Chandler High again is beginning to look unbeatable in the 6A high school football playoffs.
On Friday, Mountain Pointe, which had won four straight games, could not keep up with the Wolves and fell, 49-21, in the state quarterfinals at Chandler.
It was only the second time in six games that the two-time defending 6A state champion Wolves have been held under 50 points.
Mountain Pointe finishes 7-5, its worst record since 2011. On the other hand, the Pride have reached the state quarterfinals nine times in 10 years.
The victory gives Chandler (11-1) a semifinal date with Highland (11-1) next Friday at Hamilton High in Chandler. Highland held off Liberty, 15-12, in a quarterfinal on Friday.
Chandler senior running back DeCarlos Brooks scored on a 71-yard run in the first quarter, on a night in which he had 248 rushing yards and six touchdowns, five on the ground and one on a 40-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Conover.
“That’s crazy,” Brooks said. “I have to give a shout out to my offensive line. They gave me holes to make cutbacks and do everything like I can do.
“They played phenomenal today and the defense played their butts off and kept getting us the ball so we could score. We just executed the game plan.”
Conover echoed his running back.
“It was an overall team effort. No matter what, we had to win,” Conover said. “The offensive line opened up great holes for the run game. Their protection was great, which was ultimately the team aspect of the win.”
Chandler coach Shaun Aguano, pleased with the win, already was thinking about pesky Highland in Friday’s semifinal at Hamilton.
“We’re coming in early and getting ready for the game next week by going over film and fixing the mistakes we had,” Aguano said. “We had a few turnovers that we can’t have if we are going to play in the championship game.
“I loved our physicality on both sides of the line, and if we can keep it up, we will be fine.”
Brooks and Conover agreed.
“We just have to execute the plays, play hard and physical, aggressive football like we have all year and we will get the win,” Brooks said of the semifinal match up.
According to Conover, “There will be a lot of preparation but ultimately we have to focus on what we can do.”
No. 8 Mountain Pointe was without injured rushing leading Jakim McKinney, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Brophy in the first round a week earlier.
“It was one of those situations where we were going to wait until game time, and come that time, (McKinney) couldn’t put enough pressure on it,” Pride coach Rich Wellbrock said. “Unfortunately, his really good career with Mountain Pointe had to end with him watching. I know he didn’t want any part of that.”
Chandler 49, Mountain Pointe 21
Mountain Pointe 0 14 7 0 – 21
Chandler 14 14 14 0 – 49
CH – Brooks 71 run (Peterman kick), 8:02.
CH – Brooks 1 run (Peterman kick), 4:20.
MP – Davis 28 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 11:21.
CH – Brooks 11 run (Peterman kick), 7:49.
MP – Wallerstedt 71 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:27.
CH – Brooks 40 pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 5:49.
CH – Brooks 43 run (Peterman kick), 7:49.
CH – Conover 5 run (Peterman Kick), 4:47.
MP – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:25.
This might be the only team on Chandler’s side of the bracket that really has a shot at slowing down the Wolves. But Pride coach Rich Wellbrock will see first-hand why it has been so difficult for anybody in Arizona to contain the Wolves. It starts with third-year varsity starting quarterback Jacob Conover. It ends with a solid defensive front and linebacking corps. If QB Nick Wallerstedt can crack through Chandler’s secondary, the Pride has a chance. RB Jakim McKinney will be needed at full strength. And the receivers are going to have to get open. Wallerstedt’s speed turning up field will have to be something the Wolves watch out for. He’s fast and tough. Chandler’s secondary will be challenged. But who is going to slow down Chandler’s game breakers on offense?
Prediction: Chandler 42, Mountain Pointe 31
Washington: “It was just a good team victory.” Eric Norwood, Special to azcsports
No. 5 Gilbert Highland (10-1) at No. 4 Peoria Liberty (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Highland’s only loss was to Mountain Pointe. Liberty’s only loss was to Pinnacle, a one-point heart-breaker. These are two of the better defensive teams in 6A. Liberty’s defense is led by DL Braxten Croteau and LB Ryan Puskas, both Cal commits. Croteau leads the Lions in sacks and Puskas leads them in tackles. Highland RB/SS Kohner Cullimore holds down a stingy defense and makes enough big plays on offense to open it up for the Hawks. Highland has been playing so well the last few weeks, that it’s going to take Liberty’s best game for four quarters to win.
Prediction: Highland 24, Liberty 20
No. 6 Gilbert Perry (9-2) at No. 3 Phoenix Desert Vista (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
This is a chance for the Thunder to show what it is made of. The team feels like it has been flying under the radar all season with the only loss coming against Highland, where Desert Vista lost top rusher Tyson Grubbs for the season with an injury. Colby Humphrey is coming off maybe his best game running the ball last week for the Thunder. Desert Vista will need to control the clock and not let junior QB Chubba Purdy take over the game for Perry with his legs. He has run for more than 150 yards in each of his last two games. Perry’s defense, led by safety Travis Calloway, took a big step in the right direction last week, forcing five Basha turnovers in a 38-21 win.
Prediction: Perry 33, Desert Vista 28
Chubba Purdy leads Perry’s high-powered offense against Basha in first round state playoff game.Richard Obert, azcentral sports
No. 10 Mesa Red Mountain (9-2) at No. 2 Phoenix Pinnacle (10-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Pinnacle has shown great fortitude, coming back from deficits against Liberty and last week against Mesa Desert Ridge in the second half to win. QB J.D. Johnson will have to be spot on, because Red Mountain’s defense is tough. It likes to blitz and put pressure on the quarterback. Shaq Daniels leads a strong shut-down secondary for the Lions, who withstood a late rally by Queen Creek last week to move on. But this will be the fastest team Red Mountain has seen with a next-man-up mentality on offense carrying the Pioneers.
Prediction: Pinnacle 31, Red Mountain 28
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.
No. 8 Mountain Pointe was in control from start to finish, defeating No. 9 Brophy Prep 40-7 in the first round of the AIA 6A football playoffs.
After deferring the opening kick, Mountain Pointe’s defense forced an easy three-and-out. It would be the first of many, as the Pride did not give up a point to Brophy’s offense.
The Pride offense started slow, feeling out the Brophy defense that put a lot of players into the box to stop the three-headed rushing attack.
Just like Brophy, the Pride punted on their first possession and faced a tough third down on their second drive. Out of the shotgun, senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt faked a hand-off to running back Jakim McKinney and ran 44 yards for a touchdown.
The score was his longest of six – four rushing and two passing – on the night. Furthermore, it was huge in lighting a fire under the Pride offense that would last until the end of the game.
“It definitely ignited us,” Wallerstedt said. “We were kind of taking it slow and simple at first and then we had that breakout play, and it really helped us to get down and score.”
While the Pride offense rolled, the defense kept attacking the Brophy offensive line and making solid tackles.
Normally a high-octane passing team, the Broncos were held to just 17 yards through the air in the first half. Brophy had to resort to quick screen passes to offset the pass rush and quality downfield-coverage the Pride seemed to have on every play.
It never got any easier, as quarterback Jalen Kitna ended the game with just 44 yards and two interceptions.
Brophy’s only score came on a kick return.
“I think we played well defensively all night, and had a couple great fourth-down stops,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “It helps when the offense is on the field a little longer, too.”
At the end of the first half, the Broncos drove down the field to get into the red zone. It would be the only time they got there, or even very close. With the clock running out, Brophy threw a jump-ball. Pride senior corner Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson came down with it for a half-ending interception.
“The momentum changed a lot. It was right before the second half, and we’re a really good second-half team,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “The coaches put me in a great spot to make a pick, and it felt really good.”
In the second half, the Pride kept running the ball, with the threat of deep passes off play action always looming to not allow Brophy to put too many defenders up front.
The Pride rolled until McKinney exited the game with a hurt leg after a long run in the third quarter. The Pride’s medical staff gave him treatment and eventually cleared him to play, but the coaches elected to hold him out to prevent further injury. Wellbrock said he should be ready to play next week.
In McKinney’s absence, sophomore Sanders carried the load late, and finished with 19 carries for 80 yards.
“I think the game was pretty well in-hand for us at that point,” Wellbrock said. “Eli’s been pretty great for us for the last five or six weeks, so it’s not anything we didn’t expect. We knew he could jump in there when he was needed.
The home win was the last for the Pride seniors, as the team will travel to Chandler High to take on the top-ranked Wolves.
The win was a great last memory at home for the seniors, and there will be time to reflect on all the fond memories and wins each of them experienced in a Pride uniform after the season. However, at least for one more week, there’s more football to play.
“I probably won’t think about all that until the season’s over,” Wallerstedt said. “Right now we’ve got a big game and there’s still a lot of time and preparation we have to do.”
The seeding favors No. 1 Chandler, but Mountain Pointe is the last Arizona-based team to defeat the Wolves, in the regular season of 2016.
Brophy 7, Mountain Pointe 40
Brophy 0 7 0 0 – 7
Mountain Pointe 14 14 6 6 – 40
MP – Wallerstedt 44 run (Abercrombie kick), 5:32
MP – Wallerstedt 16 run (Rasmussen kick), 1:16
MP – Washington 69 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 8:33
BRO – Ogbonna 80 kick return (Garcia kick), 8:19
MP – Wallerstedt 7 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:56
MP – Wallerstedt 5 run (Abercrombie pass failed), 10:18
MP – Washington 35 pass from Wallerstedt (kick failed), 10:01
Eli Sanders is a sophomore, which is a good thing and a bad one for the Mountain Pointe running back. As a youngster, he still has a lot to learn as he grows and eases into a key role for the Pride. The good news: The potential Division 1 prospect still has two more seasons ahead of him. Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor
Mountain Pointe running back Eli Sanders doesn’t shy away from the bright lights on Friday nights, even though he is only a sophomore.
“When I get my chance I have to use all of my God-given talent,” Sanders said. “It’s what I worked hard for my entire life. I have to take advantage of my chance.”
Sanders was promoted to the Pride varsity from the JVs after he impressed coach Rich Wellbrock and the new Pride coaching staff during spring ball.
He still had moments that showed how young he is, joking around during a drill or not paying attention, but Mountain Pointe running backs coach Trace Carroll knew there was something special about Sanders.
“I was a little worried about him in the spring because he was still young,” Carroll said. “We knew it would be a slower transition but he started to get the hang of things. The sky really is the limit for him. He can go as far as he wants to.”
Sanders’ athleticism was passed down from his father, Steve, who played wide receiver at the University of Washington. It was Steve and Kelly, Eli’s mother, who gave their son the passion and ability to compete at the highest level.
“They’ve really pushed me and gave me the inspiration to play,” Eli said. “They made me work harder. I want to go out and accomplish everything I have worked for.”
Exactly what Sanders is working toward is a feat that doesn’t happen often: He wants to be the best running back ever from Mountain Pointe.
“He always says how he wants to be great and be the best,” Carroll said. “His work ethic during the week shows that.”
Sanders was the backup to standout senior running back Jakim McKinney, but Sanders’ playing time increased as the season unfolded.
McKinney, who has rushed for 984 yards and 13 touchdowns, has been among the state’s top backs for two years. He was the workhorse early for Mountain Pointe, receiving most of the touches and remaining on the field nearly every offensive snap.
It wasn’t until Mountain Pointe’s close loss to national power South Jordan (Utah) Bingham that Carroll and the coaching staff gave Sanders more touches, in hopes of preserving McKinney for the playoffs with a lighter load while developing Sanders.
Sander’s role has morphed into a change-of-pace back, but not in the traditional way.
“I call them lightning and lightning but Eli is the faster of the two,” Carroll said. “I always say Eli is all gas and no breaks. When he gets into the open field it’s something special to watch.
“But he still has trouble breaking down defenders in open space.”
Sanders (6 feet, 175 pounds) has a bigger body than McKinney (5-8, 170).
Still with room for improvement, Sanders has rushed for 724 yards and nine touchdowns.
That’s where McKinney’s leadership qualities come into play.
Sanders said playing behind McKinney is a constant learning experience with regard to techniques and ways to make defenders miss.
“Jakim is wonderful,” Sanders said. “Every time I watch him I learn something new. He’s a great back. He runs hard, he’s physical, he can make a cut and get away. Everything he does I can learn from him.”
Their relationship is similar to that of brothers. On the field, they are close and constantly motivating one another. Off the field, they joke around and Sanders often becomes the victim of friendly pranks.
Their friendship and ability to feed off each other has helped both as Mountain Pointe prepares to host rival Brophy Prep in a 7 p.m. first-round playoff game on Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.
“Eli really looks up to Jakim,” Carroll said. “Their relationship is probably the best for a two-back system that I have had coaching for 10 years.”
In recent games, the two have been on the field together, on either side of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt in the shotgun, a formation that has been nearly unstoppable with three threats to take it all the way on every snap.
Sanders’ speed has transferred to the track for Mountain Pointe. As a freshman, he was part of the 4×100-meter relay state-championship team. He also competes in long jump.
Running back has been his passion his entire life, and Sanders hopes to capitalize on the knowledge he gains from McKinney and other Pride seniors as his career continues.
“I’ve coached a lot of great backs in my time, including Devonte Neal and Darvon Hubbard at Chaparral last year,” Carroll said. “He is a mixture of them with speed and power. As a sophomore, he is up there at the elite level. He just has to keep going.”
The Pride played the second-toughest schedule of any team in Arizona, according to the AIA. Mountain Pointe ends the regular season 6-4, having lost three games by a touchdown or less.
Mountain Pointe’s defense has talented players at all levels, and the Pride have not allowed more than 27 points since an opening-game loss at Pinnacle. Senior receiver Rashion Hodge leads all tacklers with 82.
On offense, the Pride run the ball frequently behind a large offensive line. Mountain Pointe has developed somewhat of a three-headed rushing attack with senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, senior running back Jakim McKinney and sophomore running back Eli Sanders. All three are fast and can shake off potential tacklers. Play action opens one-on-one match-ups for the Pride’s quick receivers down the field as well.
Through seven weeks, the Pride were 3-4 but turned the season around by winning three in a row.
“We’re really just happy to be on this three-game win-streak,” coach Rich Wellbrock said. “We’ve had some good second halves, now if we can play like that in the first half we’ll be good to go.”
The Broncos bounced back from a 1-9 2017 season to 7-3 this year, under first-year head coach Jon Kitna. Brophy lost two of its final three games in road matches against heavyweights Chandler and Perry in respective weeks. But, the Broncos pulled out a season-ending home win against playoff-bound Basha on senior night.
Brophy is led by its defense, which has allowed just a touchdown or less in six of its ten games this year. The Broncos’ leading tackler is senior Sully Shannon (86) and Will Broucek has added 81 and a team-high seven sacks.
While the defense has been stout, Brophy’s offense has struggled to move the ball at times. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Kitna has 1,431 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, but has also thrown 15 interceptions. Senior Marques White is Brophy’s leading rusher, with just 420 yards and two scores on the ground.
Mountain Pointe defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepts Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returns it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee. the Pride rolled to a 49-14 victory. Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor
With playoffs on their minds, the Mountain Pointe Pride had one last job to do in their regular-season finale Friday, and they took their sweet time doing it.
Tied at halftime against Corona del Sol, a 1-8 team, Mountain Pointe erupted with 28 points in the third quarter and added an insurance touchdown in the fourth to roll past the Aztecs, 49-14, at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.
The win assured the Pride (6-4), who played the toughest regular-season schedule in 6A, their 10thstraight winning record and likely assured them a first-round home playoff game on Friday, Nov. 2. Playoff seeding will be announced Saturday morning.
“I told them (at halftime) to do their job,” said Mountain Pointe first-year coach Rich Wellbrock. “When you do your job, it becomes a simple game and things seem to flow. It’s when we don’t do our job and we start thinking we have to do someone else’s job (that we struggle). That was our simple adjustment at halftime.”
A disquieting opening half has become a recurring theme for Mountain Pointe, which trailed Desert Ridge by 14 points a week earlier, Chaparral by 10 two weeks earlier, and squandered several scoring opportunities and was tied with Desert Vista at the half three weeks earlier.
At the outset Friday, though, it appeared the Pride was primed for the anticipated rout of an opponent that had lost seven straight games. Pride defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepted Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game.
But the Aztecs would fight back and put together two solid scoring drives to keep pace with the Pride, whose offensive line struggled with pass protection and run blocking.
The opening snap of the second half was just as electrifying as the first for the Pride as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt kept the ball and dashed 79 yards around right end along the sideline for a touchdown that seemed to awaken a sleeping giant.
The Pride went back to a formation that has been effective, with running backs Eli Sanders, a sophomore, and Jakim McKinney, a senior, in the game together on either side of Wallerstedt in the shotgun. Mountain Pointe kept the Corona del Sol defense guessing as the trio of backs combined for 388 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Sanders scored on runs of 48, 38 and 46 yards.
“I thought our kids ran the ball hard in the second half,” Wellbrock said. “The holes were there and when we needed someone to make the plays, Nick, Eli and Jakim were there to make the plays. And that helps.”
The Pride defense also upped their game, applying more pressure to Helt, sticking with receivers and stuffing the rush as they shut out the Aztecs in the second half.
Mountain Pointe is in the playoffs for the 10th straight season. In eight of the previous nine years, the Pride reached the semifinals or beyond, including one state title.
“Once we figure out who it is we need to get back to the details, make sure we are focused on the details, and that goes across the board offensively, defensively, and special teams,” Wellbrock said of playoff preparation.
Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt attempts a rare pass Friday during the Pride’s 42-24 win at Chaparral. Wallerstedt did most of his damage with his feet, rushing for 105 yards, but his biggest play might have been his leaping one-handed grab of an errant punt snap that could have given the Firebirds great field position for a fourth-quarter comeback attempt. Eric Newman/AFN Staff
With its season hanging in the balance, Mountain Pointe turned to its running game and its defense to rally from a 10-0 deficit and wallop Chaparral, 42-24, in high school football Friday night in Scottsdale.
The Pride (4-4) couldn’t afford another setback and hope to sneak into the top eight and a first-round home game in the playoffs, yet they appeared listless and disinterested as they fell behind early.
Then, coach Rich Wellbrock, who had alternated running backs Jakim McKinney and Eli Sanders all season, sent them into the game together. Combined with the running of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, the trio kept the Firebirds’ defense guessing as they unleashed counter plays, sweeps and keepers.
McKinney rushed for 134 yards on 16 carries, Wallerstedt for 105 on 21 and Sanders was a carry away from the 100-yard club with 92 on 16 carries.
MP’s offensive line got a large push, and its receivers made key blocks to allow rushers to get outside the tackles and find space.
“Their defense blitzed a lot and we just had to take advantage of the gaps that they gave up. After the first couple of drives we got together and kind of figured it out,” senior lineman Alex Vogel said.
Among those relieved that they did was Sanders, a sophomore.
“We really needed this win,” Sanders said. “And a lot of our coaches came from Chaparral, so, it was kind of personal to us. We wanted to do it for them.”
Wallerstedt’s six-yard touchdown pass to senior Jathan Washington was his only completion of the second quarter and his last of the game. Wallerstedt would attempt only two more passes in the second half as the Pride kept the ball on the ground and kept the clock moving.
“It really helps us so we don’t get injured, and we all share the load,” Sanders said of the three-headed monster in the backfield. “I give a lot of the credit to the offensive line. They’re the best O-line in the state.”
While Wallerstedt was making plays with his feet rather than his arm, it was a play with his hand that might have saved both the game and the Pride’s season. In the fourth quarter with the Pride clinging to the lead, Wallerstedt, who doubles as the Pride’s punter, made a highlight-reel, leaping, one-handed catch of an errant snap deep in Chaparral territory and then got the punt away before the Chaparral punt rush could get to him. Had the ball gotten away from him, the game likely would have changed.
Once the Pride weathered Chaparral’s early barrage their defense dug in. The front seven kept pressure on Chaparral quarterback Jack Miller, often forcing him to hurry throws or throw on the run, and the secondary stuck to Firebirds’ receivers, knocking down balls downfield.
Miller, who has committed to play at Ohio State in 2020, had 235 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He had no choice but to throw because the Mountain Pointe defense all but shut down Chaparral’s rushing game.
Like Mountain Pointe, Chaparral was fighting for playoff seeding, and several times play became heated.
Near the end of the third quarter, McKinney burst through a gap on fourth-and-five for a first down and his helmet came off during the tackle. While at the bottom of the pile, Chaparral junior Ben Eddleblute kicked him in the head. McKinney did not suffer an injury, and even scored a touchdown to finish the drive, but Eddleblute was ejected.
Just minutes later, on the Pride’s next possession, Mountain Pointe had to do a punt over due to two sets of offsetting penalties. Both teams committed personal fouls during the kick and then both received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties afterward.
“It was a really chippy game,” Mountain Pointe junior Cameron Rasmussen said. “Even when we came out for warm-up kicks, there was already some talking going on.”
There were 22 accepted penalties – 11 by each team – and several more that were declined or offset.
In the fourth quarter, Chaparral continued trash-talking. Though Pride players certainly chirped on the sideline, Wellbrock got his team to focus on the game and not draw a foolish penalty that would give up field position.
“We were able to have conversations with all of our kids and tell them that obviously there’s a bigger picture than that personal battle they want to get into,” Wellbrock said.
Wellbrock said he was proud of the way his team finished. Mountain Pointe had lost three games in the closing two minutes by a single score. That is counterbalanced by quality wins over Highland and now Chaparral, both on the road, against a schedule that statistically is the toughest in 6A.
“We know we can’t end the season less than .500 now,” Vogel said. “We didn’t need to say it out loud, but everybody kind of got the vibe for tonight.”
Mountain Pointe visits Desert Ridge (3-5) in the far East Valley on Friday. Chaparral (5-3) visits Pinnacle (7-1).
Mountain Pointe 42, Chaparral 24
Mountain Pointe 0 14 7 21 – 42
Chaparral 10 0 7 7 – 24
CHAP – Cervantes 32 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 8:37.
CHAP – FG, Christakos 49, 4:32.
MP – Wallerstedt 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 9:03.
MP – Washington 6 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 0:41.
CHAP – Norvell 10 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 6:57.
MP – McKinney 3 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:17.
MP – Wallerstedt 10 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:13.
MP – McKinney 4 run (Abercrombie kick), 5:14.
CHAP – Norvell 24 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 3:52.
MP – Wallerstedt 3 run (Abercrombie kick), 0:59.
Mountain Pointe – McKinney 16-134, Wallerstedt 21-105, Sanders 16-92, Washington 1-4. Chaparral – Hubbard 18-37, Miller 1-9, Williams 1-0.
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. | Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor
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.
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.”
Desert Vista’s defensive line, including Thomas Jackson (55), who dropped 50 pounds during the off season, was a menace to Mountain Pointe all night long in the Ahwatukee Bowl on Friday. The Thunder ended a six-game skid in the series with a heart-stopping 28-27 win at Karl Kiefer Stadium. Cheryl Haselhorff/AFN Contributor
By Eric Newman, AFN Staff Writer | October 6, 2018
Up just a point in the waning seconds of the rivalry game at Mountain Pointe on Friday night, the Desert Vista “Dawg Pound” defensive line that had stood tall all night made the deciding play.
With the ball on Desert Vista’s side of the field and 11 seconds to play, Mountain Pointe senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt felt pressure – as he had all game – from the Thunder defensive line, and threw a hurried ball up-for-grabs that was intercepted in the end zone as time expired.
Thunder fans rushed the field as their team escaped with a 28-27 victory in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
The Thunder (6-1) forced three Pride turnovers, including two interceptions and a fumble, largely because of the push up front by the defensive line.
The Thunder defense took away Mountain Pointe’s two leading offensive weapons. Jakim McKinney, the Pride’s senior running back, who was averaging 110 rushing yards a game, carried twice for six yards. Dominic Davis, the Pride’s junior big-play receiver, who was averaging 111 yards a game and a whopping 21 yards a catch, caught five balls for 49 yards (9.8-yard average).
Desert Vista senior lineman Brett Johnson said he believed that the defensive front would have to play extremely well to win the game that Mountain Pointe had dominated with six straight wins and eight in nine years.
Johnson said that the defensive strategy the Thunder implemented worked to perfection.
“I usually play tackle, and I switched with our nose guard, and we played an odd front. That gave me the ability to push the center back as far as I could,” Johnson said. “We saw in film that they pull a lot, so we clogged up a lot of their pulls, and they had two guys on me most of the time, so that allowed space for the other guys to make plays.”
The Thunder defensive front, known as the “Dawg Pound,” caused pressure on nearly every snap, getting into the backfield quickly to hurry Wallerstedt’s passes and hit rushing attempts in the backfield.
Wallerstedt kept the Pride in the game with 205 passing yards (17-29-2) and 131 rushing yards on 12 carries, many of them designed runs.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to ever stop him, but we had to contain him, and our defensive line did that,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said.
The Thunder knew the Pride would try to pound the ball but Mountain Pointe’s backs had a rough go. Because the DV defensive front had the rush under control, the back seven made plays on the ball when it was thrown.
“Our game plan was that us as a defensive line had the running backs, and the secondary was responsible for the other stuff. So, we shut down those runners, and it made it hard for them to move the ball,” senior Tyler Roberts said.
Defensive line coach Derek Kennard, Jr., who nicknamed the line the “Dawg Pound,” said he was disappointed by the gashing Wallerstedt put on the Thunder’s defense with his legs, but was proud of the way his team stuck to the game plan.
“They’re getting better, but it’s nothing that I didn’t already foresee. I knew early on that this was going to be a great group,” Kennard said. “It’s my ninth year coaching, and I’ve had a lot of D-lines. This is a special one, with a lot of talent and depth throughout the whole line.”
With the game on the line in the Ahwatukee Bowl, Kennard said his “Dawg Pound” wanted to be responsible for deciding it. The takeaway for the unit is confidence that it can compete against any offensive line it faces the rest of the season.
“I told them that we’re built for this, we want the game on our back. We always do because I trust they’ll get it done,” Kennard said.
Richard Obert, 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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.
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