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Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds faces off against new Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock in the 22nd annual Ahwatukee Bowl.  

Ahwatukee Bowl still touches soul of the entire community

For 22 years, Ahwatukee has come together for one night a year, albeit on opposite sides of a stadium, for what has become one of the best high school football rivalries in Arizona.

The annual battle between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, separated by just four miles, creates a friendly rivalry in the community, as well, in the game that has become known as the Ahwatukee Bowl.

“Anytime you have two schools right down the street from each other it adds to the intrigue of the game,” said David Hines, executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body of Arizona high school sports. “Especially in this day in age, this is one of the rivalries that is a very great game to be able to go see.”

The 22nd installment of the Ahwatukee Bowl between the Pride and Thunder is Friday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at Mountain Pointe’s Karl Kiefer Stadium. The game will be telecast live by YurView Arizona on Cox channels 4 and 1004, and then replayed immediately following the live telecast.

The Ahwatukee Bowl dates to 1997, the first year Desert Vista fielded a varsity football team. 

Having already established a tradition under legendary coach Karl Kiefer, Mountain Pointe was victorious in the first-ever meeting.

But Desert Vista, led by yet another legendary prep football coach, Jim Rattay, quickly found success of its own.

As of late, it’s been Mountain Pointe that has dominated the series. The Pride have defeated the Thunder in six straight games and eight of the past nine to regain the series lead, 11-10.

“People in the community will talk across the nail salon or when they enter restaurants and see the schools’ colors,” said Dr. Anna Battle, the chief leadership development officer at ASU Prep. “But ultimately, it reminds them why there was a purpose to live in the community in which they live. It has created a new energy within Ahwatukee. People get really excited about it.”

Before joining the staff at ASU Prep, Battle was an integral part of the rivalry. She was assistant principal and athletic director at Desert Vista for five years and then, after a four-year stint at Tempe High, she returned to DV as principal until 2014.

Battle has seen the rivalry grow to heights she couldn’t imagine back in 1997, especially given the success both programs have had since.

Desert Vista won its first state championship in 1998, just two years after the school opened. In 2011, under current coach Dan Hinds, the Thunder again won the state title.

Two years later, it was Mountain Pointe at the top of prep football in Arizona, as then-coach Norris Vaughan led the Pride to a perfect 14-0 record, the state title and No. 5 national ranking.

The successes of the programs fueled the quest for Ahwatukee bragging rights.

“It’s like two brothers going at it,” said Bruce Kipper, athletic director of the Tempe Union High School District. “It’s about school pride and not letting your brother get the best of you, so to speak.”

Having spent 20 years at Mountain Pointe in various positions, including the last 10 as principal before joining the district staff this year, Kipper often compares the Ahwatukee Bowl to one in his home town in northern Idaho. Kipper spent his high school career playing against a rival just across a river, drawing large crowds similar to the Ahwatukee Bowl.

“You have two large schools in a small community,” Kipper said. “This game draws out people in the community that don’t normally come to the games. They aren’t loyal to either school, but it’s the community aspect that interests them.”

Despite the dominance of Desert Vista in the early years and Mountain Pointe’s dominance in recent years, the intensity and interest in the game remains high across the state, perhaps even more so this season given what has transpired since the two schools last met.

For the first time since 2009, Mountain Pointe has a new coach. Rich Wellbrock was hired to take over for Vaughan in January. The transition for Pride players to the new staff and system has had its challenges, especially given a tough schedule to start the season.

The Pride enter Friday’s contest with Desert Vista at 3-3, but are coming off a dominating performance over previously unbeaten Highland.

Desert Vista is 5-1, its only loss coming against Highland two weeks ago. The Thunder have benefited from a lighter schedule to start the season, but have key victories over Carlsbad (Calif.) and Desert Ridge.

“Desert Vista has some dudes and Mountain Pointe has some dudes,” Kipper said. “I think this has potential to be one of the best games we have ever had in this rivalry.”

If there is one thing that has remained consistent throughout the rivalry, it’s that all expectations go out the window.

“Both programs during the rivalry at times have been very strong,” Battle said. “But with this game, it doesn’t matter what the record of each team is. They are coming to play.”

Tukee Bowl 2016: Defensive back Isaiah Pola-Mao #9 of Mountain Pointe takes down #84 of Desert Vista during the 20th annual Tukee Bowl on Friday, September 30, 2016. [Photo courtesey of Bill Hardiman, special to Tribune]

Tukee Bowl a classic rivalry with special meaning

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

Rivalries often develop between two teams or two individuals, but when two high school teams share the same community, it adds even more meaning to a game.

That’s how it has always been in Ahwatukee when Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools take to the field for the annual Tukee Bowl. The stands are full and you can feel the fans’ energy.

“It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s a big-game atmosphere, every year,” said Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds. “It’s a lot of people and there’s a lot of energy. You can feel it. I think the players, naturally get excited about that game.

“There aren’t too many rivalries around the state that are quite like this one and the reason I say that is because you have two high schools that are nestled back here in the Ahwatukee Foothills in a real tight-knit community and the kids all know each other, so it makes it really cool.”

Phoenix City Councilman and Ahwatukee representative Sal DiCiccio said he has attended most of the contests, including the first, and added that “it’s huge for the community.”

Even though the scores present a different story, the last two contests have been close, with Mountain Pointe coming out on top both times to even the overall bowl record to 10 apiece.

The Pride went on to finish with records of 12-1 and 13-1 and appeared in the state semi-finals and the state championship. The Thunder finished the 2014 and 2015 seasons with identical 7-5 records, falling to Chandler High in the state playoffs both years.

Hinds has been on the sidelines every year for the matchup between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe.

He remembers when the rivalry started. While the Thunder staff has stayed consistent, Mountain Pointe has gone through a couple of changes over the years. In the beginning, Hinds even had the opportunity to coach against an old friend.

“A rivalry is a rivalry, but when it first started for me, the guy I played for in high school, Karl Kiefer, was the head coach at Mountain Pointe,” Hinds said. “So, it made it real special, real neat and pretty fun.”

Players on both sides have personal connections with each other as well. Two of the best defensive players in this year’s matchup, Kenny Churchwell of Mountain Pointe, and Desert Vista’s Larry Davis, have been best friends for quite some time.

“Seeing them again for the last time on the same field together, that is going to be something special,” Davis said.

The competition between the two schools doesn’t just take place on the field, but off it as well.

For the past two years, both schools have used the week leading up to the game to fundraise for the Make-a-Wish foundation in a weeklong competition. They call it “Wish Week.”

“We know many are excited and looking forward to the game, so our student body started raising money for Make-a-Wish during the week of this game,” Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said. “I am proud of our students for wanting to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Added Desert Vista Principal Christine Barela: “Everyone enjoys winning, but the overall spirit and positive atmosphere it brings to the school the week of the game and game night is positively electrifying! It is so much fun.”

Outside of fundraising, the game also is a social event for both student bodies that is a must-see event.

Brandon Schmoll, a Desert Vista alumnus and a member of the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, said that if there was one football game you went to, it was the Tukee Bowl.

“Even if you’re not a student or a parent, but you like the feel of being close to the field watching a high-energy game and at the same time support your local school, it’s perfect,” Schmoll said.

The game equals some of the best rivalries in Arizona, like the “Battle for Arizona Avenue” between Chandler High and Hamilton. Hinds added that the rivalry reminded him of the old matchups between McClintock and Tempe high schools.

“This is very rare to have a rivalry like this. People think it happens all over but it’s not true,” DiCiccio said. “It’s been interesting to watch the power shift over the years. First, Desert Vista was strong, then Mountain Pointe and now they’re kind of even. That’s the great thing about this game – anything can happen.”

Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School as they look to add another memorable game into the long history of the Ahwatukee Bowl.

-Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at or 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee.


Ahwatukee Bowl unites and separates community at the same time

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 10:11 am | Updated: 10:44 am, Thu Sep 29, 2016.

It is that time of the year when every issue in this tight-knit and passionate community fades to the background.

Freeway debates, water issues and golf course transformations will be back in the forefront soon enough, but this week it is all about what is going down on Friday night.

It is the 20th annual Ahwatukee Bowl.

The football game came soon after the birth of a second high school when the sprawling foothills community behind South Mountain kept expanding down to Pecos Road and westward beyond 17th Avenue.

In 1995, Desert Vista High opened its doors 4.3 miles from entrenched Mountain Pointe High; by 1997, their football programs were squaring off once a year.

“We were perfectly happy being the only school,” former Pride coach Karl Kiefer recalled. “When they opened up, it became us against them right away.”

That became pretty clear the week leading up to the first Ahwatukee Bowl, if legend is to be believed: It has been said the morning announcements each day at Mountain Pointe focused on firing up the student body and players.

“What happened was they made a big deal about it, and got on the PA every day yelling about beating us,” said former Desert Vista coach Jim Rattay, who is still on the sidelines at Cesar Chavez.

“They fired up the kids; they got all crazy and wild,” he recalled. “They kicked our butts and tore down our goal post.”

The years after that, however, slanted heavily toward Desert Vista as the Thunder quickly became a state power and won the state title in 1998 with an undefeated season.

“I’ve coached in some big rivalries going back to my Ohio days, and then when I got to Mesa, there was the Mountain View game. But this one was just as big as any of them,” Rattay said, adding:

“I took a page out of (the late Ohio State University coach) Woody Hayes and how he always said ‘the team up north’ instead of ‘Michigan.’ Mountain Pointe was always ‘the team up north.’

The game has had its ebbs and flows over the years. Desert Vista (2-3) leads the all-time series 10-9 heading into the 7 p.m. kickoff at Mountain Pointe’s Karl Kiefer Stadium.

It means top-ranked Mountain Pointe (5-0) has a chance to even the all-time win-loss ratio this year. A victory would give the Pride a chance to continue chanting, “We run Tukee.”

That’s become tradition with the Pride, who have won six of the last seven Ahwatukee Bowl games and who hope to keep their good streak going.

The game doesn’t quite shut down the community, as some games do across the country. But a good 10,000 fans are expected at a game that means a heck of a lot in the hallways, locker rooms and even some of the local establishments.

“Family and friends from the entire community come out with a competitive spirit but a lot of love,” said Moses Sanchez, whose three kids attended Desert Vista.

Sanchez, the Tempe Union High School Governing Board member, added:

“That’s what the Tukee Bowl brings out in us: internal struggle, battle, spirit, energy, respect for each other. I love the Tukee Bowl and everything it stands for.”

The bragging rights that come with winning the Tukee Bowl spill into the other sports.

That’s especially the case with boys’ basketball, when the two schools meet and the chants across the gym between the two student sections inevitably turn to something about winning the Tukee Bowl.

Other than participating in a state championship game, which has happened five times (three for Desert Vista, two for Mountain Pointe) in 19 years, this is the game that players will remember most from their careers.

It is the game that is recalled at reunions and chance meetings for years afterward.

“It meant everything to me,” Mountain Pointe 2016 graduate Ralph Roman said. “Going into a season looking at the schedule and you see your rivalry school, you just get that feeling. I felt that out of all the regular season, that game had the most meaning because it was for more than just adding a win to your record, but you felt as if you owed it to Ahwatukee.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

– Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow @AhwatukeeFN on Twitter.


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In the spirit of Homecoming, below is a great article we found about coach Karl Kiefer and the 1991 and 1992 Pride football seasons. It’s long, but well worth the read. ROLL PR1DE!  [Mountain Pointe Football – Facebook]

Birth of a Team Legendary Football Coach Karl Kiefer Starts Another Winning Tradition


Phoenix New Times

[photo –]


Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.
–Sign in the locker room of Tempe Mountain Pointe High School

Karl Kiefer’s kids kneel around him under the west goal post at Mountain Pointe Field. “Closer, closer,” the coach grunts. “Family. Family. Together.”

Three dozen teenage boys form a clump of sweat and stink. They have just completed a series of practice-ending sprints, dubbed “gassers.” But Kiefer isn’t done with them yet.

The afternoon practice in 105-degree heat hasn’t been as crisp as he would have liked. Already, the team has paid with a more-than-usual number of “up-downs–arduous dives into the turf in full gear. Over and over.

“The history of this school is being built by you right now,” Kiefer starts, gazing down on his troops. “What you do this year will set the tone for what happens from now on. There’s pressure, sure. We are under the microscope of the entire community.”
The 53-year-old coach squints through his eyeglasses into the late-afternoon sun blazing over South Mountain. He has been in this situation before, thousands of times. After almost three decades, Kiefer’s timing is as good as a topnotch actor, preacher or salesman.

“I love stress. There’s nothing like high school football, not college, pro. Nothing! You’ll be back watching games when you’re done, I promise you. This field is a beautiful place on Friday nights. Beautiful!”
His players stare up at him with a mix of reverence and apprehension. The coach isn’t a lovable guy, but “Kiefer’s Kids” would run through walls for him. They are white, black and Hispanic, sons of the well-to-do and of single moms who can’t afford to buy football cleats.

Pugnacious in appearance and manner, the granite-jawed Kiefer looks, sounds and acts like a football coach. In a world of doubt, he feels and exudes certitude. He believes in his team, his family, his God and in trying to kick his opponents’ butts.

“Don’t have cliques,” he warns in a stark Arizona twang. “Be family. Football is your business together. If you go to the JV game this week, sit together. If you have to bring girlfriends, I guess that’s okay. But keep them on the outside.”
Many players chuckle softly. The coach is being serious, but he doesn’t mind hearing his guys laugh–at the right time and place.

“Remember, men, no statements,” Kiefer continues.
Everyone here knows what that means: no earrings, gaudy jewelry or wild attire. No long hair. It means that on the day before games, all players wear uniform jerseys to school. On Game Day, they wear shirts and ties.

No exceptions. No statements.
“If you’re caught, you can forfeit your right to be on this team. We will play the role to the hilt of an excellent football team. That’s your statement.”
Kiefer is finished. His players jump to their feet. Enmeshed, they thrust their right fists toward the big, blue sky.

“One-two-three. Mountain Pointe Pride!”
@body:If we lose even one game, our family and fellow students will jump on us. But we play because we love to play.

–Mountain Pointe linebacker Uriah Stricker

Karl Kiefer chats with assistant coaches Phil Abbadessa and Dick Baniszewski on their way to the locker room. The three are as anxious as the players to get the season under way in a few days.

Kiefer is a legend in this state. His football teams have won more games than those of any active coach in Arizona. He’s already in the state’s High School Coaches’ Hall of Fame, and is four victories away from becoming the winningest Arizona football coach ever.

But Kiefer etched his sterling record of 218-73-3 at Tempe McClintock High School, a few miles away. Now he’s coaching at a new school for the first time since Barry Goldwater was running for president and the Beatles were doing Ed Sullivan. He started at McClintock in 1964.

Mountain Pointe is about to start its first season of varsity ball. Located in the bedroom community of Ahwatukee, the school is in its second year of operation and doesn’t have a senior class yet.

“Kiefer’s Kids” will be going at it with sophomores and juniors against other teams’ seniors.

“Just a few days, guys,” Kiefer tells his colleagues, both of whom once played football for him at McClintock. “A few days.”
@body:We’ve always been kind of by ourselves out here, out of sight, out of mind. The school and the team give a central focus to the community.

–Jane Hickman, Ahwatukee resident and vice principal at Mountain Pointe

A faceless sprawl of tract homes, golf courses and strip malls, Ahwatukee is separated from the East Valley and Phoenix by I-10 and South Mountain. The area numbers about 40,000 people, including adjacent subdivisions.

Born in the mid-1970s, it has continued to grow even during rugged economic times. But it’s been a quiet explosion.

“We’re kind of set apart from a lot of things,” says Clay Schad, founder of the weekly Ahwatukee News. “That has made us close-knit, like a small town.”
But Ahwatukee–which is within Phoenix’s city limits–lacks basic, small-town amenities: It has no downtown, City Hall, community swimming pool or even lighted Little League fields. The annual Easter parade is about as small-town as Ahwatukee gets.

The Tempe Union High School District decided in the late 1980s to build a fifth high school. (School-district boundaries in Arizona can cross city boundaries. The far-flung Tempe district encompasses Ahwatukee and other Phoenix and Tempe neighborhoods.) The district chose a site in Ahwatukee at 42nd Street and Knox Road, a few miles south of the Warner Road exit of I-10.

The powers that be decided to call the new school Mountain Pointe, thinking it clever to add the “e” to Pointe as a nod to the nearby resort.

Some Ahwatukee residents–mostly retirees–complained about the proposed school before crews began work on the $27 million facility. They feared the obvious: increased crime and traffic.

Mountain Pointe was completed, anyway, in time for the start of the 1990-91 school year. But the district couldn’t find enough money to open it.

The shortfall proved to be a blessing in disguise.
New principal Harold Slemmer and a skeleton staff fine-tuned their dreams during the year-in-waiting. Slemmer also met with nearby residents who ordinarily would have had little to do with a school.

Slemmer decided to make Mountain Pointe a closed campus when the school opened in the fall of 1991. It would become the only closed high school in the Tempe district. Students aren’t allowed to leave the premises for any unauthorized reason. Despite residents’ early misgivings, the shiny new high school has changed how many in Ahwatukee feel about their environs.

“Most of us didn’t have that feeling of ‘our’ anything, except for our homes,” says Don Perkins, president of the school’s Parent-Community Advisory Council. “Now we’ve got something to hold on to.”
The football team has nurtured that feeling. Principal Slemmer had one man in mind for Mountain Pointe’s first head football coach: Karl Kiefer. For years Slemmer had served as an assistant to Kiefer at McClintock. He admired the coach deeply.

“I envisioned our school trying to emulate Karl in some ways,” says Slemmer. “A no-nonsense environment, kind of like the old days. Karl isn’t just a dictator: He blends old-fashioned discipline with loving concern for his kids. I just didn’t know if I could get him.”

@body:I bump into guys from McClintock who tell me, “I hated that son of a bitch when I played for him, but now I know what he was doing. He was turning me into a man.”

–Assistant coach Dick Baniszewski, on Karl Kiefer

Few thought Karl Kiefer would ever leave McClintock High of his own accord. Kiefer had been the Tempe school’s only head football coach in its quarter-century history, and he’d carved out a dynasty, winning three state championships and 75 percent of his games.

But Kiefer expressed interest when Harold Slemmer asked him if he’d be interested in coaching the Pride. It wasn’t about money: Kiefer would make just $4,000 above his teaching salary no matter where he coached in the district.

“I thought it could be a chance to start something again from the ground up,” Kiefer says. “This time I would have a clue what I was doing. When I started with McClintock, I didn’t.”
Kiefer was 26 when McClintock principal William Boyle hired him as the new school’s first head football coach in the fall of 1964. Kiefer was a familiar name to Valley sports fans. Longtime locals remember him as one of the area’s most accomplished multisport athletes of the mid-1950s.

The youngest son of Kansas dairy farmers, Kiefer moved to Tempe at the age of 4 because of his dad’s health problems. He grew up near then-remote Papago Park, where he and older brother Paul rode horses in the mountains and played every sport they could.

The crew-cutted kid excelled at athletics at Tempe High School, winning more awards than he can easily recall. His scrapbooks reveal he earned a spot in the National Honor Society. And he played a mean trumpet.

Kiefer enrolled at Arizona State University after high school.
“I was a roughneck type of player with decent ability and a lot of heart,” he says, sitting in a memorabilia-crammed study at his Tempe home. Not particularly fast or large, Kiefer played tight end on offense and linebacker on defense. His spirit prompted his teammates to vote him co-captain in his senior year.

Dan Devine was Kiefer’s first football coach at ASU; Devine was followed by Frank Kush. The unrelenting, hard-nosed Kiefer appealed to tough guy Kush. “Frank was a nuts-and-bolts type who loved line play,” Kiefer says. “Dan was an organization man who let his coaches coach. I watched these guys close and learned. Both stressed discipline, discipline, discipline, which was something I had already been brought up with.”

Kiefer was so devoted to football that he worked his marriage into the team schedule. The bride was ASU Pom Pon girl Sharon Mickle, the daughter of an Arizona ranching family. The couple was married on her parents’ ranch in November 1959, near the end of Kiefer’s senior season. They honeymooned in Hawaii after ASU beat the Rainbows in a season-ending game.

As he neared graduation, Kiefer started toying with the idea of becoming a football coach. Frank Kush hired him as a graduate assistant for one season, after which Kiefer moved to El Paso to fulfill a two-year Army ROTC obligation. After his honorable discharge, he and Sharon moved onto her family’s ranch north of Scottsdale. The couple raised their three children there. The youngest child, Kent, starred at quarterback for his dad at McClintock, then went on to a fine career at the University of Missouri.

After he moved back to the Phoenix area, Kiefer’s alma mater, Tempe High, hired him as a math teacher and assistant football coach. He worked there for a year. Then, in 1964, he signed on with newly built Tempe McClintock.

McClintock won from the git-go, and some saw Kiefer simply as a Frank Kush discipline clone who made pliant players do things one way–his way. It was true then, as now, that Kiefer made few concessions to society’s changing mores. But he rose above the cluster of coaches who push their players around for their own egos. Though he was winning, Kiefer reassessed his approach to coaching after he developed an ulcer in his 20s.

“I didn’t realize at first that life can’t be intense all the time,” Kiefer says. “You get too old too fast that way. Coaching is intuitive, and it’s hard to be intuitive when you’re tired and stressed all the time. You have to be all there for your kids. I wanted to be a better coach. So I worked at changing myself, at keeping it simple.”
Through it all, Kiefer stayed focused on the three most important things in his life–football, family and faith. His coaching philosophy remained basic: Outcondition your opponent. Adjust at halftime. Find assistants you can trust. Showcase your stars. Be consistent.

“In a way, Karl is kind of tunnel-visioned for his kids,” says his wife, Sharon. “He commands discipline and he’s right down there in the trenches with them. He’s one of a dying breed. You stick with him, he’ll do anything he can for you.”
The coach isn’t big on social issues or intellectual pursuits. But he’s a walking example of how to give to others. He spends hours on the telephone counseling and making calls for ex-players who need a job or simply advice on something. Once his player, always his player.

Dozens of “Kiefer’s Kids” at McClintock went on to play college football. Some made it to the pros. His program was among the most consistently powerful in the state.

“After a while, everybody knew we were gonna have good teams,” Kiefer says. “We became hated for that and we loved it.”
And, the coach adds without a trace of doubt, “The same thing is gonna happen at Mountain Pointe.”

@body:Traditions. Some hate them. Others seek to change them. But only rarely comes the opportunity to make them.

–Cover of Mountain Pointe’s first yearbook

Coach Kiefer faces a roomful of parents in Mountain Pointe’s weight room, a state-of-the-art facility that would make many colleges proud. Behind him a handwritten message reads: “Bigger! Faster! Stronger!”

It is Open House night and the school is packed. There’s nowhere to sit but on the weight benches. Some parents stare at Kiefer with the same wide-eyed fear their youngsters sometimes show.

Kiefer, of course, is himself–brusque but approachable in his short presentation.

A mother stops to shake his hand on her way to another of her son’s classes.
“I want to thank you for making my boy do things he didn’t know he could do,” she tells him. “Know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do,” Kiefer replies.
Karl Kiefer had the best of all worlds when he went over to Mountain Pointe as football coach and head of the physical education department before the 1990-91 school year: a spanking-new facility, a pal for a principal and most of his coaching staff from McClintock.

He says he wasn’t overly concerned about finding good players, most of whom would have attended Corona del Sol or Tempe High if Mountain Pointe hadn’t opened.

“You can always find kids who want to win,” says Kiefer. “Everybody knows that’s why they hired me. People like winners.”
But something happened at the start of Mountain Pointe’s first year that no one had anticipated: The media termed it a “race riot.”

The school is about 75 percent white. Thirteen percent of the students are Hispanic, while about 6 percent each are black and Asian American. Interviews with students and teachers indicate that what happened was no riot.

“A white kid told some black kids to go back to their own neighborhoods,” Kiefer recalls. “He used bad words that he got from his redneck parents. There was fighting. The black kids were defending their name and honor.”
Principal Slemmer quickly met with the parents of most students involved in the melee. But, Slemmer says, the kid who allegedly started the brawl never returned to the school.

Kiefer doesn’t tolerate race problems on his football teams. “At this late date, it amazes me that some people still hate each other because of skin color,” he says. “In school, kids should try to understand and respect those who look different than them. On the field, I don’t even want my kids to think about stuff like that.”

That’s what made the addition of Jay Carter to Mountain Pointe’s squad last year a compelling tale. The black sophomore wanted to play football, but he didn’t try out for the team on time. Further souring his chances, Carter had a classroom blowup with Dick Baniszewski, the assistant coach who heads the social studies department.

A 29-year-old with a rapier wit and a motivator’s moxie, Baniszewski challenges his students in class as keenly as he does his players on the field. During a spirited discussion one day in World History class about minorities in America, Jay Carter lost it.

Baniszewski says of the incident: “Jay started screaming and swearing. ‘There’s gonna be an uprising and people are gonna die.’ He was out of control. I grabbed him. ‘Jay! Jay! Change things! Don’t just bitch!'”

Word of Carter’s blowup cinched it for Coach Kiefer. He didn’t want to have anything to do with the talented but troubled youngster.

Principal Slemmer asked Kiefer to reconsider, and the coach did–with strict conditions. Carter could come out, but Kiefer made him do up-downs for weeks before he let him actually practice with the team.

Carter didn’t play in the Pride’s first few games, but he didn’t quit.
“The coaches was very tough on me,” he recalls, “but I could tell they cared about me as a person. They stayed with me when they could have quit on me. I just wanted to play football.”
As the weeks passed, Carter turned into a star running back and a team leader. He says fear may have expedited his maturing process.

“I was sick of doing up-downs,” he says with a wry smile. “Up-downs teach anyone.”
Mountain Pointe scheduled nine junior-varsity games for its first season. Kiefer unleashed some fine, young talent–including 200-pound running back Mickey Gates.

Gates had moved to his uncle’s home in Ahwatukee to escape the gangs that ran his old neighborhood in Santa Monica, California. A boy in a man’s body and a learning-disabled student, Gates proved to be a tough, gifted runner. He also proved to have a remarkably sweet disposition, and soon became a beloved part of the Pride.

“They’re my best friends,” Gates says of the team. “Playing for Coach is real hard, but I’m learning a lot. He teaches you to be real responsible–to stick with something. I’m just growing up.”
Mountain Pointe sailed through its season unbeaten, winning by an average score of 46-6. Along the way, the team captured the imagination of Ahwatukee.

“What Kiefer did was to give the community and the school a winning something that’s ours and only ours,” says area resident Don Perkins, who has a daughter at Mountain Pointe. “He may have come along at exactly the right time. I’m not big on sports, but we needed something like that.”
But Perkins says some folks weren’t thrilled by the new team.
“Some people in a survey expressed concerns that Coach Kiefer ran up the score sometimes,” he says. “They feel that the football program has an elitist attitude. Some people think Karl is out for himself.”
Those in charge at Mountain Pointe vehemently disagree.
“People tend to think that successful football coaches are out for themselves,” says vice principal Jane Hickman. “But Karl doesn’t set himself apart from the school, no way. His players run over and salute the school band after every game. He pushes them to study. He sees his team as whole people who are part of a whole school. And he builds winners.”
@body:C’mon, you knuckleheads. This is serious business.
–Karl Kiefer to his team

It’s moments before kickoff in Mountain Pointe’s preseason scrimmage against the Chandler Wolves. A few hundred fans sprinkle the stands.

Chandler’s players whoop it up on the sidelines. On the Mountain Pointe side, assistant coach Dick Baniszewski reminds the team about the power of mood and image.

“Let them holler and yell,” Baniszewski says. “We’re quiet–like death. Scary. Until right before the game. You know that movie, The Ten Commandments? Something’s coming at you, through a green cloud. Then, boom! It hits you. Let it build. There’s no score tonight. You’re competing against your own best self. Visualize.”
Mountain Pointe holds its own against its bigger, older, more experienced opponent, but Chandler prevails, 20-7. The Wolves dance around the field as if they’ve won the state championship.

Kiefer briefly gathers his players at midfield. “We made a lot of dumb mistakes, but it wasn’t too bad,” he tells them. “I’d like to play these guys someday when it counts, but I doubt we will. They’re cellar rats.”

Though the Mountain Pointe team hadn’t played an official varsity game, expectations were high before the season started in early September. The Pride will play at the 4A level until next year, when the school has its first senior class and enrollment jumps from its current 1,700 to about 2,500. In 1993 it’s up to 5A, the state’s largest–and toughest–classification.

The players feel the pressure.
“We have to win to live up to everyone’s expectations,” says quarterback Doug Szanto, a straight-A student who wants to be a doctor. “It comes from our friends, our parents, everybody. But I think we’ve got the discipline to handle it. And we’ve got the coaches.”
Though he’s clearly the boss, Kiefer relies on his assistant coaches to carry a heavy share of the load. Many high school assistants act solely as drill sergeants or cheerleaders. Kiefer’s aides coach, too: Phil Abbadessa runs the Pride defense and Dick Baniszewski handles special teams and the linemen. And that was Baniszewski beneath the school’s lion mascot at the Pride’s first pep rally.

There’s another member of the Mountain Pointe staff this season.
“If you want help, this is the guy,” Kiefer tells his team at one practice, pointing to a tall man in shorts and a tee shirt. “Listen up.”
Bruce Kipper steps forward. He counsels the school’s athletes on academics and NCAA requirements.

“You guys aren’t going to as much as sneeze without me finding out about it,” says Kipper, a former professional baseball pitcher. “Character is going to count for a lot with recruiters. All you have to do is read the papers and see what’s happening at ASU. You need to stay very clean. We have something special going on here. All it will take is one incident to tear it all down.”
Mountain Pointe Field is packed for the season opener against the wonderfully nicknamed Yuma Criminals–the town used to house the old territorial prison.

The Pride march in a cluster from the locker room to the field. They stand under the same goal post from which Karl Kiefer had spoken to them a few days before about the beauty of Friday nights.

The team is quiet.
Suddenly, a cacophony.
The teen anthem “Welcome to the Jungle,” by the group Guns n’ Roses, blares over the PA system.

The Pride come alive.
The game is a seesaw battle marked by long touchdown runs and passes by both teams. Two exhilarating hours later, it’s over.

Mountain Pointe has won its first varsity game ever, 33-32.
The second game, at Phoenix Alhambra, also ends in victory, this time by a 21-6 margin. The third game is a 66-22 blowout of Casa Grande.

Game four is as exciting as high school football gets. Favored Thunderbird High School leads by a touchdown with a few minutes to play. The two-minute offensive drill the Pride work on at practice is put to the test.

Quarterback Szanto gets hot, hitting 135-pound sophomore wide receiver Mike Collins with five straight passes. An unlikely hero, Collins had dropped a few balls in the scrimmage against Chandler and had lost confidence. Afterward, he spoke of “the big pressure” and resolved to concentrate more.

Jay Carter, completing a second straight 200-yard game, runs in for the winning score with a minute to go: 28-27, Pride.

The monster game of the season is at hand, a long-anticipated intercity battle against Kiefer’s alma mater, Tempe High.

Local media have decided the 4-0 Pride are for real. The team hits the Top 10 in statewide polls. Local cable outfit ASPN televises the contest.

Mountain Pointe leads early, but senior-dominated Tempe scores twice late in the first half to take a 14-6 lead. Kiefer isn’t given to Knute Rockne-like speeches at halftime, but he sounds a warning.

“We turn it up a notch–or else,” he says. “You guys got a little intimidated. That’s ridiculous. You’d better not let them score.”
A gutty effort by Jay Carter on a fourth-down run with seven minutes to go brings the Pride within one point, 21-20. But the extra-point kick fails, and Tempe keeps the lead.

With the game on the line, the Pride defense stiffens and, like the previous week, the offense has a final opportunity. Down to possibly two plays, Kiefer calls for quarterback Szanto to throw deep.

Skeeter Brown sneaks behind two Buffalo defenders deep in the end zone. Szanto’s throw is perfect. The game soon ends. Final score, Mountain Pointe 28, Tempe 21.

Forgetting his bad knees, Kiefer dances around the field with his assistants, hugging this player and that. During the celebration, he happens upon Carter, a catalyst in the Pride’s improbable victory.

“Lot of heart, Jay,” he says. “Lot of heart.”
Kiefer knows it will be difficult for his kids to sustain their emotion after the big win over Tempe. His fears are justified in last Friday’s game against Scottsdale Coronado.

Four straight turnovers lead to a 22-0 Coronado lead before the Pride touch the ball on offense. Mountain Pointe cuts the margin to 22-7 at the half, then to 22-10. But this time, the young team can’t climb the mountain.

Several players are crying as the game ends, and the Mountain Pointe football team tastes defeat for the first time in its short history. The defeat has been a sound one.

Kiefer looks on, grim-faced, as his team salutes the Pride school band. He turns back to the field and watches Coronado celebrate its win. He trots over and compliments the Dons’ star running back.

Everyone steers clear of the coach as he makes his way to the locker room. Not a good loser under any circumstance, he is infuriated by his team’s effort. There will be many, many up-downs at Saturday morning’s practice.

@body:Notre Dame went for a tie against Michigan. A tie! We’ll never go for a tie here. We go for state championships.

–Karl Kiefer to his team

At the end of practice every Tuesday afternoon, the Mountain Pointe Pride push the Sled. No one on the team escapes this punishing exercise.

The Sled is a seven-man contraption that moves forward along the ground only with a strenuous, unified effort. The players take turns pushing it up a small hill and around the school baseball field. When one septet is done pushing, they immediately do a series of up-downs.

A player yells, “Push the Sled til you’re dead.”
The rest pick up the chant, sounding like Marine recruits.
Hobbling to keep up, Kiefer revels in his players’ efforts. “Pride time, Pride time,” he keeps repeating.

“This is what it’s all about,” he says. “I love it.