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Under the tutelage of Head Coach Norris Vaughan, 30 Mountain Pointe football players have signed with Division One schools over the past eight years.



Alex Lewis  –  Nebraska
Ben Demarr   –  Air Force
Davon Jones   –  Mississippi Valley State


Izzy Marshall  –   Arizona State
Jose Romero   –  Arizona
JR Plote   –  South Dakota State


RJ Hollis  –  Hawaii


Kenny Lacy  –  UCLA
Tre Campbell  –  Georgia State
Landry Payne  –  Oregon State
Thair Blakes  –  UAB


Jalen Brown  –  Oregon/Northwestern
Wesley Payne  –  Oregon State
Timmy Hernandez  –  Oregon State
Markell Simmons  –  TCU
Natrell Curtis  –  UAB
Dominique Fenstermacher  –  UNLV
Mitchell Fraboni  –  ASU
Emmanuel Butler  –  NAU
Deontay Townsend  –  Sam Houston State
Xavier Cochrane  –  Colorado


Nick Carman  –  Utah
Davis Perrott  –  Washington State
Paul Lucas  –  Oregon State
Brandyn Leonard  –  New Mexico State


Jack Smith  –  Arizona State


Isaiah Pola-Mao  –  USC
Eddie Rivas  –  NAU
Jaydon Brooks  –  Navy
Rashie Hodge  –  South Dakota State

(Photo: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)

Coach Norris Vaughan leads Mountain Pointe High School football practice Wednesday, July 27, 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Mountain Pointe football faster, stronger, ready for title run

, azcentral sports12:57 p.m. MST July 28, 2016

Phoenix Mountain Pointe football coach Norris Vaughan, riding in his golf cart, gave a tour of the facilities that are enclosed with a Wall of Fame wind-resistant banner along the fence (thanks to Under Armour and the booster club). That banner shows action photos of top players since Vaughan began restoring pride in the Pride in 2009.

Jalen Brown, Wesley Payne, Kenny Lacy, Emmanuel Butler and Natrell Curtis are among the honored players.

It’s been an assembly line of great talent since Vaughan arrived with more ready to take center stage this season when the Pride line up against the likes of Chandler and company to try to make another run for the state championship in the 6A Conference.

Mountain Pointe’s only loss last season was to eventual champion Peoria Centennial in the state semifinals.

“It makes you more desperate to win,” said Rashie Hodge, one of the state’s best athletes who can play running back, receiver, tight end, safety and linebacker.

RELATED: Cesar Chavez football ready to ramp it up for 6A Division challenge


Vaughan said that Noah Grover would have been the starting quarterback last season if Jack Smith hadn’t moved in from Indiana. Smith, now at Arizona State, was a good runner who can pass. Grover might be a better passer, Vaughan believes.

Mountain Pointe lost only one 7-on-7 passing league tournament game in June, and most of the success was due to Grover.

“I think we have one of the best quarterbacks in the state,” Vaughan said.

Watch for a balanced attack with speedy junior Gary Bragg emerging as the go-to ball carrier on the ground. The line is stacked with Eddie Rivas and Mason Honne back to anchor it. Senior running back Anthony Stephens will miss the first two games, but watch out. He’s got 4.4 speed in the 40.

Grover will have plenty of targets, led by 6-foot-4, 195-pound Isaiah Pola-Mao and Jaydon Brooks (5-10, 165).

Pola-Mao is a two-time All-Arizona safety who will be on defense all the time. He has double-digit major college scholarship offers, but Vaughan believes he could be a Division I receiver, also.

“We’re going to pass it 20-plus times again and we’re going to run it I hope a lot,” Vaughan said. “We’re going to have a good line.

“We have some good players. We expect a lot.”

RELATED: Top 10 story lines as high school football practices begin


This could be as good a defense as Vaughan has had, which is saying a lot because that 2013 team that went 14-0 was absolutely loaded on defense.

But down the middle, led by the Pola-Mao brothers, this team is fast, physical and nasty.

Cornerback Antwaun Woodberry is ready to have a huge season.

“Everybody is fast on defense, even our D-line,” Woodberry said. “We have to keep the bar high. If we go down low that can cost us some games. That could hurt us.”

Vaughan says he has seven very talented offensive linemen, and “our defensive line might be even better.”

Aside from the younger Palo-Mao (6-2, 300), a sophomore who made a varsity impact as a freshman, the Pride line up Shomari Hayes (6-2, 270) and Khalif Ravenell and Michael Washington, who can both play linebacker.

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On the lookout

Rashie Hodge, LB/RB, 6-0, 195, Sr.

Vaughan says this guy is reminiscent to Wesley Payne, the heart and soul of Mountain Pointe’s only state championship team in 2013.

“I would rank him right up there with Isaiah Pola-Moa,” Vaughan said. “I know you’ll look at me funny, but as a football player, that’s where I’d rank him. He’s fast. He’s strong.”

On the calendar

Sept. 8, vs. Chandler at Mountain Pointe

This is a Cox7 Thursday night TV game in the third game of the season for the Pride. These teams could be ranked 1 and 2 in the state at the time. They didn’t play each other last season, but two years ago, they were involved in two of the more physical and entertaining games of the year.

On the record

“It should wake us up a lot more and come back a lot better.” – sophomore DT Matthew Pola-Mao.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at or 602-460-1710. Follow him at


The youngest brothers have always had to fight for their own identity. Trying to overcome and exceed expectations associated with their last name. [David Jolkovski/AFN]

Pride younger brothers trying to forge own name

Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:04 pm, Wed Sep 23, 2015.

Let’s face it, being the youngest brother can prove to be both a burden and a tone setter.

Isaiah Butler knows all about the dichotomy.

For most of his time at Mountain Pointe he has been known more as EBut’s little brother and/or the one who could do the best Norris Vaughan impression more than anything he did on the football field or basketball court.

“I never started or anything like that,” Butler said. “(Emmanuel) made our name at Mountain Pointe. I’m just trying to live up to it.

“I’ve always had to live up to it.”

It’s changing just a bit in 2015 as Butler has developed into one of the Pride’s starting cornerbacks to help contribute to a 4-0 start as the team prepares to host Pinnacle (3-1) on Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium.

Butler is far from the only Mountain Pointe football player dealing with the little bro syndrome.

Junior offensive lineman Connor Dry, strong safety Kenny Churchwell and Matthew Pola-Mao all have had older brothers that came through or are still in the Mountain Pointe program.

Pola-Mao might be spared from the expectation associated with their last name.

It’s not that his brother, Isaiah, doesn’t cast a big shadow. Quite the contrary. The older Pola-Mao is one of the state’s top recruits for the 2017 class.

It’s just not as big as the one the freshman Pola-Mao can cast.

Isaiah is a lanky, high-flying athletic wide receiver/free safety while Matthew is big-bodied defensive tackle who is 6-foot-2, 289-pounds.

“I might not make the plays he does, but I’m on varsity as a freshman,” he said, in that mocking tone that all younger brother seems to have.

“He didn’t play varsity until he was a sophomore, but it is awesome being on the same team as my big brother. I look up to him a lot.”

Kenny Churchwell is starting to make an impression as a sophomore after he was inserted into the lineup two weeks ago. He started the year on the scout team, playing mostly offense, but with the good receiving corps he got the chance on defense to get on the field.

“It was a matter of him getting some confidence,” Vaughan said. “We knew he could play at this level but wanted to make sure he was ready, and he has shown us he can.”

Churchwell, the third of three brothers to play for the Pride behind 2015 graduate Keondre and current senior Ke’Shawn, embraces the burden that comes with trying to live up to the standard his siblings have set.

“I’ve always heard that I’m little Churchwell,” he said. “I like it because I’ve looked up to them. I always want to show I might be the youngest, but I’m the best one.”

Constantly hearing about how good your brothers are or just seeing it for yourself can prove to be motivator.

“It’s not a burden because he always helped me be my own name,” Butler said. “You just do what you can, but you also want to do them proud.”

After all, they’ve been in it together from the start.

“We had our battles in 1-on-1s,” the 5-10 Butler said of his 6-4 brother who is playing wide receiver for Northern Arizona. “It’s easier to guard him because I know all his cuts and moves. Unless they throw it high.”

There is the bravado of the youngest brother again. They’ve always had to fight for their own identity. Trying to overcome and exceed expectations associated with their last name.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re the baby of the family,” Churchwell said. “I’m good with it. I’m the last one, and I gotta show what we are all about.”

• Contact writer at 480-898-7915 or follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.