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 ]

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Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Mountain Pointe punishes Hawks, gears up for semifinal

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

Following Mountain Pointe’s trouncing of the eighth-seeded Highland Hawks in the 6A quarterfinal at Karl Kiefer Stadium Friday night, coach Norris Vaughan spoke to his team with joy and high praise.

But one part of his postgame speech stood out more than the rest.

“It’s all about believing in one another,” Vaughan said.

And as senior two-way player Delano Salgado made his way to the middle of the huddle and raised his helmet in the air with his teammates, they yelled in unison: “Believe.”

Despite being the top seed in the 6A playoffs, Mountain Pointe approached Friday’s game with a strong sense of determination. At the same stadium just over a month ago, Highland gave the Pride a run for its money and a reason to fear its season hopes could come crashing down.  

The Hawks went into the locker room with a 13-0 halftime lead but ended up shocked in the end as Mountain Pointe flipped the switch in the second half and pulled off a dramatic 14-13 win – one that exemplified great character at that point in the season.

“First time we played (them), we turned the ball over three times inside our own 20,” Vaughan said. “We’ve gotten much better since then.”

One way Mountain Pointe has significantly improved over the course of its season has been through the passing game and its ability to open up the offense, in part because of its running game.

Junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has grown up before Vaughan’s eyes and he put his strong arm and accuracy to the test in the second quarter. After back-to-back first-down runs by Gary Bragg and Marshawn Gibson, Wallerstedt found Gibson wide open on a play-action pass for a 31-yard touchdown to give Mountain Pointe a 14-0 lead.

Following an impressive defensive stand, Wallerstedt was given another golden opportunity to air it out. The Pride began the ensuing drive with a few run plays and a first-down completion to Sky Hinojosa.

One play later, with the Highland secondary sleeping, Wallerstedt launched one of the more perfect passes you’ll see on a football field as Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson hauled it in for a 62-yard touchdown to give the Pride a comfortable 21-0 lead heading into halftime.

From then on, it was all Mountain Pointe.

The Pride defense showed up in full force as it shut down Highland quarterback Kaleb Herbert and the Hawks offense to the tune of just one first down in the first half.

“We’ve been playing really well the last three weeks,” Vaughan said. “Around this time of year, we always seem to come on and play better football.”

The play of the night came in the third quarter following an onside kick recovered by Highland. Herbert and the Hawks were marching down the field looking to cut the score in half following a touchdown pass to trim the lead to 28-7.

Herbert stepped back in the pocket, surveyed the secondary looking for an open receiver, scrambled out right and on a ball that appeared to be out of everyone’s reach, Gibson jumped in the air and brought down a miraculous one-handed interception to put a stop to Highland’s momentum shift.

It highlighted an outstanding defensive performance by one of the best defenses in 6A.

For Mountain Pointe, the quarterfinal win is only the beginning in what hopes to be a playoff run of redemption, following last year’s state championship loss.

“We’re definitely playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Salgado said. “Even though we’re the No. 1 team, we’re not going to play like it. We’re going to act like we’ve been here before and it’s really important to us to come back and finish this time.”

Mountain Pointe will move on to play the fourth-seeded Perry Pumas next week for a chance to return to the 6A State Championship in Tucson.

The Pumas were thought to be the top seed heading into the playoffs but were ousted by Mountain Pointe. They’re coming off a convincing 72-14 victory over No. 5 Hamilton.

“We know they have a great quarterback and a great team through the air,” Salgado said. “But on the other side, we have a great defense so we’re going to come out and play hard.”

Against Hamilton, the Perry Pumas lit up the scoreboard after the two teams battled in a shootout earlier this season with a final score of 65-63. When referring to a great quarterback and a great team through the air, Salgado was referring to quarterback Brock Purdy and receivers D’shayne James and Colby Dickie.

Before Friday’s matchup against Hamilton, Purdy had tallied over 3,000 passing yards and over 700 rushing yards on the season. Contributing to an offense that has scored 760 points this season, Dickie and James have combined for 1,755 yards and 18 touchdowns through the air this season.

But they probably haven’t seen a secondary like Mountain Pointe’s since their lone loss to Chandler earlier this year.

+1  

Marshawn Gibson, flanked by Pride teammates
Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Along with their potent offense, the Pumas display a strong defense that could limit the strong running game of Mountain Pointe’s Gary Bragg, Jakim McKinney and Salgado. Travis Beckman, Jobiin Sweatt and Harley Scott have been nuisances in backfields all season long, tallying a combined 24 sacks.

Unlike most of the remaining state playoff games, these two teams haven’t faced off yet this season, so they are both unfamiliar with the other. But that just means that on Friday night, these two teams will be in for an exciting matchup to see who will go to the 6A State Championship game in Tucson.

Mountain Pointe and Perry kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday at McClintock High School in Tempe.

Chandler vs. Red Mountain.

In the other 6A semifinal game, the Chandler Wolves will face off with the Red Mountain Lions. These two teams played against each other during zero week back in August and the Wolves put a beating on the Mountain Lions, winning 42-14. Since then, though, both teams have gone through a lot of adversity.

After losing their first two games of the season, Red Mountain might be the hottest team in the state, winning 10 straight games behind performances from all-around athlete Lance Lawson.

The Wolves have also gone through their own adversity as they were forced to play a slew of games without some of their key players.

Fully healthy, the Wolves look to return to the State Championship game for the second straight year.

Mountain Pointe’s Marshawn Gibson, #7, grabs what would have been a touchdown pass away from Highland’s Dayton Huffman, #2, late in the third quarter.  Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

Mountain Pointe cruises by Highland into Semis

By Eddie Poe   |  11.11.17

For the #1 seed Mountain Pointe Pride, its quest back to the 6A State Championship begins and ends with one word.

Believe.

Following its 44-7 trouncing of the #8 seed Highland Hawks in the 6A quarterfinal at Karl Kiefer Stadium Friday night, coach Norris Vaughan spoke to his team with joy and high praise. But one part of his postgame speech stood out more than the rest.

“It’s all about believing in one another,” Vaughan said.

And as senior two-way player Delano Salgado made his way to the middle of the huddle and raised his helmet in the air with his teammates, they each yelled the same word in unison. Believe.

Despite being the top seed in the 6A playoffs, Mountain Pointe approached Friday’s game with a strong sense of determination. At Karl Kiefer Stadium just over a month ago, Highland gave the Pride a run for its money and a reason to fear its season hopes coming to a crash. 

The Hawks went into the locker room with a 13-0 halftime lead but ended up shocked in the end as Mountain Pointe turned the switch on in the second half and pulled off a dramatic 14-13 win. A win that exemplified great character at that point in the season.

“First time we played (them), we turned the ball over three times inside our own 20,” Vaughan said. “We’ve gotten much better since then.”

One way Mountain Pointe has significantly improved over the course of its season has been through the passing game and its ability to open up the offense much in part because of its running game.

Junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has grown up before Vaughan’s eyes and he put his strong arm and accuracy to test in the second quarter. After back-to-back first down runs by Gary Bragg and Marshawn Gibson, Wallerstedt found Gibson wide open on a play-action pass for a 31 yard touchdown to give Mountain Pointe a 14-0 lead.

Following an impressive defensive stand, Wallerstedt was given another golden opportunity to air it out. The Pride began the ensuing drive with a few run plays, and a first down completion to Sky Hinojosa. One play later, with the Highland secondary sleeping, Wallerstedt aired out one of the more perfect passes that you’ll see on a football field as Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson hauled it in for a 62 yard touchdown to give the Pride a comfortable 21-0 lead heading into halftime.

From then on, it was all Mountain Pointe.

The Pride defense showed up in full force as it shutdown Highland quarterback Kaleb Herbert and the Hawks offense to the tune of just one first down in the first half.

“We’ve been playing really well the last three weeks,” Vaughan said. “Around this time of year we always seem to come on and play better football.”

The play of the night came in the third quarter following an onside kick recovered by Highland. Herbert and the Hawks were marching down the field looking to cut the score in half following a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 28-7.

Herbert stepped back in the pocket, surveyed the secondary looking for an open receiver, scrambled out right and on a ball that appeared to be out of everyone’s reach, Gibson jumped in the air and brought down a miraculous one-handed interception to put a stop to Highland’s momentum shift.

It highlighted an outstanding defensive performance by one of the best defenses in 6A.

For Mountain Pointe, Friday night’s quarterfinal win is only the beginning in what hopes to be a playoff run of redemption following last year’s state championship loss.

“We’re definitely playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Salgado said. “Even though we’re the number one team, we’re not going to play like it. We’re going to act like we’ve been here before and it’s really important to us to come back and finish this time.”

Mountain Pointe will move on to play the #4 seed Perry Pumas next week for a chance to return to the 6A State Championship in Tucson.

The Pumas were thought to be the top seed heading into the playoffs but were ousted by Mountain Pointe. They’re coming off a convincing 72-14 victory over #5 Hamilton.

“We know they have a great quarterback and a great team through the air,” Salgado said. “But on the other side, we have a great defense so we’re going to come out and play hard.”

“Be prepared.”

 

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.

 

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.

 

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. 

     

    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.

    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

       

      Tyre Johnson carries the ball against Chandler Friday night at Austin Field.  |  Photo by Kimberly Carrillo

      Mountain Pointe avenges state title loss, upsets Chandler on the road

      By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor

      From the start, you could tell it weighed heavy on their minds.

      After falling in last year’s 6A state championship to Chandler, Mountain Pointe found the best type of redemption on Friday night — knocking off the No.1 team in the state on their own turf.

      With a three-headed backfield controlling the running game early on, junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt remained poised behind a stout offensive line as No. 2 Mountain Pointe stunned No.1 Chandler 24-21 on Friday night at Austin Field.

      “I’m so proud of these boys, each and every one of them,” coach Norris Vaughan said.

      As he shook hands and received congratulatory hugs from his coaching staff following the game, Vaughan yelled, “This ain’t us!”

      He was referring to last week’s game against national power Chaminade Prep (Mission Viejo, Calif.) in which the Pride were unable to overcome a slew of mistakes en route to a loss.

      A different Mountain Pointe team showed up on Friday night though.

      Just before the end of the first quarter, the Pride (2-1) got things started when Wallerstedt took a keeper in from three yards out. Ten seconds later, Jacob Olsen recovered a fumble by Chandler and ran it in from 12 yards out to give the Pride a 14-0 lead.

      On their first drive of the second quarter, Chandler made another costly mistake. The punter was unable to kick the ball away after a high snap and the Pride were gifted the ball on Chandler’s 17-yard line.

      A few plays later, Jakim McKinney ran in it from two yards out and there was utter silence from the Chandler faithful. 

      “That early momentum carried us,” Wallerstedt said. “It was exactly what we needed.”

      Chandler (2-2) didn’t just fall back and fold. After four failed drives to start the game, backup quarterback Billy Bolger (replacing the injured Jacob Conover) began finding seams and the offense received some help in the form of a roughing the passer penalty. 

      After a run that put them in the red zone was called back on a holding penalty, the Wolves eventually got on the board on a DeCarlos Brooks touchdown run with 4:37 remaining in the half.

      For nearly the entire third quarter, both offenses stalled, unable to move the ball down the field. Driving towards the end of the quarter, Bolger found a receiver open across the middle and he took it 36 yards for a touchdown to cut Mountain Pointe’s lead to 21-14 as the third quarter ended.

      Wallerstedt and Mountain Pointe’s backfield trio — Gary Bragg, Delano Salgado, and Marshawn Gibson — wore the Chandler defense down as they marched down the field to start the fourth quarter. Taking nearly seven minutes off the clock, Ben Abercrombie capped off the drive with a 16-yard field goal to give the Pride a 24-14 lead with five and half minutes remaining. 

      Bolger and the Wolves didn’t feel the pressure though as they answered with a score of their own, running in a short touchdown to cut the lead back to 24-21 with just under three minutes to go. 

      Then, on a handoff out left, the ball fell from Bragg’s hands as he turned up field and the Wolves recovered the fumble. The home crowd was the loudest it had been all game long, while the visiting Mountain Pointe fans were in utter shock. 

      Just like a strong team does, the defense picked up the mistake made by the offense. On fourth down and the game on the line, Bolger’s pass was tipped up in the air and Salgado secured it to seal the victory. 

      On the ground, the Pride ran for an even 200 yards while Wallerstedt accounted for 79 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

      “We’re still finding out who we are,” Vaughan said. “But this game helps us in the direction of finding it.”

      Mountain Pointe will continue their season on the road next week as they travel to Mesa Mountain View.

      By Renard Roberts AFN Contributor  |  Updated 

      Pride fall to Eagles in California

      Offensive struggles proved to be costly for Mountain Pointe High School in their 39-25 loss to Chaminade College Preparatory (West Hills, CA), Thursday night at Mission Viejo High School in California.

      This year at the Under Armor Brothers in Arms Classic the Pride came out flat on both sides of the ball. It only took three plays for Chaminade’s Michael Wilson, a Stanford commit, to take a short slant route the 77-yards to put the Eagles up 7-0.  

      In the first quarter, all Mountain Pointe had working for them was their defense. They got a huge boost from cornerback Marshawn Gibson, as he jumped an outside route, picked off the pass and returned it 40-yards for the Prides first points of the ball game.

      Points after turnovers were very detrimental to the Pride’s mission however. Later in the first half the Eagles returned the favor with an interception of their own, nearly returning it for a touchdown. It did not take much for Chaminade to punch the ball in again as star running back Andrew Vanburen, showing what a great talent Boise State will receive in the next year, scored one of his four rushing touchdowns. 

      During the duration of the game the Pride would gain some momentum, but it would be snatched away by their opponents with a blink of an eye.

      The running game finally started to develop in the second quarter as Jakim Mckinney did his best to carry the team, scoring the only two offensive touchdowns. But right before the team from Awhatukee headed towards the locker room, Vanburen scattered down the Chaminade sideline scoring his third touchdowns.

      The Pride were one dimensional on offense as the pressure forced by the defensive line of the Eagles did not allow quarterback Nick Wallerstedt to find his targets down the field.

      Instead of coming out with an impressive drive to gain some momentum, the first play of the second half ended in the worst possible way. Chaminade defensive back Christopher Rankings picked off his second pass of the night. 

      Even though Mountain Pointe had mad many mental mistakes going into the fourth quarter, they were still fighting to stay within striking distance. Another interception, this time by Delano Salgado, led to a touchdown which kept the game within two possessions. The last straw of confidence was lost however when Chaminade blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter.

      “We had penalties we had turnovers we played poorly on offense and defense, we didn’t tackle or block well, we got out played and out coached”, Mountain Pointe Head Coach, Norris Vaughan.

      The Pride were also spread thin throughout the matchup as a few of their key players went out with minor injuries. In the postgame speech by Vaughan he told his team that they lacked heart and let the other team play more physical.

      They will need to bring their “A” game next week as they battle Chandler High in a rematch of the 6A state championship last season.