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Photo: Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Despite semi-final loss, the Pride should be proud

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

Mountain Pointe High School missed a ticket to the big dance this Saturday in Tucson, where two Chandler Unified School District high school football teams will be vying for the Division 6A state title, but head coach Norris Vaughan is upbeat.

“I’m proud of everything these guys accomplished this season,” Vaughan said. “They should be proud.”

The Pride should be proud, having turned in a great season and only falling twice through the regular season – first at the hands of one of the top teams in California and later in a hard-fought battle against the Desert Ridge Jaguars. The team sustained numerous key injuries throughout the year, including one to star defensive lineman Matthew Pola-Mao.

Mountain Pointe’s football season – and its quest for a second straight appearance in the 6A State championship – came to an end Nov. 17 when the Pride fell to the No. 4-seeded Perry Pumas 56-31 in the state semi-finals.  Perry will now play Chandler High for the title.

At the end of the season, Mountain Pointe still earned the No. 1-seed in the playoffs. Vaughan and his team got there by utilizing a stable of running backs and putting one of the best defenses in the state on the field every Friday night.  

Their first four games of 2017 were considered somewhat of a gauntlet: a rematch with the defending state champs, a national opponent, and a matchup with one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.

The team started off the season with a big 46-6 win over Sandra Day O’Connor before heading to the UA Brothers in Arms Classic in Mission Viejo, California, where they were pitted against the Chaminade Eagles – a team now ranked in the top 10 in its state. Knowing it would be a tough battle going in, the Pride put up a fight but fell 36-24.

Then they rebounded, and snapped off a five-game winning streak. They took down a depleted Chandler squad in a 24-21 nail-biter that showcased the defensive prowess and running ability of the Pride.

Then they blew out Mountain View 35-3 and contained Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler enough to squeak out a win and extend their win streak to three.

Their fourth straight win came in the Tukee Bowl when they traveled to Desert Vista High School and defeated the Thunder for the second consecutive year and to break the 10-10 tie in their two-decade rivalry.

When the Highland Hawks came to Karl Kiefer stadium, though, things started to get a little rocky for the Pride. Via three first half turnovers, the Hawks took an early 13-0 lead. But behind a two-score effort from Delano Salgado in the second half, the Pride came storming back to escape with its fifth straight win.

When Mountain Pointe was set to defend its home turf for a second straight week, head coach Jeremy Hathcock and the Desert Ridge Jaguars weren’t going to let them off the hook.

Even though the Pride picked off four passes in the game, the Jaguars handed them their first loss at Karl Kiefer stadium since 2011.

The Jaguars stacked the box, filling all the running lanes and forced the Pride to show they could throw the ball. A team that produced 3,801 rushing yards and averaged 292 rushing yards per game was held to only 190 between five players. Not one player rushed for over 100 yards.

While the loss was an eye-opener, the Pride rebounded and ended the season with two straight wins. Due to the strength of their schedule throughout the season, Mountain Pointe captured the No. 1-seed.

Of their 10 regular season games, five teams ended up earning playoff berths, four of which were in the top 10.  Two other teams were left out of the playoffs because of the regional winners that were ranked below them.

The Pride then cruised through the first two-rounds of the playoffs, blowing out their opponents by a combined score of 109 – 7, which included a 44-7 victory over a Highland team.

With a second-straight trip to the state championship on the line, Vaughan said his players might have run into one of the best quarterbacks they have seen all season.

That quarterback was Perry’s 6-foot-1, 197-pound quarterback Brock Purdy, who threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns against a Mountain Pointe Pride defense that had been stout all season long. Along with the air attack, running back Kenny Fultz ran for 95 yards and three touchdowns to put the nail in the coffin.

“I think (he’s) as good as we’ve seen all season,” Vaughan said. “He’s magical back there, he’s a phenomenal quarterback.”

The good news for the Pride, is they won’t have to see Purdy in the future. The bad news, though, is that Mountain Pointe will graduate 27 seniors at the end of the school year.

That means Vaughan will have to find a way to replace several key players, including a majority of his secondary in Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, and Marshawn Gibson, who led the team with eight interceptions this season. Other key seniors include Shomari Hayes, Jacob Olsen, and Tyre Johnson.

While Vaughan will lose several key defensive players. Pola-mao will be back next season, along with quarterback Nick Wallerstedt – who came into his own late in the season throwing for 170 yards against Perry, and leading rusher Jakim McKinney.

McKinney was a key clog in the Mountain Pointe offense this year and formed one of the better rushing duo’s in the state with senior Gary Bragg.

While they both rushed for over 1,000 yards his season – Bragg with 1,021 and McKinney with 1,334 – the junior back found the end zone 18 times this season for the Pride and should have a bright future in the backfield with Wallerstedt next season.

But whether Vaughan will be able to replace his stout defense from 2017 is a question only time will answer.


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.

Tyre Johnson carries the ball against Chandler Friday night at Austin Field.  |  Photo by Kimberly Carrillo

Mountain Pointe avenges state title loss, upsets Chandler on the road

By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor

From the start, you could tell it weighed heavy on their minds.

After falling in last year’s 6A state championship to Chandler, Mountain Pointe found the best type of redemption on Friday night — knocking off the No.1 team in the state on their own turf.

With a three-headed backfield controlling the running game early on, junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt remained poised behind a stout offensive line as No. 2 Mountain Pointe stunned No.1 Chandler 24-21 on Friday night at Austin Field.

“I’m so proud of these boys, each and every one of them,” coach Norris Vaughan said.

As he shook hands and received congratulatory hugs from his coaching staff following the game, Vaughan yelled, “This ain’t us!”

He was referring to last week’s game against national power Chaminade Prep (Mission Viejo, Calif.) in which the Pride were unable to overcome a slew of mistakes en route to a loss.

A different Mountain Pointe team showed up on Friday night though.

Just before the end of the first quarter, the Pride (2-1) got things started when Wallerstedt took a keeper in from three yards out. Ten seconds later, Jacob Olsen recovered a fumble by Chandler and ran it in from 12 yards out to give the Pride a 14-0 lead.

On their first drive of the second quarter, Chandler made another costly mistake. The punter was unable to kick the ball away after a high snap and the Pride were gifted the ball on Chandler’s 17-yard line.

A few plays later, Jakim McKinney ran in it from two yards out and there was utter silence from the Chandler faithful. 

“That early momentum carried us,” Wallerstedt said. “It was exactly what we needed.”

Chandler (2-2) didn’t just fall back and fold. After four failed drives to start the game, backup quarterback Billy Bolger (replacing the injured Jacob Conover) began finding seams and the offense received some help in the form of a roughing the passer penalty. 

After a run that put them in the red zone was called back on a holding penalty, the Wolves eventually got on the board on a DeCarlos Brooks touchdown run with 4:37 remaining in the half.

For nearly the entire third quarter, both offenses stalled, unable to move the ball down the field. Driving towards the end of the quarter, Bolger found a receiver open across the middle and he took it 36 yards for a touchdown to cut Mountain Pointe’s lead to 21-14 as the third quarter ended.

Wallerstedt and Mountain Pointe’s backfield trio — Gary Bragg, Delano Salgado, and Marshawn Gibson — wore the Chandler defense down as they marched down the field to start the fourth quarter. Taking nearly seven minutes off the clock, Ben Abercrombie capped off the drive with a 16-yard field goal to give the Pride a 24-14 lead with five and half minutes remaining. 

Bolger and the Wolves didn’t feel the pressure though as they answered with a score of their own, running in a short touchdown to cut the lead back to 24-21 with just under three minutes to go. 

Then, on a handoff out left, the ball fell from Bragg’s hands as he turned up field and the Wolves recovered the fumble. The home crowd was the loudest it had been all game long, while the visiting Mountain Pointe fans were in utter shock. 

Just like a strong team does, the defense picked up the mistake made by the offense. On fourth down and the game on the line, Bolger’s pass was tipped up in the air and Salgado secured it to seal the victory. 

On the ground, the Pride ran for an even 200 yards while Wallerstedt accounted for 79 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

“We’re still finding out who we are,” Vaughan said. “But this game helps us in the direction of finding it.”

Mountain Pointe will continue their season on the road next week as they travel to Mesa Mountain View.

, 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. 



Ralph Amsden | Publisher  |  3 Feb 2017 2018 Early Prospect and Player Rankings

With 2017’s signing day in the books, here’s the earliest version of ArizonaVarsity’s 2018 prospect and player rankings. Our rankings will differ from Rivals official list, and will be updated and expanded on every month for the next year, until Signing Day 2018. This is the only version of the list that won’t be premium content, so make sure and subscribe to ArizonaVarsity so you don’t miss out on future content.

Important to remember- prospect rankings and player rankings are different. Prospects rankings involve athletes projected to be in-demand college recruits. Player rankings project and react to on-field performance at the high school level. Send any feedback to

Arizona Varsity 2018 Prospect Rankings
Rank Player/Position/School
1 Solomon Enis (WR) North Canyon
2 Kenny Churchwell (DB) Mountain Pointe
3 Joey Ramos (OL) Deer Valley
4 Jamarye Joiner (ATH) Cienega
5 Gunner Romney (WR) Chandler
6 Josiah Bradley (ATH) Saguaro
7 Max Wilhite (OL) Desert Edge
8 James Stagg (TE) Desert Vista
9 Jawhar Jordan (ATH) Hamilton
10 Jarick Caldwell (WR) Chandler
11 Sean Andersen (OL) Verrado
12 Jack Plummer (QB) Gilbert
13 Mike Rogers (ATH) Cesar Chavez
14 Ralph Frias (OL) Safford
15 Alijah Gammage (DB) Desert Vista
16 Brock Purdy (QB) Perry
17 Max Massingale (QB) Saguaro
18 Slater Zellers (LS) Notre Dame Prep
19 Shomari Hayes (DL) Mountain Pointe
20 Donjae Logan (DB) Desert Ridge
21 Jayden Lee (OL) Campo Verde
22 Giovanni Miranda (WR) Saguaro
23 Lance Lawson (ATH) Red Mountain
24 Brayden Flynn (DL) Hamilton
25 Tyson Jones (OL) Desert Edge
26 Tyler Shough (QB) Hamilton
27 Ja’Tai Jenkins (ATH) Verrado
28 Malik Clark (DL) Moon Valley
29 Keishaud White (ATH) Desert Vista
30 Chris Manoa (DL) Chandler
31 Josiah Bailey (ATH) Kellis
32 Hunter Mayginnes (OL) Hamilton
33 Robert Jordan (DL) Mesquite
34 Draycen Hall (RB) Higley
35 Gary Bragg (RB) Mountain Pointe
36 Damaria Norris (RB) Cactus
37 Tristen D’Angelo (WR) Boulder Creek
38 Ezekiel Robbins (DB) Hamilton
39 Bryce Jackson (DB) Chandler
40 Kaleb Seumanutafa (ATH) Apollo
41 James Reed (TE) Boulder Creek
42 Austin Young (OL) Desert Edge
43 Aidan Diggs (ATH) Millennium
44 Cade Matthews (LB) Higley
45 Treyvon Williams (DB) Desert Edge
46 Dakota Haynes (LB) Pusch Ridge
47 Cash Peterman (K) Chandler
48 Jared Wood (QB) Florence
49 Cole Fisher (RB) Notre Dame Prep
50 Austin Duffy (QB) Red Mountain
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- QB
Rank Player/School
1 Brock Purdy- Perry
2 Max Massingale- Saguaro
3 Jamarye Joiner- Cienega
4 Jared Wood- Florence
5 Tyler Shough- Hamilton
6 Mahal Lee- Cactus
7 Nate Dobson- Peoria
8 Jack Plummer- Gilbert
9 Austin Duffy- Red Mountain
10 Andrew Young- Cactus Shadows
11 Ruben Beltran III- Centennial
12 Ernie Peña- Millennium
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- RB
Rank Player/School
1 Draycen Hall- Higley
2 Lance Lawson- Red Mountain
3 Damaria Norris- Cactus
4 Mike Rogers- Cesar Chavez
5 Jawhar Jordan- Hamilton
6 Sekou Tyler- Paradise Honors
7 Gary Bragg- Mountain Pointe
8 Cole Fisher- Notre Dame Prep
9 Tyrese Allen- Desert Ridge
10 Troy Ferestad- Bisbee
11 Nolan Susel- Florence
12 Kris Jackson- Mesa
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- WR
Rank Player/School
1 Gunner Romney- Chandler
2 Solomon Enis- North Canyon
3 Cameron Gardner- Casa Grande
4 Josiah Bailey- Kellis
5 Tristen D’Angelo- Boulder Creek
6 Jacob Kaites- Scottsdale Christian
7 Jarick Caldwell- Chandler
8 Bujon Boyd- American Leadership (QC)
9 Joshua Walker- Desert Mountain
10 Keishaud White- Desert Vista
11 Xavier Watkins- Paradise Valley
12 Jake White- Desert Vista
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- TE
Rank Player/School
1 James Stagg- Desert Vista
2 James Reed- Boulder Creek
3 Shamon Salway- Window Rock
4 Tate Speaker- Perry
5 Mario Meza- Douglas
6 Edmond Ashton- Lee Williams
7 Carter White- Poston Butte
8 Jesse Bravin- River Valley
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- OL
Rank Player/School
1 Joey Ramos- Deer Valley
2 Max Wilhite- Desert Edge
3 Tyson Jones- Desert Edge
4 Mason Honne- Mountain Pointe
5 Jayden Lee- Campo Verde
6 Hunter Mayginnes- Hamilton
7 Austin Young- Desert Edge
8 Xavier Robinson- Deer Valley
9 Ralph Frias- Safford
10 Jozia Myers- Campo Verde
11 Jaden Hoyt- Northwest Christian
12 Javier Meza- Cesar Chavez
13 Jose Lopez- Salpointe
14 Tristan Rael- Chandler
15 Zach Neff- Perry
16 David Watson- Amphitheatre
17 Justin Segura- Horizon
18 Kaleb Seumanutafa- Apollo
19 Trevor Renfro- Centennial
20 Sean Benke- Mountain View (Marana)
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- DL
Rank Player/School
1 Brayden Flynn- Hamilton
2 Shomari Hayes- Mountain Pointe
3 Chris Manoa- Chandler
4 Brayden Smith- Ironwood Ridge
5 Kaleb Seumanutafa- Apollo
6 Robert Jordan- Mesquite
7 Raymond Cruz- Dysart
8 Dylan Gabbard- Show Low
9 Scott Jones- Cactus
10 Kyle White- Notre Dame Prep
11 Brandon Myree- Basha
12 Khalif Ravenell- Mountain Pointe
13 Ryan Salmon- Scottsdale Christian
14 Jared Mix- Mountain View (Mesa)
15 Jobiin Sweat- Perry
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- LB
Rank Player/School
1 Cade Matthews- Higley
2 Dakota Haynes- Pusch Ridge
3 Tre O’Guinn- North Canyon
4 Vincent Elrod- Notre Dame Prep
5 Cutter Hatch- Perry
6 Jordan Ware- Centennial
7 Jakob Redford- American Leadership (QC)
8 Shelton Mathis- Florence
9 Richard Molina- Yuma Catholic
10 Dante Coleman- Queen Creek
11 Shaun’dell Hawkins- Williams Field
12 Larry Davis- Desert Vista
13 Isaiah Joya- Yuma
14 Fabian Suniga- Shadow Ridge
15 Sebastian Bautista- Veritas Prep
16 Kevin Altmaier- Greenway
17 Jacob Olsen- Mountain Pointe
18 Tate Stevens- Highland
19 Shane Kratzer- Paradise Honors
20 Anthony Madril- Salpointe
21 Fernando Becerra- Carl Hayden
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- DB
Rank Player/School
1 Kenny Churchwell- Mountain Pointe
2 Alijah Gammage- Desert Vista
3 Josiah Bradley- Saguaro
4 Bryce Jackson- Chandler
5 Donjae Logan- Desert Ridge
6 Dylan Stevenson- Pinnacle
7 Solomon Enis- North Canyon
8 Sekou Tyler- Paradise Honors
9 Rodney Rogers II- Cienega
10 Devon Waite- Mountain View (Mesa)
11 Aaron Turrey- Sunnyslope
12 Elijah Neal- Peoria
13 Andrew Smith- Marana
14 Ricky Manning- Notre Dame Prep
15 Bradyn Brown- Pima
16 Bobby Carlon- Moon Valley
17 Daniel Frampton- Phoenix Christian
18 Jake White- Desert Vista
19 Treyvon Williams- Desert Edge
20 Derick Bush- Salpointe
21 Donte Lindsey- Mountain Pointe
22 Trent Campbell- Estrella Foothills
23 Jose Escalera- Central
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- Specialist
Rank Player/School
1 Slater Zellers- Notre Dame Prep
2 Cash Peterman- Chandler
3 Jacori Wooten- Queen Creek
4 Patrick McInerney- Saguaro
5 Matt Brock- Mesquite


Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao attempts a diving catch agaisnt Pinnacle.  Photo by Kristin Grover, Special to Tribune

MP’s Pola-Mao named Central Region MVP

Posted: Monday, November 21, 2016 12:25 pm  |   By Jason P. Skoda, Prep Sports Director

The 6A Central Region selected its all region team.

Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao was named MVP for this play at wide receiver and safety.

Desert Vista quarterback Nick Thomas was named Offensive MVP and Desert Vista linebacker Lelon Dillard was named Defensive MVP.

Here is a look at the full team:

6A Conference All-Central Region

MVP: Isaiah Pola-Mao, Mountain Pointe

Offensive MVP: Nick Thomas, Desert Vista

Defensive MVP: Lelon Dillard, Desert Vista



First team

Rashie Hodge Mt. Pointe

Cameron Brice Corona Del Sol

Tyrese Allen Desert Ridge

Second team

Delano Salgado Mountain Pointe

Kohner Cullimore Highland

Gary Bragg Mountain Pointe


First team

Jack Plummer Gilbert

Offensive Line

First team

Eddie Rivas Mountain Pointe

Myles Wilson Desert Vista

Rudy Rauls Mountain Pointe

Uriah Medder Corona Del Sol

Mason Honne Mountain Pointe

Second team

Mckenzie Potterf Desert Vista

Dallin Clement Highland

Matt Fick Corona Del Sol

Nick Omitt Desert Ridge

Ian Baxter Desert Ridge


First team

Keishaud White Desert Vista

David Morales Gilbert

Jake White Desert Vista

Second team

Jared Zimmerman Highland

Dawson Tanner Gilbert

Ricky Pearsall Corona Del Sol


First team

James Stagg Desert Vista

Second team

Garrison Turcotte Gilbert



First team

Antwaun Woodberry Mountain Pointe

Kenny Churchwell Mountain Pointe

Steven Gomez Desert Ridge

Donjae Logan Desert Ridge

Second team

Alijah Gammage Desert Vista

Corvan Otanez Gilbert

Caleb Humphrey Desert Vista

Brad Beaver Desert Ridge

Interior Line

First team

Ashton Dana Highland

Dylan Conner Corona Del Sol

Matthew Pola-Mao Mountain Pointe

Shomari Hayes Mountain Pointe

Second team

Christian Medeiros Desert Ridge

Noah Evan Highland

Garrett Fulton Gilbert

Brett Johnson Desert Vista


First team

Jalen Harris Desert Ridge

Khalif Ravenell Mountain Pointe

Second team

Trey Bussler Corona Del Sol

Dylan Bryan Gilbert


First team

Christian Allen Desert Ridge

Chad Porter Desert Vista

Jacob Clemens Corona Del Sol

Second team

Xaiver Cota Mountain Pointe

Michael Washington Mountain Pointe

Tate Stevens Highland


First team

Riley Erickson Desert Vista

Second team

Tony Decozio Desert Ridge


First team

Kaden Riforgiate Corona Del So

Second team

Austin Mcnamara Highland


First team

Jaydon Brooks Mountain Pointe

Second team

Connor McKernan Gilbert

Long Snapper

First team

Adam Bay Desert Ridge

Second team

Conor Egan Desert Vista

Honorable Mentions

Desert Vista

Tristin Flores, OL

Joe Money, TE

Larry Davis, LB

Nick Lopez, OL

Jared Ostendorp, OL


Sean McCord DB

Braiden Williams DL

Jake Ohara

Hunter Short DB

Jacob Wood LB

Jalen Johnson DB

Tyler Johnson DL

David Fabok DL

Noah Newburgh DB

Danial Castillo WR

Tyler Johnson WR

Jacob Wood RB

Brydon Horne RB

Connor Williams OL

Davis Brown OL

Cody Bartz OL

Jake Kersting QB

Riley Bond OL

Mountain Pointe

Noah Grover Qb

Sky Hinojosa WR

Justice Hudson OL

Alex Vogel OL

Marshawn Gibson DB

Donte Lindsey DB

Jacob Olsen LB

Daniel Pena DT

Dakota Fey P


Garrison Turcotte LB

Tyler Turcotte OL

Garrett Fulton OL

DJ Ruhl DB

Corona Del Sol

Griffin Baker TE

Alex Purcell C

Kaden Riforgiate LB

Jason Staples DE

Brian McCluskey DB

Kobee Marion DB

Desert Ridge

Kylar Day

Khris Broom

Tyler Mcleve

Jason Harris

Connor Goetz

Robert Mancha

Mountain Pointe linebacker Xavier Cota puts pressure on Upland quarterback David Baldwin.  [Photo: Jason Skoda]

Pride LB unit shaping up to match past standards

Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2016 9:42 pm | Updated: 10:27 pm, Thu Sep 22, 2016.

Over the years, Mountain Pointe High School linebackers have been the cornerstone of the team’s defensive success.

Players have earned all-state honors, been selected as the top linebacker in the state and earned scholarships to Pac-12 college programs.

Izzy Marshall, Jordan Leal, Austin Cronen, Wesley Payne and Daulton Rittenhouse have all roamed sideline to sideline when they weren’t in the backfield blowing up a play.

“We’ve had some really good ones come through Mountain Pointe,” Pride defensive coordinator Zach Griffin said. “It’s been a premium position.”

Although there were very few questions about Mountain Pointe heading into the season, the linebacker unit was one of the unknowns.

Senior outside linebacker Rashie Hodge was the known commodity, but the other three starters in the Mountain Pointe 3-4 base package had minimal varsity exposure.

Four games in, those questions have been minimized as the Pride (4-0) prepares to travel to north Phoenix to take on Pinnacle (1-4) this week.

Senior Xavier Cota, senior Michael Washington and junior Jacob Olsen have combined with Hodge to form a solid unit.

“We talked about stepping up because it was our time,” Washington said. “They may not know who we are, but we had great players around us so we knew we had to be ready to play at that same level.”

It has worked out well so far with Washington and Hodge on the outside with Olsen and Cota inside.

“They’ve been really good,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We knew they had the ability, but until they get out there you never know.”

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Washington is the most versatile of the three as he drops to defensive end in some packages.

“It opens things up so we don’t have to change personnel,” Griffin said. “We knew with Michael Washington we going to get someone who is technically sound, makes the right read and picks up on things the first time we show it to him.”

The inside backers are blessed by having a defensive line that garners a lot of attention from all five offensive linemen.

“Our linemen are the best in the state and it just frees us up,” Cota said. “We have good looks at the running backs or quarterback because those guys are creating a lot of problems for the line.”

The 5-10, 187-pound Cota moved to linebacker his junior year after mostly playing running back and Griffin feels like the two positions are similar in reading and reacting.

“Xavier is a very instinctual player and makes plays based on what he sees,” Griffin said. “He has a feel for the ball, a lot like players who played running back do. They have that knack for where the space is and how to get through it.”

The coaching staff had a feel for what Washington and Cota could do from their time on the scout team as juniors and the time they saw during games.

The 5-11, 190-pound Olsen spent the entire 2015 season on junior varsity and an injury ended his season early, so there was little direct contact with him to get a true idea as to what he could do within the system.

“He was the wild card,” Griffin said. “He had shown ability and flashes on JV, but you never know if a kid is ready until you see it happen. By the end off fall camp, it was clear he was going to see significant playing time.”

Olsen, who is the team’s top fullback, said he wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass once it became clear he was going to step on the field for the season opener.

“I didn’t expect to start as a junior, but once I found out I was ready to go,” he said. “I never really got first team reps until we got close to the season. Then I just knew I had to keep working harder because that’s only way you keep it.”

So far, the unit has kept up with the lineage of Mountain Pointe linebackers, but there are more physical and competitive games ahead as the season nears its half-way point.

“We are working through some kinks still,” Griffin said. “We are trying to get the guys to talk and communicate the way we’d expect them to at this point into the season. With some of the teams we’ve played these guys would make plays regardless of what I tell them to do. Some things will not show up until we play teams that can match up with us.

“Then we will see where are at that point and how they react.”

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Mountain Pointe’s Jacob Olsen tackles Chandler High’s Jacob Conover for a big loss during first hald action at Mountain Pointe, Thursday, September 8, 2016. (Photo: Tom Tingle/azcentral sports)

Three quick thoughts from Phoenix Mountain Pointe’s 52-7 demolition of Chandler on Thursday:

, azcentral sports  10:40 p.m.   MST September 8, 2016


I picked Mountain Pointe to win, so the result didn’t surprise me, but I was stunned by Mountain Pointe’s domination on both sides of the ball. There was a running clock in the fourth quarter, for goodness sakes. Mountain Pointe punched Chandler in the mouth with running back Gary Bragg, who rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns, and its defense completely shut down an offense that had been averaging 38 points per game. Mountain Pointe had a terrific defense in 2013 when it went 14-0 and won the state championship game. This defense might be better; the Pride are big up front and quick and athletic in the secondary. In fact, I’m not sure this team isn’t better than that 2013 club. If quarterback Noah Grover continues to make big plays like he did Thursday – and like Antonio Hinojosa did in ’13, Mountain Pointe will be extraordinarily difficult to beat.

“I didn’t expect this,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said.

No one did.

FIND A GAME: Football scores and schedule

Don’t count Chandler out

The Wolves didn’t show up, but I wouldn’t be so quick to say their state championship hopes are dashed. This was Chandler’s third game in 12 days, and from the get-go it didn’t look like Shaun Aguano’s club had its usual juice on offense. Now, a lot of that has to do with Mountain Pointe’s defense, which is the best in the 6A Conference. But I’m guessing that as Chandler’s schedule eases up and running back Ryan Johnson returns from injury the Wolves will again put up a lot of points. As for sophomore quarterback Jacob Conover, who threw his first two interceptions of the season and forced a lot of balls into double coverage, a game like that will help him become a better player down the road.

“It’s tough,” Aguano said of the schedule, “but no excuses. They’re the better team right now.”

A beast

Is there a better two-way big school player in the state than Mountain Pointe wide receiver/safety Isaiah Pola-Mao? Pola-Mao had two touchdown catches and an interception Thursday. Chandler couldn’t throw the ball down the middle of the field because Pola-Mao took everything away. He’s not Christian Kirk in terms of changing the game with one burst, but he affects the game on every play.

Final verdict

Right now there’s no debate. Mountain Pointe is the best team in the 6A Conference. And from what I saw Thursday, it will hold onto that honor for a while – and possibly all season.