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Photo: Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Mountain Pointe facing familiar foe after first-round blowout

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

As everyone expected, No. 1 Mountain Pointe High School breezed by No. 16 Cibola High Friday night to advance to the second round of the 6A state playoffs.

The Pride jumped out to a quick lead and built a 37-0 lead before the half ended. At the final whistle, the Pride held 65-0 lead and began looking to their next matchup as they attempt to return to the state championship for the second straight year.

To accomplish that goal, the Pride will have to get through a familiar foe, a team that pushed them to the brink earlier this year.

Back on Oct. 6, Mountain Pointe (9-2) committed a trio of first-quarter turnovers that allowed the Highland High Hawks (8-3) to build a 13-0 first-half lead.

But the Pride team that came out of the locker room at halftime looked like a completely different squad.

Behind a Delano Salgado 37-yard touchdown run and a Gary Bragg one-yard touchdown run, the Pride stormed back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. They also held the Hawks scoreless in the second half and escaped with a 14-13 win.

This time around, things might be a little different.

One big factor of the first meeting was Mountain Pointe’s slow start. Turning the ball over three times can often lead to a large deficit that some teams don’t have the ability to overcome.

Also, Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, who threw one interception and fumbled twice in the first matchup, has grown as both a player and a passer since that game.

The junior gunslinger threw for only 41 yards in that game and since then has yet to throw under 100 yards. He threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns on Friday against Cibola.

One player that Wallerstedt will have to watch out for in this matchup is defensive back Jalen Johnson, who’s picked off four passes this season for the Hawks.

The Hawks come into Friday night after a big 41-21 win over No. 9-seed Desert Mountain on their home field.

But just like that game in October, the Hawks will have to travel to Karl Kiefer Stadium and attempt to beat the Pride on their home field – something only one team has accomplished since 2011.

First-year head coach Brock Farrel and the Hawks bring a lot of talent to the table. They have received contributions from several players this year, but junior Kohner Cullimore and senior Jacob Wood have been two of the biggest.

They have played on both sides of the ball this year and have been relentless as well. Cullimore, has racked up 54 tackles this season from the safety position and picked off two passes.

On offense, Cullimore has carried the ball 70 times for 360 yards and seven touchdowns and he als has caught 20 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. It doesn’t stop there for the superstar junior, as he also returned has two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2017.

Jacob Wood has been just as big for the Hawks this season. He’s rushed for a team-high 460 yards and six touchdowns this season, including a 91-yard, three-touchdown performance against Gilbert on Oct. 20. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior has racked up 62 tackles from his linebacker position and also has been just as big in the passing game, picking off four passes.

Mountain Pointe boasts one of the best defenses in 6A, and to take home a second straight playoff victory, it will need to isolate both Wood and Cullimore on the offensive side of the ball. The line will also have to key in on these two, along with Highland leading tackler Tate Speaker, who has 99 tackles on the season.

The Pride’s ability to run the ball has been its strength all season long. The team has a stable of backs that includes Bragg, Jakim McKinney, Salgado and senior Je’on Moss, has recently emerged, scoring two touchdowns in the past two games.

Their success on the ground also has set up the passing game for Wallerstedt, giving him time in the pocket to either throw or to tuck the ball and run if no one is open.

If the Pride can establish their running game and avoid turning the ball over, it should be able to walk away with this one and advance to the semifinals for a matchup with the winner of No. 4-seed Perry and No. 5-seed Hamilton.

No. 1 Mountain Pointe and No. 8 Highland kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Mountain Pointe High School.

-Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, reaches out to catch the ball before heading into the end zone for the Pride’s second touchdown.  Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

Mountain Pointe stomps Cibola

By Ryan Clarke AFN Contributor  11.4.17

No. 1 Mountain Pointe flexed its muscle in Ahwatukee on Friday, rolling over the Cibola Raiders 65-0.

The Pride got off to a relatively slow start, but once the scoring opened up, it was all Mountain Pointe. Jakim McKinney’s 56-yard run made it 7-0 Pride midway through the first quarter.

Only a couple minutes later, a 50-yard pass from Nick Wallerstedt to Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson gave Mountain Pointe a 13-0 lead. After a 65-yard run by Gary Bragg, pick-six by Marshawn Gibson, touchdown run by Je’on Moss and 34-yard field goal, it was 37-0 Pride at the half.

Mountain Pointe dominated the football on both ends, having its way with a Raiders team that was visibly less athletic, talented and disciplined than the Pride. Head coach Norris Vaughan said his team was simply dominant.

“We just played well in every department,” Vaughan said. “We had too much speed for them, we played well and we executed. That’s all I can hope for.”

It was more of the same in the second half for the Pride as they continued to crush Cibola. Bragg’s 14-yard run made it 44-0 halfway through the third quarter. After a big punt return, Wallerstedt found Sky Hinoiosa for the 10-yard score, giving the Pride a 51-0 lead through three quarters of play.

With plenty of backup players in, Mountain Pointe scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter thanks to its defensive and special teams prowess. A blocked field goal attempt was returned for 69 yards by Kobe Blackwell to extend the Pride’s lead to 58, while a rushing touchdown by Ahmen Williams brought the game to its final score of 65-0.

Next up for Mountain Pointe is a matchup with Highland, who the Pride scraped past 14-13 on Oct. 6. Vaughan called the Hawks a “tough team” and looks forward to what his group can do.

“Last time we had like three turnovers in the first quarter,” Vaughan said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball and not do that kind of stuff. I think we’ll be fine.”

Mountain Pointe got two offensive linemen — Matthew Pola-Mao and Cole Cundary — back from injury on Friday. It made a world of difference protecting Wallerstedt and getting a push in the run game.

Fully healthy and playing its best football, the Pride enter next Friday’s matchup with high confidence. All that remains is executing between the lines once again in front of their home fans.

 

Gilbert’s Aiden Halley, #54, makes a last effort to stop Pride’s Je’on Moss, #13, as he heads into the endzone for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter.  |  Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

Mountain Pointe squeaks by Gilbert

By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor  |  October 27, 2017

From the opening kickoff, it was the quintessential showing of fortitude from both teams.

As the clock ran out and teams shook hands, players from the winning side raised their helmets and yelled with excitement and satisfaction as they jumped in the air in unison. On the losing side, players shed tears while others simply hung their heads in defeat.

Led by JaKim McKinney’s 200-plus yard showing on the ground and Ben Abercrombie’s two field goals — including the 31-yard game winner as time expired — No. 2-ranked Mountain Pointe defeated No.17-ranked Gilbert on Friday night at Karl Kiefer Stadium, 33-30.

Purdue-commit Jack Plummer went aerial on the Mountain Pointe (8-2) defense all night long to the tune of four touchdown passes, but a steady running game led by McKinney, Delano Salgado and Je’on Moss proved to be too much in the end for Gilbert (4-6).

“We played one heck of a quarterback tonight,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “We had a tough time getting to him.”

Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, Plummer and the Tigers caught the Pride off guard.

On a flea flicker play, Plummer launched a pass downfield, connecting with Dawson Tanner for 47 yards and the first sign of movement for Gilbert. A few plays later, Plummer found Oscar Lopez in the back of the end zone for the Tigers’ first score of the game. A successful two-point conversion gave them an 8-7 lead with just under a minute remaining in the first quarter.

Wasting little time, Mountain Pointe fed McKinney for two quick first down gains and on the third play of the ensuing drive, Moss took it to the house.

Barreling over several Gilbert players and breaking a handful of tackles, Moss trucked through the Tigers’ defense for a 30-yard touchdown run to give Mountain Pointe a 13-8 lead.

No less than five minutes later, Salgado fielded a punt from Gilbert and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown. Except, the Pride were called for a holding penalty and the touchdown was swiftly called back.

All disappointment was thrown out the window on the ensuing play as Wallerstedt handed off to McKinney and the Gilbert defense could only watch in awe as the 5’7 running back turned on the jets and scampered the length of the field for an 83-yard touchdown run.

“We ran hard tonight,” Vaughan said.

From that point on until late in the third quarter, Mountain Pointe and Gilbert traded blows, eventually setting up a game tying drive in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 30-23 and following a forced Mountain Pointe punt by Gilbert, Plummer took the Tigers the length of the field for a game tying drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock.

After moving the chains and completing four consecutive passes, a costly defensive pass interference penalty committed by the Pride moved Gilbert into the red zone. One play later, Plummer found Drew Hudson on an out route from seven yards out to tie the game 30-30 with just over four minutes remaining.

Starting from its own 37-yard line, Mountain Pointe returned to the one thing it knew best. With the help of McKinney on the ground and a 17-yard pass to Marshawn Gibson, the Pride moved well within Abercrombie’s range.

With two seconds remaining, Abercrombie drilled it through the uprights from 31 yards out and the Mountain Pointe players rushed the field to greet their savior.

Rushing for well over 200 yards on the night, McKinney eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season. Kenneth Lofton recorded a sack of Plummer in the third quarter to finish the season with a team leading 8.5 sacks.

Unable to hide amongst the many positives, penalties haunted Mountain Pointe for the game’s entirety. A number of long plays were called back on costly penalties and in most other scenarios, would have been the nail in the coffin for the Pride.

Vaughan and Mountain Pride will look to drastically improve upon its mistakes as it now prepares for the 6A playoffs, beginning next week. 

     

    GameNight: Pride thumps Highland

    Posted: Friday, October 7, 2016 11:40 pm | Updated: 11:26 am, Sat Oct 8, 2016.

    The Mountain Pointe Pride took home a 48-0 shutout win over the Highland Hawks Friday night in Gilbert.

    What ended up being a high scoring game for the Pride, started with a scoreless first quarter. Senior running back Antwaun Woodberry ended the scoring drought with a 25-yard touchdown run early in the second that jumpstarted the team.

    “We had a big game last week in Desert Vista so we came out a little bit flat, like I thought we would,” Mountain Pointe head coach Norris Vaughan said.

    With less than five minutes left in the half, senior running back Rashie Hodge Jr. took the ball 23 yards for the score to extend the lead to 14-0 following a Ben Abercrombie kick.

    While the Pride enjoyed a nice lead before half, senior quarterback Noah Grover took a late hit and went down with a leg injury. He would leave the game and not return. Before going down, he went 7-11 for 83 yards. Sophomore Nick Wallerstedt took over signal-calling duties.

    Woodberry found the end zone once again, this time from 34 yards with less than 30 seconds to play before halftime.

    “We made a good drive at the end to score, which was big, with our backup quarterback,” Vaughan said. “Our backup quarterback came in and played really well, he’s going to be an outstanding quarterback.”

    Mountain Pointe’s defense was red hot in the first half, only allowing 57 yards through the air and held the Hawks’ rushing attack to negative two yards.

    The Pride opened up the second half much like they ended the first with another Hodge Jr. touchdown run from 3-yards out. He finished the night rushing for over 100 yards and added three touchdowns.

    Juniors Je’on Moss and Delano Salgado would cap off the night with two more rushing scores to give the Pride a 48-0 win over the Hawks.

    “They executed really well in the second half,” Vaughan said. “The first half we did not execute at all like we should, but really the last three quarters we played really well.”

    And while the offense was rolling, the defense deserved a ton of credit. It held the Hawks to five yards on the ground and under 100 yards in the passing game. Senior defensive back Isaiah Pola-mao also added an interception.

    Mountain Pointe moves to 7-0, while Highland drops to 2-5. The Pride will look to remain unbeaten when it travels to Desert Ridge and Highland will look to bounce back at Desert Vista next week.

    Box Score

    Mountain Pointe 48, Highland 0

    MP   0 21 14 13-48

    HHS 0   0   0   0-0

    First

    Second

    MP – Woodberry 25 run (Abercrombie kick), 8:19

    MP – Hodge Jr. 23 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:43

    MP – Woodberry 30 run (Abercrombie kick), 00:29

    Third

    MP – Hodge Jr. 3 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:21

    MP – Hodge 25 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:10

    Fourth

    MP – Moss 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 8:38

    MP – Salgado 34 run (2-pt. conv. No Good), 00:24

    Team Stats

    MP

    Rush-Yards-TD: 49-382-7

    Att-Comp: 10-15

    Pass Yards: 121

    Total Yards: 503

    HHS

    Rush-Yards: 15-5

    Att-Comp-Int: 11-25-1

    Pass Yards: 95

    Total yards: 100

    Individual Stats

    Passing

    MP – Grover 7-11-83, Wallerstedt 3-4-38

    HHS – Kersting 11-25-1-95

    Rushing

    MP – Stephens 16-78, Woodbury 6-78, 2 TDs, Hodge Jr. 11-114, 3 TDs, Moss 3-15, TD, Brooks 3-6, Grover 1-3, Wallerstedt 3-33

    HHS – Cullimore 3-4, Fumble, Wood 5- (-3), Brandt 5-0

    Receiving

    MP – Pola-mao 3-13, Brooks 4-80, Hinojosa 2-21, Churchwell 1-6

    HHS – Zimmerman 4-44, Lunt 1-3, Brandt 2-22, Cullimore 2-15, Castillo 2-11

     
     

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