradition established in the early 2000s, after former coach and Mountain Pointe Hall of  Famer Mark Lovett passed away suddenly on the field from a heart attack.

“They told me I better make sure I do it,” new Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said of touching the sign. “It’s a tradition handed down. It’s something the kids feel very strongly about.”

Wellbrock was hired to follow legendary coach Norris Vaughan, who stepped down last December to move back to Georgia near family.

Wellbrock, the former Basha and Desert Edge coach, now hopes to extend the winning tradition at Mountain Pointe, which has nine straight playoff appearances, including eight semifinals, and a state title.

“This has always been a position you look at from afar and it interests you,” Wellbrock said. “The kids know the expectations. We’ve flown under the radar a little bit, and we’re fine with that. When it’s time to turn it up, we will do that.”

This season, hopes for success once again start up front for the Pride.

Seniors Cole Cundary, Alex Vogel and Zach Quihuis anchor the offensive line in front of returning quarterback Nick Wallerstedt.

As a junior, Wallerstedt passed for 1,567 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also rushed for 711 yards and nine touchdowns.

Some of Wallerstedt’s top targets graduated, including Sky Hinojosa, Delano Salgado and Marshawn Gibson.

But a talented group of receivers remain, led by senior Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson.

“I think we have one of the best groups we have had in the past couple years as a core,” Wallerstedt said. “We have a lot of guys that other teams have to look out for.”

Pleasant-Johnson hauled in 27 passes last season for 436 yards and four touchdowns.

Seniors receivers Jatu Gipson, Bashu Delco, Jathan Washington and junior Dominique Davis also will play a vital role in the passing game. Seniors Kenneth Lofton and Jerrick Dickson lead the way at tight end.

Mountain Pointe lost 1,000-yard rusher Gary Bragg to graduation but have another back, Jakim McKinney.

McKinney, known for his explosive burst off the ball, rushed for 1,334 yards and 18 touchdowns.

“I’m excited because it is my senior year,” McKinney said. “I’ve learned a lot from the new coaching staff. Even though people have doubted us, we are going to show them that we can make it far and even win state.”

Graduation and transfers left holes to fill in the Pride’s defense.

Defensive tackle Shomari Hayes graduated. Senior Matthew Pola-Mao, who has the eye of many college recruiters, transferred to Chandler. In the secondary, seniors Delano Salgado, Kenny Churchwell, Marshawn Gibson and Donte Lindsey all moved on to the next level.

But Mountain Pointe has capable replacements, starting up front with defensive tackle Anthony Dedrick.

“We are filling in the gaps really well,” Dedrick said. “I know what this team is and what we can do. We just need to be the greatest we can be and just go out there and play football.”

Mountain Pointe opens a week later than many schools with an Aug. 24 visit to Spencer Rattler and the Pinnacle Pioneers in north Phoenix.

It’s the start of one of the toughest schedules in the state.

Next up is a home game against rapidly improving Mountain View before the Pride heads to Las Vegas for the Polynesian Football Classic to take on national power Bingham High from South Jordan, Utah.

“What a great opportunity for our kids, community and school to be involved in something like this,” Wellbrock said. “That’s what we want. We want to be on the biggest stage not only here in the state but on the biggest stage nationally.”

Mountain Pointe then faces Hamilton, Queen Creek and Highland before taking on Desert Vista in the annual Ahwatukee Bowl.

The Pride wrap the season against Chaparral, Desert Ridge and Corona del Sol.

It will be a tough initial go-around for Wellbrock and the Pride, but they believe that they are up to the challenge.

“The schedule is brutal, but it’s exciting,” Wellbrock said. “The kids know it’s going to be a grind.

“Hopefully, when November comes around we will have learned everything we need to and go push for the gold ball.”

Mountain Pointe High School football practices with new coach Rich Wellbrock on July 25, 2018. Nick Oza/azcentral sports

Mountain Pointe enters new era with coach Rich Wellbrock

, Arizona RepublicPublished 7:06 p.m. MT July 25, 2018

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.”

Key returners

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.

Key date

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.

Final word

“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 richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.