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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.  

Pride unleash fierce running game in big win at Chaparral

Updated 

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

First

CHAP – Cervantes 32 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 8:37.

CHAP – FG, Christakos 49, 4:32.

Second

MP – Wallerstedt 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 9:03.

MP – Washington 6 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 0:41.

Third

CHAP – Norvell 10 pass from Miller (Christakos kick), 6:57.

MP – McKinney 3 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:17.

Fourth

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.

Individual statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe – McKinney 16-134, Wallerstedt 21-105, Sanders 16-92, Washington 1-4. Chaparral – Hubbard 18-37, Miller 1-9, Williams 1-0.

Passing

Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 4-12-1, 17 yards. Chaparral – Miller 16-39-1, 235.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Davis 2-9, Washington 1-6, Delco 1-1. Chaparral – Christakos 5-119, Norvell 4-57, Hubbard 4-18, Cervantes 1-32, Crawford 1-9.

Team Statistics

                                               MP                 Chaparral

First downs                             21                  15

Rush-yards                              53-335           20-46

Comp-app-int                          4-12-1            16-39-1

Pass yards                               17                   235

Total yards                              352                  281

Fumbles/lost                            0/0                  3/1

Penalties-yards                        11-87               11-93

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.”

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.   

Desert Vista lets the Dawgs out in throttling Mountain Pointe’s offense

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.

, 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 High handed Highland High its first loss of the season on Friday, Sept. 28 in Gilbert, Ariz.   

Mountain Pointe hands Highland first loss of season

The Highland Hawks came into Friday’s contest against Mountain Pointe favored with an undefeated record, while the Pride knew their playoff hopes were likely on the line.

Mountain Pointe’s offense came alive in the first half and held off a valiant comeback effort by Highland to defeat the Hawks, 48-27.

“Coming out of this game, the biggest thing I’m proud of offensively is that all season long when we got a penalty on a drive we didn’t continue to drive and score,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “It was real pleasing to see them fight through that adversity.”

The Pride got off to a fast start against Highland in the first half, as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt and running back Jakim Mckinney quickly found success against the Hawks’ defense.

Wallerstedt connected with senior tight end Jerrick Dickson early in the first quarter to give the Pride an early lead. Later in the first, senior running back Jakim Mckinney found his way to the end zone.

Wallerstedt and Mckinney would account for two more scores in the first half to push Mountain Pointe’s lead to 27-7 at halftime.

The senior quarterback shined for Mountain Pointe against a strong Highland defense, completing 15 of his 19 attempts for 163 yards and four touchdowns.

“He was special tonight,” Wellbrock said of Wallerstedt. “He did a little bit of everything. But he still has got a ways to get better.”

Facing a large deficit, Highland flipped a switch coming out of halftime, scoring two quick touchdowns – one of which a fumble — to narrow Mountain Pointe’s lead.

But the Pride answered.

Wallerstedt led Mountain Pointe on a long drive, eventually calling his own number from 10 yards out to once again make it a two-score game.

While Highland again scored to narrow the margin, Mountain Pointe answered, ending the Hawks’ hopes of an undefeated season.

Mountain Pointe’s defensive line played a vital role in the Pride’s upset victory, limiting Highland’s potent run-game.

“Their defensive line caused problems early,” Highland coach Brock Farrel said. “But really we only ran 17 offensive plays in the first half. Three of which were in the last two minutes when we did nothing. We just need to hang on to the ball.”

Highland (6-1) will look to bounce back next week as they travel to take on Corona del Sol (1-6).

As for Mountain Pointe (3-3), the win over talented Highland team is the type of confidence boost the Pride needed heading into the annual Ahwatukee Bowl next week against Desert Vista (5-1).

In his first year as head coach at Mountain Pointe, it will be the first time Wellbrock experiences one of best prep football rivalries in the Arizona. But he is prepared for what it has to offer. 

“We know what this rivalry is about and the kids will make sure we are on point next week,” Wellbrock said. “I guarantee you.”

Mountain Pointe 48, Highland 27

Mountain Pointe      20 7  7 14 – 48     

Highland                  7 0  20 0  – 27

First

Mtn Pt – Dickson 5 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 7:43

Mtn Pt – McKinney 7 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:01

Highland – Huffman 13 run (Mcnamara kick), 5:15

Mtn Pt – Dickson 10 pass from Wallerstedt (kick failed), 1:24

Second

Mtn Pt – McKinney 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:08

Third

Highland – Hester 15 pass from Herbert (Mcnamara kick), 7:58

Highland – Fumble recovery (Mcnamara kick), 7:51

Mtn Pt – Wallerstedt 10 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:54

Highland – Cullimore 64 run (kick failed), 1:43

Fourth

Mtn Pt – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 3:48

Mtn Pt – Washington 30 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:29

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe–McKinney 29-114, Sanders 16-85, Wallerstedt 12-119, Dickson 2-4. Highland – Cullimore 10-167, Huffman 3-38, Herbert 2-4.

Passing

Mountin Pointe – Wallerstedt 15-19-163. Highland – Herbert 9-13-89.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Dickson 2-13, Washington 6-93, Williams 1-4, Davis 4-53, Sanders 1-5, McKinney 1-12. Highland – Burdick 2-18, Crandell 4-25, Hester 1-13, Cullimore 1-8, Huffman 1-23.

Team Statistics 

                                 Mtn Pt           Highland

First Downs                  29                    8 

Rush Yards                 59-322          15-209

Comp-Att-Int             15-19-0          9-13-0

Pass Yards                  163                  89

Total Yards                 485                 298

Fumbles/Lost              1/1                 2/2

Penalties                   6-58                5-42

Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney prepares to squeeze through a hole and score to close the first half in Pride’s 48-27 win over Highland. (AzPreps365 photo).

Mountain Pointe deals Highland first loss

September 28, 2018 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Les Willsey
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock has been patient with his team as they grow together in year one of his tenure. Wellbrock has said severall times he believes Mountain Pointe will be a different team come October.

October arrives in two days and Wellbrock may be on to something. Mountain Pointe was impressive all night on offense with quarterback Nick Wallerstedt piloting five 80-yard scoring drives and accounting for five touchdowns as the Pride knocked Highland from the unbeaten ranks with a 48-27 victory at Highland.

Mountain Pointe, No. 12 this week in the 6A power rankings, evened its record at 3-3 and bounced back impressively from a tough 29-28 loss to Queen Creek a week ago. Highland (6-1), under second-year coach Brock Farrel, was No. 1 in the power-rankings this week. Highland is 14-5 with Farrel at the helm and three of the five losses are to Mountain Pointe.

Wallerstedt, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior, completed TD passes of 5, 10, 17 and 30 yards to four different receivers. He added a fifth TD on a 10-yard run with 3:54 left in the third quarter . That TD served to a potential huge rally by Highland in the thrid period that saw the Hawks shave a 27-7 halftime lead to 27-21.

“We were emotionally invested  this week,” Wellbrock said. “We played with more of a sense of urgency. Nick was special tonight. He did a little bit of everything.”

Wallerstedt rushed for 120 yards on 14 carries and completed 15 of 19 passes for 190 yards. In the first period he connected on 7 of 8 passes in a 20-point quarter. In the fourth period he was 5 for 5 as the Pride tacked on two scores to cut Highland’s comeback bid short. 

Mountain Pointe got its offense rolling early mixing the run and pass in the first quarter that saw the Pride bolt to a 14-0 lead. Wallerstedt tossed the first of his four TD passes for the first score to Eli Sanders. The pride stunned Highland for a the second TD 42 seconds after the first. A fumble set Mountain Pointe up at Highland’s 36 and three plays later senior running back Jakim McKinney tallied from 8 yards out.

Mountain Pointe’s rushing attack was more than just Wallerstedt. The Pride netted a tad more than 300 yards for the game. McKinney checked in with 126 yards on 34 carries and Sanders added 67 yards on 17 rushes.

Highland pulled within 14-7 as its offense cranked out a scoring drive on its second possession. Dayton Huffman did the honors with a 13-yard run. That was all for Highland’s offense in the first half as they went to intermission down by 20.

As dominant as Mountain Pointe was in the first half, running 45 plays to 16 for Highland and having the ball for 18 of 24 minutes. its 27-7 lead nearly vanished. The Hawks drove 69 yards to begin the second half with quarterback Kaleb Herbert completing five passes for 58 yards, including the score to tight end Kyle Hester.

Seven seconds later an untouched McKinney fumbled and the ball was snatched out of the air and returned 20 yards for a TD by Highland defensive eend Cooper Holman. The large Pride lead was a single TD now midway through the third period.

Wallerstedt followed up and marched Mountain Pointe 80 yards in four minutes for its only score of the third period. Wallerstedt rushed for 48 yards on the drive.

Kohner Culliimore had several long runs, including a 64-yard jaunt to paydirt that briefly closed the gap to a TD again as the third period ended. Cullimore carried eight times for 149 yards.

 

Mountain Pointe running back Jakim McKinney breaks away from Hamilton’s defense for a long touchdown run in high school football Friday night in Ahwatukee. McKinney and Eli Sanders did most of the damage as the Pride rushed for 416 yards in a 55-20 rout.  

Mountain Pointe rolls past Hamilton

With a short week of preparation and the memory of a bitter loss to the nation’s No. 15 team lingering, Mountain Pointe shook it off, unleashed its speedy rushing game and ran past Hamilton, 55-20, in high school football Friday night in Ahwatukee.

Mountain Pointe rolled to 416 rushing yards and 643 yards total offense against a program not far removed from its days as Arizona’s big-school dynasty.

But the Huskies were overmatched from the outset, as Pride running backs Jakim McKinney, a senior, and Eli Sanders, a sophomore, blasted through Hamilton’s front seven into the second level and raced away.

Meanwhile, the Pride’s blitzing, aggressive defense smothered Hamilton’s rushing game and consistently was in the face of Hamilton passers, making sacks or forcing hurried throws. Pride linebacker Rashion Hodge was a menace to the Huskies.

Last Saturday, the Pride was on the doorstep of upsetting 15th-ranked South Jordan (Utah) Bingham in Henderson, Nev., but inside the Bingham 5-yard line in the closing 2 minutes, Mountain Pointe’s fourth-down pass was deflected at the goal line.

There was no apparent hangover. Mountain Pointe struck quickly, manhandling the Huskies up front to open holes for McKinney and Sanders.

That, in turn, set up quarterback Nick Wallerstedt in the play-action and short passing game. The Pride also continued to take shots down the field and had receivers open deep most of the evening, but Wallerstedt overthrew several long balls.

The score reached 41-3 and the Pride threatened to put the game into running time before Hamilton regrouped and scored two late touchdowns, one of the drives set up by a recovered onside kick.

Mountain Pointe (2-2) plays host to Queen Creek (4-1), up this year to 6A, next Friday, while Hamilton (2-3) plays host to Dobson (1-4).

This motley crew is a goofy bunch – just don’t get in its way. The Mountain Pointe offensive shoves foes around to opens holes for a relentless ground game. It also enjoys mirth with line coach Frantz Pierre-Louis – known among the players as “Coach Zoe.”   Zach Alvira/AFN Staff

Pride’s physical – and playful – offensive line getting the last laugh

Football games often are won in the trenches. An offensive line that is big and physical to open holes for runners and protect the quarterback is every coach’s dream.

Coach Rich Wellbrock and Mountain Pointe High believe that they have that this season.

Why wouldn’t they? Mountain Pointe seems to have that every season. Physical play by dominating lines has been their trademark as they marched to the state semifinals or beyond eight of the past nine seasons.

“They’re the cornerstone of this team,” Wellbrock said of his linemen. “You can always count on them to do the right thing on the field, at the school and in the community. It’s a great group to have around.”

In their first season directing the Pride, Wellbrock and his staff inherited starters all over the field, including the offensive line. Seniors Cole Cundary, Alex Vogel, Zach Quihuis and Eriq Williams lead the way up front. The unit also has talented juniors Will Haire, Steven Williams and Kaleb Whitethorne.

The group averages 6-feet, 275 pounds – near the average for prep football teams in Arizona. They believe it’s their work ethic that separates them.

Mountain Pointe’s line will be tested Saturday when it takes on South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, ranked 15th nationally in MaxPreps Xcellent 25, in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada, as part of the Touchdowns Against Cancer Games. Kickoff is 8 p.m. at Liberty High.

“It’s a position that doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s a group that comes out and does their job,” Wellbrock said of the line. “It’s hard to pinpoint anytime one of them does better than the other.”

Their daily work ethic is inspired by a position coach who has experience. Line coach Frantz Pierre-Louis – known among the players as “Coach Zoe” – is in his sixth year working at the varsity level. He was offensive coordinator and line coach at Phoenix Christian before joining the Chaparral staff in 2017.

The linemen say that the transition to the new coaching staff has been easy because Zoe has a similar coaching style to that of former coach Norris Vaughan and his staff.

“At least from our standpoint, they coach pretty much the same,” Quihuis said. “They teach us all the same types of technique. Coach Zoe may yell a little more but that would be about it.”

A strong bond with Zoe has been built in short order. Playful banter is common in the group.

“These guys are clowns,” Zoe said, laughing. “They speak their mind, they’re free spirits. I think we are the best unit on the team.”

From their time on the practice field to dinner afterward, Zoe says this tight-knit offensive line is among the most important units on the team.

Vocal leaders among the group have emerged, among them Quihuis. His leadership has stood out to teammates and coaches.

“Every day he does his job. He’s ready to go and he pulls everyone along with him,” Wellbrock said. “He pushes everyone to meet his level of intensity.”

That intensity fuels the success of the Pride’s offensive line during Quihuis’ two years as a starter.

Last season, Mountain Pointe had 5,495 yards of offense, most of it on the ground from running back Jakim McKinney, who has built a close bond with the line.

“They mean a lot to me,” McKinney said. “I do love them. We’ve been through a lot, especially in games and even outside of games. We all hang out and sometimes go to dinner. It’s a good connection for us.”

Mountain Pointe opened with a loss to Pinnacle, among the favorites to win the 6A state championship. The Pride rolled up 437 total yards and 34 points, totals that should be enough to win on most Fridays. They lost to the Pioneers by 22.

Zoe says there is always room for improvement.

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 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.