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GameNight: Palo-Mao sets record, Pride move on to semifinals

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2016 12:04 am | Updated: 12:37 am, Fri Nov 11, 2016.

Up the road at Sun Devil Stadium, the college team that normally wears maroon and gold chose to dress in black Thursday, a reminder of a season killed, in large part, by injuries at key positions.

Down in Ahwatukee, the high school team that normally wears maroon and gold opted for black, as well.

And Mountain Pointe, like the Arizona State program it models its uniforms after, has been beset by a spate of injuries in 2016 that once threatened to derail the Pride’s potential.

But the way Mountain Pointe has continued to stomp on opponents, regardless of who it’s missing, the mood inside Karl Kiefer Stadium this year has been anything but funereal.

Despite playing without its starting quarterback and leading rusher for the fifth consecutive game, top-seeded Mountain Pointe cruised on its way to staying undefeated, beating No. 8 Desert Ridge 47-21 at home Thursday in the 6A quarterfinals.

Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao had three interceptions on the evening, returning two of them for touchdowns for Mountain Pointe, which advances to the state semifinals for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. The Pride will face No. 13 Red Mountain next Friday at McClintock High.

Mountain Pointe plans to wear its black jerseys throughout its postseason run, Pola-Mao said, in the hope of catching the magic of the 2013 Pride team that went 14-0 on its way to a state championship.

“We remember 2013, when they wore black every playoff game,” Pola-Mao said. “We were like, ‘They made a statement, they got it done. Let’s do the same thing.’”

Pola-Mao nearly single-handedly got it done Thursday for Mountain Pointe. The 6-foot-4 senior picked off Desert Ridge passes on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, taking each back for touchdowns to stake Mountain Pointe to a 27-3 lead.

The interceptions were Pola-Mao’s first since Oct. 7, with his second pick breaking former teammate Jalen Brown’s school record of 16 in a career.

“It had been on my mind every game,” Pola-Mao said.

Pola-Mao added a third interception in the fourth quarter, and fellow defensive back Antwaun Woodberry also recorded a pick-six Thursday, marking Mountain Pointe’s final score of the game.

Pride coach Norris Vaughan said injured quarterback Noah Grover, who is nearing a return after breaking his leg Oct. 7, could be ready next week to retake the starting job from sophomore Nick Wallerstedt, who had an 88-yard touchdown run Thursday.

But Mountain Pointe (12-0) has hardly missed a beat in Grover’s absence, just as it kept churning after losing running back Gary Bragg for the season to a knee injury in September.

“We don’t care (about the injuries),” Vaughan said. “All we care about is to win the tournament, survive and advance. That’s the only thing that matters, no matter how you do it.”

On the other side, Desert Ridge (8-4) is eliminated in the quarterfinals a season after reaching the Division I state championship game in 2015.

“It’s hard because I have four three-year starters as seniors, so to lose them is super tough,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “…We’re not a passing team. When you get out of your element against a team like (Mountain Pointe), it’s tough.

“But there’s not a lot to be ashamed of. We’re a good football team that just didn’t get it at the end. It was a hard year for us all around but the kids gave us a lot of effort, and that’s all you can ask for.”

* Killian is a Tempe-based freelancer.

Box score

Mountain Pointe 47, Desert Ridge 21

DR 3  3  8  7 – 21

MP 7 20 6 14 – 47



MP – Ravenell 17 fumble return (Abercrombie kick), 7:51

DR – Decozio 27 FG, 0:32


MP – Hodge 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:41

MP – Pola-Mao 20 INT return (kick failed), 5:57

MP – Pola-Mao 56 INT return (Abercrombie kick), 4:16

DR – Decozio 24 FG, 0:01


MP – Abercrombie 25 FG, 7:43

DR – Logan 54 run (Run good), 7:02

MP – Abercrombie 24 FG, 3:43


MP – Wallerstedt 88 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:32

DR – Winner 9 pass from Purnell (Decozio kick), 3:58

MP – Woodberry 42 INT return (Abercrombie kick), 1:27

Team stats

                               DR                  MP

First downs            14                    6

Rush-yards         31-125           32-270     

Comp-Att-Int      15-40-4            3-4-0

Pass yards            173                 19

Total yards            298                289

Fumbles/lost         1-1                  0-0

Penalties              6-65               9-74

Individual stats


DR – Logan 16-99, Wright 6-17, Brown 4-6, Schmidt 2-11, Fowler 2-(-13), Elliott 1-5. MP – Hodge 16-135, Wallerstedt 8-109, Salgado 6-19, Brooks 2-7.


DR – Fowler 7-21-0-60, Purnell 8-19-1-113. MP – Wallerstedt 3-4-0-19.


DR – Logan 5-38, Harris 3-35, Wright 2-37, Winner 2-30, Simonis 1-16, Broom 1-11, Brown 1-4. MP – Brooks 2-14, Pola-Mao 1-5.


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Oh so close

Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao makes a diving catch at the Chandler 1-yard line.


GameNight: No. 1 Mountain Pointe puts on a show against No. 2 Chandler

Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2016 11:32 pm | Updated: 12:05 am, Fri Sep 9, 2016.

Isaiah Pola-Mao pointed to the scoreboard with his fellow defensive backs around him and made sure they understood there was still something to play for in the final quarter.

Never mind the fact that Mountain Pointe was up by more than five touchdowns at the time against the second-ranked team in the state, he was still fully engaged and ready for more.

“I want that zero,” he said. “There is no let up.”

No there wasn’t.

Not on this night. At least not while the Pride’s No. 1s were in the game.

Top-ranked Mountain Pointe just kept coming up with play after play. Score after score on the way to a 52-7 win Thursday over Chandler at Karl Kiefer Stadium.

Pola-Mao led the way for the Pride with two receiving touchdowns, an interception and hit from his safety position that knocked Chandler wide receiver Johnnie Johnson out for a handful of plays because his facemask was broken.

He hit him that hard, and the Pride (3-0) was that impressive.

“There was a lot of hype about Chandler and we wanted to prove something,” Pola-Mao said. “We wanted to show our physicality on the offensive and defensive side.”

It was pure domination from the start as Mountain Pointe scored on its second and third drives as the offensive line controlled the trenches, Greg Bragg (23 for 162, 3 TDs) got tough yards and quarterback Noah Grover (10 for 14, 186 yards) was precise and hit Pola-Mao (3-67) in stride and Jaydon Brooks (5 for 86) underneath.

“This was a total team effort,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “The offense, the defense, special teams all contributed. I never thought we’d have a game like this. I expected it to be tight throughout.”

So did most observers, and even when it was 28-0 at halftime the expectation was for Chandler (2-2) to regroup and make a run of some sort.

Instead Mountain Pointe just kept piling on to cement the Pride as the top team, just like they were most of last year in going undefeated during the regular season.

“I tell ya, they are a really good football team and they started rolling and we couldn’t them,” said Chandler coach Shaun Aguano, whose team was playing for the third time in 12 days. “There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, they are a better football team than we are. I am never going to make excuses. We gotta come out and play.”

The Wolves had some decent drives to start, but the Pride defense either made stops on third or fourth down or forced a turnover (2 fumbles, 2 INTs) and once it got out of hand running back T.J. Green (67 yards rushing) became neutralized and sophomore quarterback Jacob Conover (6 for 15 for 63 yards, 2 INTs) struggled for the first time in his four career starts.

“We saw they like to get going on offense, pass all over the place and keep pushing it,” senior cornerback Antwaun Woodberry said. “We weren’t going to let them do that. We wanted to show everyone what we could do and that Mountain Pointe can play some pretty good football.”

* Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda


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Photo courtesy of Tim Cronen


Mountain Pointe crushes Sandra Day O’Connor in opener

Weston DeWitt, Special for azcentral sports

10:52 p.m. MST August 19, 2016

Many people knew that coming into the 2016 season, Phoenix Mountain Pointe would have a juggernaut of an offense. It came to fruition at Karl Kiefer Stadium on Friday night for the season opener.

No. 2-ranked Mountain Pointe started its season in the 6A Conference with a bang with a 51-6 win over Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

With the memory of losing to Peoria Centennial last season in the semifinals of the Division I playoffs, Mountain Pointe (1-0) was able to establish a solid running game early, and it paid dividends throughout the night.

Sandra Day O’Connor senior quarterback Chris Aguilar started the scoring as he broke from defenders on a fumble recovery, to make it 6-0 early in the first quarter. After that, O’Connor (0-1) had difficulties moving the ball.

Mountain Pointe put up 17 points in the first half. But in the second half, Mountain Pointe added 34 points, highlighted by two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Rashie Hodge Jr. and Kenny Churchwell.

Mountain Pointe finished with 494 total yards of offense.

RELATED: Complete high school football coverage

“In the first half, we came out slow,” quarterback Noah Grover said. “But we got back to the locker room, picked everything up, then we put up a huge number. I have so much reliability on my running backs.”

Having to replace Jack Smith from last season, who completed 60 percent of his passes, Grover showed that he can be a reliable starter.

“There is always a pressure as the No. 2 team,” he said. “But when we hit the field, it all goes away. It’s all about that one game. I learned so much from him (Smith) last year, and now, I am able to take a lot of what he did right and wrong, and apply it to field this year.”

Junior running back Gary Bragg led a talented run game, which ran for 430 yards. Bragg finished with 202 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

“It really took us ’til halftime to get together, but we then played as one,” Bragg said. “I feel like tonight it took me a little while to get started up. But as time went on, I contributed what I needed to for the team.”

With 32 returning seniors, Mountain Pointe will travel to California, to face Upland High.

“This trip is going to bring us together,” Bragg said. “There is definitely pressure on us, but as time goes along, I know we are going to be OK.”


Under Armour gives Karl Kiefer Stadium and Mark Lovett Field a new look!


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