Mountain Pointe punishes Hawks, gears up for semifinal - Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor Mountain Pointe punishes Hawks,... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe cruises by Highland into Semis - Mountain Pointe’s Marshawn Gibson, #7, grabs what would have been a... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe stomps Cibola - Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, reaches out to catch the ball... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe again enters playoffs as top seed - Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor Mountain Pointe again enters... [ read more ]

Arizona high school football championship brackets - Jakim McKinney rushes againt Desert Ridge in the fourth quarter on... [ read more ]

2018 Top Arizona Football Recruits - Pride players in 247 Sports top Arizona recruits. 2018 Top Arizona... [ read more ]

Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Mountain Pointe again enters playoffs as top seed

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  Nov 2, 2017

For the third time in five years, head coach Norris Vaughan and the Mountain Pointe High School football team will enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed.

It may have come as a surprise to some, as Desert Ridge, the only in-state team that handed Mountain Pointe a loss this season, received the No. 2 seed. But, the Pride have proved themselves time and time again as one of the best teams in Arizona.

Junior kicker Ben Abercrombie drilled a 31-yard field goal as time expired to deliver another win for the Pride Friday and secure their 8-2 regular season record. Now, the Pride will look to No. 16-seed Cibola (5-5) on Friday at Karl Kiefer stadium.

The Raiders enter the 6A State Tournament high off a big 28-15 win over Tucson High Magnet School, capturing a piece of the 6A Southern Region and an automatic bid into the state playoffs.

As the Raiders were ranked at No. 21 in the final AZPreps365 rankings of the season, capturing the region championship knocked bubble teams like No. 15-ranked Desert Vista and No. 16-ranked Gilbert out of the playoff picture.

The Raiders, led by longtime head coach Lucky Arvizo, are riding a three-game winning streak heading into their first-round matchup. While the Raiders sport a record of 5-5, they have won four of those games on the road as they head to Ahwatukee on Friday  

Offensively for the Raiders, it has been a heavy dose of Jesse Escott all season long. The senior running back has carried the ball 194 times for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns.

But the 5-foot-7, 200-pound back has played in only seven games this season and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in every game. He has scored at least one touchdown in every game but one, a 28-25 loss to Valley Vista.

The Raiders are led by an Arvizo on the sideline and under center, as junior quarterback Ethan Arvizo holds the reins on the offensive side. He’s completed 104 passes for 1,488 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. He’s also only thrown five interceptions in 2017 and two of those came in a 41-0 blowout loss to Southwest EC at the beginning of the season.

The junior gunslinger has spread the ball around this season with 13 different Raiders catching passes, but nearly half of his completions have gone to Gabriel Ramirez. The junior receiver has caught 50 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017.

The only other Raider with over 200 yards receiving is sophomore Zeke Rios, who has caught 16 passes for 232 yards.

The Raiders’ three offensive weapons will run into one of the strongest defenses that they will have faced.

While Arvizo will have to throw into a secondary that has picked off 17 passes and deflected 69 more this season, Escott will run into a defensive line that limited Chandler running backs Drake Anderson and DeCarlos Brooks to 114 yards on Sept. 8.

Defensive linemen Shomari Hayes and Kenneth Lofton have combined for 15 sacks this season and were recently joined by junior lineman Matthew Pola-Mao, who returned from an injury Friday night to make his first appearance of the season.

In the secondary, Ramirez will have to find a way to deal Delano Salgado, Marshawn Gibson and Kenny Churchwell to have any impact on the game.

All season long the Pride have relied on their running back tandem of senior Gary Bragg and junior Jakim McKinney, who have combined for 1,858 yards and 22 touchdowns.

But recently, junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has solidified himself as a solid throwing quarterback, passing for a combined 276 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games.

The Mountain Pointe offense will run into a strong grouping of linebackers from Cibola. Senior Sebastian Torres leads the group, and the team, with 96 tackles in 2017 and is averaging 10.7 tackles per game. He’s also caused a fumble and recovered two more.

Along with Torres, junior Elijah Contreras and senior Jacob Mcghee have been big for the No. 16 seed. Contreras has tallied 89 tackles on the season, leads the Raiders in sacks, and has caused two fumbles.

Mcghee has only racked up 25 tackles on the season but has picked off two passes and has forced four fumbles. These three, along with defensive tackle Damian Magdaleno, will look to contain the Mountain Pointe offense and try to upset the No. 1 team in 6A.

If the Pride can stay disciplined on both sides of the ball and avoid major penalties – something the team didn’t do a lot in its season finale against Gilbert last Friday – look for the No. 1 seed to race into the second round and face the winner of No. 8 Highland vs. No. 9 Desert Mountain.

Mountain Pointe hosts this Friday’s playoff game at 7 p.m.

Around the rest of 6A, Desert Ridge will face off with No. 15-seed Westview. Chandler, Perry and Hamilton were given the three, four and five seeds and will match up with Mesa Mountain View, Boulder Creek and Skyline, respectively.

In 5A, the defending state champion Williams Field drew the No. 7-seed after upsetting previously undefeated Queen Creek on Friday. The Blackhawks will face-off with No. 10-seeded Chaparral.

The Firebirds handed the Blackhawks their last loss of the season on September 15. Since then, the defending state champions have snapped off five straight wins, including a 28-27 last-minute win over No. 14-seed Campo Verde.

In the 4A conference, the Higley Knights received the No. 3-seed and Seton Catholic received the No. 6 seed, which could set up another rematch of their season finale matchup from Friday, in the second round.

Marcos de Niza earned the No. 9 seed and a matchup with No. 8 Cactus Shadows.

While 6A, 5A and 4A conferences will play on Friday night, the 3A and 2A games will take place on Saturday.

In the 3A conference, Casteel will look to continue their undefeated season after receiving the No. 3 seed and a matchup with No. 14-seed Empire. No. 2-seeded American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek, which lost its only game of the season in week two against No. 1-seed Pusch Ridge, will face off with Ganado in the first round as they seem to be on a collision course with the Colts.

Finally, in the 2A conference, three East Valley teams remain and two of them will face off in the first round, as No. 7-seed Gilbert Christian will take on No. 10-seed Tempe Prep. The No. 11-seeded San Tan Foothills squad will have the opportunity to host a first-round game after capturing the 2A Metro East regional title with an overall record of 8-2. The Sabercats will host No. 6-seeded St. Johns on Saturday at 6 p.m.

 

Pride players in 247 Sports top Arizona recruits.

2018 Top Arizona Football Recruits

The list below ranks players by 247Sports Composite Rating

Last updated on 10/27/17 at 11:29 AM CST

Three Pride players in 247 top 50 in Arizona.

Kenny Churchwell – Ranked #8

Shomari Hayes – Ranked #36

Gary Bragg – Ranked #40

Mason Honne – #53

 

Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Pride, Thunder look to wrap up season with wins

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  10.27.17

With one week remaining in the regular season, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista come into their final week’s matchup at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The Pride bounced backed from a loss to Desert Ridge with a blowout victory of Corona del Sol, and the Thunder fell to that same Desert Ridge squad last week for its third straight loss.

Both teams remain optimistic as the state playoff tournament approaches.

Mountain Pointe vs. Gilbert

In its final regular season matchup of the season, the Pride (7-2) will take on Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers (4-5).

Mountain Pointe has faced off with talented quarterbacks all season long, but mobile signal callers have given the team fits this season.

Although the result was a win, Spencer Rattler and the Pinnacle offense got to a talented Pride defense for 34 points.

Derek Kline and Desert Vista scored 16 in a hard-fought battle.

Desert Ridge tormented the Pride with an option run game.

Plummer has pummeled defenses all season long, throwing for 2,550 yards, 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions on just under 300 attempts.

Although Plummer looks like a pocket passer with a 6-foot-5 stature, he has a deceptive ability to run the ball as well, tallying 370 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season.

If the talented Pride defensive line can keep Plummer contained in the pocket, it should be able to pick up some easy stops in the backfield.

Look for Mountain Pointe’s secondary to take advantage of Plummer’s quick decisions as it has given opposing quarterbacks fits all season long, picking off 16 passes in the process.

The biggest threat through the air for the Tigers has been senior Dawson Tanner. The 5-foot-10 receiver has caught a team-high 48 passes for 795 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has been Plummer’s favorite target all season long.

Along with Tanner, Plummer has also spread the ball around to Domonick Amendolara and Drew Hudson, who both have over 300 yards receiving and have combined for six touchdowns.

Kenny Churchwell, Marshawn Gibson, Delano Salgado and company will present a formidable opposition for this trio of receivers, though.

Offensively, the game plan hasn’t really changed all season long for the Pride. Although the lead back has changed from game to game, Jakim McKinney, Gary Bragg and Delano Salgado have almost been unstoppable this year, averaging close to 260 yards per game.

When the rushing game has been stymied, quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has been more than comfortable using his legs in passing situations.

He is also coming into his own as a passer, throwing for a season-high three touchdowns against Corona del Sol on Friday, his first game this season with more than one passing touchdown.

The Mountain Pointe offense will be met by tough defense, however.

It is led by Tyler Laganke, Corvan Otanez and Kawai Lucio. Laganke has been the leader for the Tigers defense, leading the team in both tackles with 107 and sacks with six.

Otanez is second on the team in tackles with 91 but leads the team in interceptions. These two alone should provide plenty of resistance, especially with a berth in the state playoffs on the line for Gilbert.

The Pride play at home on Friday; the two teams kick off at 7 p.m.

Desert Vista vs Corona del Sol

This game is an absolute must-win  for the Thunder as a loss to Corona del Sol, a team with only one win, could push Desert Vista out of the playoff picture.

After providing some resistance for part of the night against No. 2-ranked Desert Ridge, the Thunder head into Friday night with some confidence and a hope that some of their injured starters can make a return for the season finale.

Coach Daniel Hinds said he has been hit with injuries this year more than any other in his 16 years of coaching.

Without the presence of Jake Smith, Keishaud White and Navy commit James Stagg, who are three of the Thunder’s top four receivers, the Desert Vista offense has been somewhat stagnant.

The defense has stepped up in situations, but after a 35-7 loss to Desert Ridge, Hinds admitted they can only do that for so long.

Although their record doesn’t reflect it, the Thunder will be met by a high-powered offense from Corona del Sol led by junior quarterback Ryan Helt and junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall.

Just recently, Pearsall set a new single-game record for receiving yards when he caught 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns. In the same game, Helt threw for 510 yards total.

If the defense can hold Helt and Pearsall to a minimum, look for the Desert Vista offense to have a breakout game one week before state as the Aztecs defense has allowed 341 points this season and are currently on a seven-game losing streak.

Quarterback Derek Kline should be able to take on this struggling Corona del Sol defense and lead his Thunder into the state tournament. If the Thunder can creep in, don’t be surprised if they surprise a few teams in the playoffs when they return to full health, as they showed earlier this season.

Desert Vista hosts with kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday.

Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, finds a blocking hole to run through on the way to scoring Pride’s second touchdown. Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

Pride get back on track with big win over Corona

 
By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor  |  10.20.17

Quarterback Nick Wallerstedt found the end zone three times through the air and once on the ground. JaKim McKinney and Gary Bragg each ran for two touchdowns. Kenny Churchwell and Delano Salgado manned the secondary with ease.

No. 3-ranked Mountain Pointe returned to its brand of football on Friday night and finished the regular season unbeaten on the road, defeating the Corona del Sol Aztecs at Hascall Henshaw Stadium, 56-6.

A week after suffering its first loss at home since 2011 to the hands of then No. 5-ranked Desert Ridge, Mountain Pointe (7-2) controlled both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff and cruised to an easy win over Corona (1-8).

“I’m really proud with how these guys rebounded,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “It was a great team victory, we needed this.”

After being held to just 181 yards on the ground against Desert Ridge, the Mountain Pointe rushing attack proved relentless on Friday night as it has most of the season, with McKinney and Bragg leading the way.

Coming into its final road game of the season averaging 258.8 yards per game — leading all 6A Central teams — the Pride offensive attack stood tall behind its offensive line as the running game returned to its former self and Wallerstedt aired it out.

On its opening drive of the game, Mountain Pointe recorded two quick first downs and on a broken coverage down the field, Wallerstedt found Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson for a wide open touchdown to give the Pride an early 7-0 lead.

It was the first of three passing touchdowns for the junior quarterback and his best game of the season through the air. He credits his improvements throughout the season to both his faith and his coaches on the sideline.

“The coaches have really been believing in me,” Wallerstedt said. “I’ve just been believing in my arm and the rest has figured itself out.”

“He’s really coming into himself,” Vaughan said.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Pride forced two Ryan Helt interceptions and recovered a fumble on Corona’s first drive of the second half.

Mountain Pointe’s defensive unit has often failed to receive the notoriety during the season’s victories, but with a 6A Central leading 14 interceptions coming into Friday night’s game, it showed why it’s a force to be reckon with.

“We did everything we wanted to do tonight,” Vaughan said. “The defense stepped up and really forced [them] into some mistakes.”

Heading into its final regular season game, the game plan for Mountain Pointe is to keep things simple. Don’t try to do too much but also place an importance on making the plays that need to be made.

“We just need to focus on consistency,” Vaughan said. “Penalties continue to hurt us and we really need to work on that.”

Mountain Pointe will look to carry momentum into its final regular season game next week and look to make a statement as it heads into the playoffs. The Pride will take on the No. 15-ranked Gilbert Tigers on senior night.

Congratulations Kenny Churchwell for being invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl.  Pictured with Coach Norris Vaughan.

By  YurView – 

There is another Thursday night marquee Arizona high school football matchup this week on Yurview, as Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe square off. Both teams enter with identical 6-1 records, making this a pivotal 6A matchup. The game can be seen on Yurview Arizona at 7:00pm MST and will also be streaming live at Yurview.com.

Hot Streaks

Both Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe are on winning streaks entering Thursday’s contest. Jeremy Hathcock’s Desert Ridge has won four straight games, each of them by 20 points or more. On the other side, the Pride haven’t lost since a Week 2 tilt with California power Chaminade. They’ve won five straight, squeaking out the last two by 5 points and one point respectively.

Run Run Run

Both teams love to hand the ball to their backs. The Jaguars hand it to Tyrese Allen, and he’s racked up nearly 2000 yards over the last two seasons.

Mountain Pointe has a two-headed monster in the backfield, and Norris Vaughan’s Pride run for 267 yards per game. Senior Gary Bragg has almost 700 yards so far this season, while junior Jakim McKinney has a 200 yard, 4 touchdown game to his name this season. He’s the lightning to Bragg’s thunder.

Players to Watch

DB Don’Jae Logan – Desert Ridge

He’s the #4 rated defensive back in Arizona, which is saying something going against all those stud quarterbacks in the state. He’s headed to Stanford next season with his 3.7 GPA.

DT Shomari Hayes – Mountain Pointe

Picking up the slack for injured Mathew Pola-Mao, the #2 ranked 2019 prospect in Arizona, Hayes has received a Fresno State offer and has garnered a lot of interest from Pac-12 schools.

DB Kenny Churchwell –  Mountain Pointe

He has Pac-12 interest as well, picking up offers from both Arizona State and Arizona among others. Watch for Mountain Pointe to get him the ball on offense also.

 

Desert Ridge takes on Mountain Pointe on Yurview Arizona and streaming live on Yurview.com at 7:00pm MST on Thursday October 12th.

Photo: Cheryl Hasehorst/AFN Contributor

Tukee Bowl teams at the top of their game

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  Sep 27, 2017

It’s an annual event that draws close to 10,000 people, pits two of the best high school football teams in Arizona against each other and showcases some of the best talent in the state.

It’s the Ahwatukee Bowl.

This year’s game may be more difficult to predict than any in the past as both teams will take the field at Desert Vista high school Thursday night with records of 4-1. They both bring strong defenses and an ability to score the football in more ways than one.

Mountain Pointe has had a strong start to the season while it battled with crucial injuries early in the season.

Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney have become one of the best running back duos in the state, racking up 963 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has proved to be just as dangerous running the ball, rushing for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

The Pride scored 20-plus points in all five of their games and has allowed their defense to shine early this season. A strong secondary consisting of Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson and Marshawn Gibson have been lights out, picking off six passes and deflecting 24 more.

The defensive line has been just as strong. Shomari Hayes and Tyre Johnson have combined for 61 tackles and four sacks and junior Kenneth Lofton has also broken into the backfield for five sacks this season.

Altogether, the defense has allowed opposing teams to score a total of only 100 points this season, with 70 of those points coming in two games.

The Thunder has attacked its opponents in a different way from the Pride, but it has a strong approach on the defensive side of the ball that has kept most of their opponents quiet.

The team has only allowed their opponents to score 95 points, with 49 of them coming in their season-opening loss to a strong Perry squad that has since taken the 6A scene by storm.

Since that game, Desert Vista has been as strong as ever, recently pitching a shutout against Dobson High.

The defense has been led by senior linebacker Larry Davis, who has racked up a total of 47 tackles this season and has sacked the opposing quarterback four times this season.

Offensively, the Thunder has relied on new quarterback Derek Kline, who had thrown for 849 yards and nine touchdowns leading into a 42-0 win over Dobson last Friday.

Kline has shown his ability to spread the ball around to several of his weapons as four different receivers have 100-plus yards and five have found the end zone in 2017.

Heading into their matchup with Dobson, Kline had also led the Thunder in rushing with 150 yards and sophomore Tyson Grubbs has added 142 yards on the ground as well.

While the Thunder has been somewhat pass heavy, it has still been able to find the end zone on the ground as senior Keishaud White has scored three touchdowns on the ground.

The Thunder established an ability to adapt to whatever opposing defenses throw at them so far through 2017 and come Thursday its ability to do that will be more important than ever.

As both teams have established where their strengths lie, the 2017 Tukee Bowl will come down to a couple of different things.

How Kline fares against a strong Mountain Pointe secondary will be huge. If the 6-foot-5 gunslinger, who will experience his first Ahwatukee Bowl experience, can be affective and avoid turnovers, the Thunder could establish an early lead. Look for White and Navy commit James Stagg to play a big role in the passing game.

The Thunder may also try to establish a run game with a stable of backs in Grubbs, White, and Travon Offut, who is coming off a 15 carry 92-yard performance against Dobson. With the strong defensive play of the Mountain Pointe lineman, this may prove difficult for the Thunder.

Another key piece will be Mountain Pointe’s ability to establish the run game.

It hasn’t had a problem accomplishing that this year, which in turn has opened a lot of possibilities for the rest of the Pride offense. The main benefactor of that has been Wallerstedt, who has taken advantage of defenses keying on Bragg and McKinney with option runs and play action passes.

Keying in on the run game and forcing Mountain Pointe to beat them through the air could be a major factor for the Desert Vista defenders.

This is where Davis and Humphrey will be crucial for the home team as the Mountain Pointe run game has been devastating teams all season long.

Both teams are filled with loads of talent and many different players could emerge to fill a major role in one of the most highly anticipated rivalry games in Arizona.

Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe will kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School.

-Do you have a human-interest or feature story idea? Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com or 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

     

    Marshawn Gibson marches down the field to start the fourth quarter against the Chandler Wolves.  [Photo courtesy of MP Football Facebook]

    Pride, Thunder both take to the road Friday after big wins

    By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

    The tough competition doesn’t stop with last weekend’s defeat of Chandler High as Mountain Pointe High will see where it stands against the Arizona’s top football talent in the coming weeks.

    This week, the Pride will hit the road for the third straight week, taking on Mesa Mountain View (2-1).

    The Toros are 1-0 at home this year, defeating Corona del Sol (1-3) 35-18. They are led by Mike Fell, who won his 200th career game in the season opening victory over Valley Vista.

    Friday night will bring a matchup between two experienced head coaches and several talented players.

    Mountain Pointe will have the task of locking up the quarterback-receiver tandem of Brandon Nunez and Jacobby Dinwiddie. The pair has hooked up for 283 passing yards and one touchdown so far in 2017. As a sophomore, Dinwiddie was a huge part of the Toros offense, catching 70 passes for 1,012 yards and six touchdowns.

    Look for a talented secondary, led by Pride seniors Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, Tyre Johnson and Marshawn Gibson to lock down the pair through the air.

    On the ground, the Toros have been led by senior tailback Dean Yamada who has tallied 198 yards on 40 carries.

    Mountain Pointe also will have to be on the lookout for the running ability of Nunez. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback has scampered for 63 yards this season, but he showed off his legs in the red zone against Valley Vista, finding the end zone twice.   

    If Pride secondary can contain the duo of Nunez and Dinwiddie, the talented trio of running backs from Mountain Pointe should have the opportunity to control the pace of the game like they have all season long.

    It’s been a staple of their offense since their first game, when senior Gary Bragg returned from an ACL injury last season with a 131-yard, three-touchdown performance against Sandra Day O’Connor.

    Against Chaminade, a top-10 school in California, Bragg was locked up for just 45 yards on 10 carries. But, junior running back Jakim McKinney made his presence known, rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns.

    Another important aspect of Mountain Pointe’s matchup with Mountain View will be the play of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt.

    With a stout running game behind him and a big offensive line in front of him, the Pride signal-caller has been able to manage games. He has made throws when he has needed to, but also has used his feet when given the opportunity.

    His three-yard quarterback keeper against Chandler put the Pride ahead and they never looked back.  

    With a big redemption win over the state champions, the Pride look to be back to form after a tough loss against Chaminade. It still has a tough schedule ahead as Pinnacle and the Ahwatukee bowl both await in the weeks ahead.

    Desert Vista vs. Brophy Prep

    Desert Vista High School (2-1) made it two wins in a row on Friday with a 44-13 win over Mesa Skyline and this week it will look to make it three as they travel to Brophy Prep (1-3) to take on the Broncos.  

    Brophy Prep fell to undefeated Highland this past Friday 14-6 in another close contest, a recurring theme for the Broncos. They squeaked out a 28-27 win against Westview and fell to Desert Ridge by nine points.

    While their record may not show it, the Broncos boast a talented roster full of playmakers that head coach Daniel Hinds and his team will have to be on the lookout for. The talent of the Broncos starts in the backfield with quarterback Noah Gonzales.

    The 6-foot-2 gunslinger has completed 50 percent of his passes in 2017 for 735 yards and five touchdowns. His only game without 200-plus passing yards came in their season opening loss to Pinnacle.

    In his first season under center, Gonzales has found two favorite targets in seniors Xavier Juniel and senior Donovan Arthur. The two receivers have combined for 374 yards and three touchdowns in four games.

    But he has also struggled at times, throwing three interceptions in the game against Highland.

    This is an area of the game that a strong Desert Vista secondary could take advantage of as the combination of James Stagg, Caleb Humphrey and Larry Davis should stymie the Brophy running game. In both of Desert Vista’s victories season, they have held opponents below 200 rushing yards.

    Offensively, the Thunder will look to continue to keep up their high scoring efforts as they are clicking in both the passing and running game.

    Since throwing two interceptions against Perry, quarterback Derek Kline has been big for the Thunder. He’s completed over 60 percent of his passes in the past two games and he’s also thrown for seven touchdowns.

    That streak should continue against Brophy if the Thunder can avoid turning the ball over, which they have done in the past two games other than a lone fumble against Basha.

    Along with Kline, look for senior Keishaud White to have a big impact in their fourth game of the season. He has scored in all three games, both through the air and on the ground. But on Friday he added another facet to his scoring repertoire against Skyline, returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

    – Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com or by phone at 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

     

    Mountain Pointe wide receiver Kenny Churchwell makes a one-handed catch.  (Photo: Arizona Republic)

    Kenny Churchwell, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 6-2, 185, Sr.

    5 interceptions, 11 deflections in 2016.

    American Family Insurance ALL-USA Arizona preseason football team 2017

    , azcentral sportsPublished 5:09 p.m. MT Aug. 15, 2017 | Updated 4:53 p.m. MT Aug. 17, 2017

     

    This is the 2017 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Arizona preseason football team.

    Offense

    Quarterback

    Brock Purdy, Gilbert Perry, 6-1, 197, Sr.

    All-Arizona last season, despite missing the first three games, and putting up 3,333 yards and 42 TDs passing and running for 842 yards and six scores.

    Running back

    Zidane Thomas, Peoria Centennial, 5-10, 205, Sr.

    A 2,000-yard rusher last year, turned loose this week after having hardship approved by AIA.

    Running back

    Draycen Hall, Gilbert Higley, 5-8, 165, Sr.

    Scored 40 TDs and had 3,908 all-purpose yards in 2016.

    Center

    Max Wilhite, Goodyear Desert Edge, 6-3, 300, Sr.

    Fourth-year varsity starter.

    Lineman

    Matteo Mele, Tucson Salpointe Catholic, 6-6, 275, Sr.

    Washington commit added 20 pounds since last season.

    Lineman

    David Watson, Tucson Amphitheater, 6-6, 300, Sr.

    Committed to Arizona, where both of his parents played sport.

    Lineman

    Ralph Frias, Safford, 6-7, 320, Sr.

    Started at left tackle since freshman year.

    Lineman

    Joey Ramos, Glendale Deer Valley, 6-4, 290, Sr.

    Rated No. 1 offensive lineman in Arizona for 2017 season by azcentral sports.

    Tight end

    James Stagg, Phoenix Desert Vista, 6-4, 241, Sr.

    Will remind people of former Desert Vista standout Zach Miller.

    Wide receiver

    Solomon Enis, Phoenix North Canyon, 6-4, 190, Sr.

    Has ASU, UA in his final seven. 

    Wide receiver

    Gunner Romney, Chandler, 6-3, 200, Sr.

    BYU commit had 70 catches for 1,309 yards, nine TDs last season.

    All purpose

    Lance Lawson, Mesa Red Mountain, 5-9, 185, Sr.

    All-Arizona last year, he is a game changer on both sides of the ball, will be go-to guy on offense.

    Defense

    Tackle

    Chris Manoa, Chandler, 6-0, 300, Sr.

    41 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 QB hurries on 6A title team

    Tackle

    Kai Golden, Marana Mountain View, 6-2, 295, Sr.

    40 tackles, 9 for losses in 2016

    End

    Aaron Romero, Mesa Skyline, 6-3, 245, Sr.

    Ready to emerge on the scene as a pass rusher

    End

    Ty Robinson, Gilbert Higley, 6-5, 255, Jr.

    With Jason Harris out, watch for this guy to blow it up in the backfield.

    Linebacker

    Calib McRae, Marana Mountain View, 6-1, 227, Jr.

    39 tackles, 2 sacks in 4 games before injury last season.

    Linebacker

    Brayden Flynn, Chandler, 6-3, 220, Sr.

    Transfer from Hamilton, had 14.5 sacks last year.

    Linebacker

    Giovanni Miranda, Scottsdale Saguaro, 6-4, 205, Sr.

    Game changer on both sides of ball.

    Back

    Dom Hampton, Peoria Centennial, 6-2, 185, Sr.

    30 solo tackles, 2 forced fumbles last year.

    Back

    Kenny Churchwell, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 6-2, 185, Sr.

    5 interceptions, 11 deflections in 2016.

    Back

    Josiah Bradley, Saguaro, 6-1, 194

    Fast, athletic safety had 3 interceptions, 8 deflections during 4A title season.

    Back

    Donjae Logan, Mesa Desert Ridge, 5-11, 170, Sr.

    Stanford commit had 33 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 deflections in 2016.

    Special teams

    Kicker

    Brayden Narveson, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, 6-0, 190, Sr.

    Watch to emerge as team’s full-time kicker after he made a 51-yard field goal last season.

    Punter

    Carlos Ritchie, Laveen Cesar Chavez, 6-1, 175, Sr.

    Good all-around athlete who averaged 43 yards a punt last season with seven inside the 20-yard line.

    Long snapper

    Slater Zellers, Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, 6-1, 220, Sr.

    The No.1-ranked long snapper in the nation by Kohl’s, he has committed to California.

    Kick returner

    Aiden Diggs, Goodyear Millennium, 6-0, 170, Sr.

    He was second in the nation in average kickoff return yardage last season with 44.7 in 15 attempts.

    Punt returner

    Keishaud White, Phoenix Desert Vista, 5-6, 160, Sr.

    Two years ago, the only two punts he returned went for touchdowns.

    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.

    Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer
    “If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to get back to the state championship game, there’s no question,” Vaughn said.

    Hut, hut! Pride, Thunder ready for the 2017 season

    • By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  

    Ahwatukee always has at least one successful high school football team. But in 2017, the community will have two teams with the talent to make a run for a state championship.

    Last year ended the same way for both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools – with losses to Chandler High in the Class 6A State Tournament. Desert Vista was knocked out in the quarterfinals, while Mountain Pointe made a run to the state championship game.

    The Pride finished the season ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and had beaten Chandler High earlier in the fall by 45 points.

    On its run to the championship and throughout the season, however, the Pride suffered numerous injuries. In its semifinal victory over Red Mountain High the team lost at least four starters.

    This season, the Pride will return with another strong defense featuring defensive backs Kenny Churchwell and Delano Salgado, who combined for 93 tackles and six interceptions.

    But injuries already have impacted the 2017 Pride.

    The defensive line will be missing Matthew Pola-Mao, who will miss the season due to injury, head coach Norris Vaughn said.

    Nevertheless, Vaughn said he likes his team’s chances if his players can avoid more major injuries.

    “If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to get back to the state championship game, there’s no question,” Vaughn said.

    Desert Vista is also feeling confident about its chances on the gridiron.

    “I feel like teams are going to have to try and win by their defense,” leading tackler Larry Davis said. “They gotta win by not letting our offense score because I don’t think a lot of people are going to score. Our defense is pretty stacked.”

    For Mountain Pointe, look for Jacob Olsen and Shomari Hayes to fill the void left by the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Pola-mao.

    Olsen led the team in sacks in 2016 with six and made 87 tackles as well. Hayes was another big piece of the Prides hard-hitting defense last season, racking up 74 tackles, 11.5 of them being for a loss.

    The Pride will have a stout defense in 2017, but they will also have another solid offense.

    Tailback Gary Bragg returns from an ACL injury that ended his junior season after rushing for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. They will also return quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, who filled in for injured Noah Grover last season, throwing for 558 yards and four touchdowns.

    Salgado will also have a significant role in the offense for the Pride. The senior tailback rushed for 730 yards and six touchdowns last season.

    After a 7-5 season, the Desert Vista Thunder are looking to return strong in 2017 with a potent offense and an even stronger defense.

    They finished their run in 2016 with a devastating 62-7 loss against eventual state champion Chandler High in the quarterfinals, after finishing the regular season ranked 10th in Class 6A.

    Although Desert Vista graduated starting QB Nick Thomas and leading rusher Lelon Dillard, the Thunder still have several returning players who will have a larger role in 2017.

    With Nevada transplant quarterback Derek Kline under center, the Thunder will boast an offense with plenty of weapons, both in the backfield and on the outside.

    James Stagg and Keishaud White both return to the offense after combining for nine touchdowns and 750-plus receiving yards last season.

    Defensively, head coach Daniel Hinds said, the Thunder is returning its entire secondary as well as Davis, who made 93 tackles last season and racked up 6.5 sacks as well.

    Caleb Humphrey and Stagg also return to a defense that could be dangerous throughout the season.

    Of course, a highlight of the season will come Sept. 28, when Desert Vista hosts its crosstown rival in the Tukee Bowl.

    Last year’s Tukee Bowl saw seniors on both sides scoring all 43 points of a 27-16 Mountain Pointe win.

    Rashie Hodge Jr. and Antwaun Woodberry combined for three touchdowns on the ground while Noah Grover found Isaiah Pola-mao through the air for the only passing touchdown of the game.

    For Desert Vista, Lelon Dillard found the end zone on the ground and senior kicker Riley Erickson put two field goals and an extra point through the uprights.

    Both Ahwatukee teams always provide exciting matchups for the bowl game.


    “Everything about it, you have this community two schools in it, the kids know each other,” Hinds said. “It’s just fun to be a part of.”