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Mountain Pointe High School head football Coach Norris Vaughan applauds his team during the first round of the 2017 playoffs.  Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Vaughan resigns as Mountain Pointe football head coach

By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor  |  

After nine seasons at the helm of the Mountain Pointe High School’s football program, Head Coach Norris Vaughan resigned on Wednesday.

Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said Vaughan and his wife, Ellen, are moving back to Georgia to be closer to family.

“I want to thank Coach Vaughan for a great 9 years. He has had a great impact on the entire Mountain Pointe school community,” Kipper said.

Over the past nine seasons, Vaughan acquired a record of 99-19 – including eight trips to the Final Four of the 6A State Tournament, two runner-up finishes and capping an undefeated season in 2013 with the state championship crown.

Before making his way to Mountain Pointe, he compiled a record of 47-5 at Wickenburg High, which puts his Arizona coaching record at 146-24 – making him the winningest coach in the state.

The Pride captured a record of 10-3 in 2017, losing to out of state opponent Chaminade early on the season. Mountain Pointe didn’t concede another loss until the Desert Ridge game – its first loss at Karl Kiefer stadium since September 2011.

Coming off another semi-final run, the team is in good hands after Vaughan’s departure.

They will return quarterback Nick Wallerstedt and leading rusher Jakim McKinney. They will have some work to do defensively, replacing almost their entire secondary. Fortunately, the Pride will see the return of top-ranked lineman Matthew Pola-Mao.

“Not only is he one of the greatest high school coaches in Arizona history, he is an inspiring leader who cares for his players and wants them to be outstanding young men, on and off the football field,” Kipper added.

Vaughn has been honored as Arizona Coach of the Year three times. In 2013, he was named State Coach of the Year by the Arizona Football Coaches Association, East Valley Tribune, Arizona Cardinals, azcentral, and American Monthly Football Magazine. He was also a nominee for the NFL’s Don Shula Award.

Other honors include being chosen to coach in both the Under Armour All American Game and the Army All American Game, as well as being named the Arizona Cardinals “Coach of the Year” in 2009 and 2013.

     

    Mountain Pointe’s Gary Bragg, #8, stiff-arms Perry defender Darius Holton, #26.  Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

    Perry ends Mountain Pointe’s quest for second straight state championship appearance

    By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor  |  Nov 18, 2017

    The quest for a second straight 6A Final appearance fell one game short for top-seeded Mountain Pointe.

    Senior quarterback Brock Purdy and the vaunted, high powered Perry Pumas’ offense proved far too much for the Pride. Behind 427 passing yards and three touchdowns, Purdy led the fourth-seeded Pumas to a 56-31 victory over Mountain Pointe in the 6A state semifinals on Friday at McClintock High School in Tempe.

    “I think (he’s) as good as we’ve seen all season,” coach Norris Vaughan said. “He’s magical back there, he’s a phenomenal quarterback.”

    The stout defense of Mountain Pointe got an early look at Purdy and he wasted little time showing them why the Pumas came into Friday averaging just over 57 points per game and the 6’1 quarterback set a single-season record with 48 touchdown passes.

    On a quick five-play opening drive, Purdy led the Pumas down the field and found Jordan Young on a 30-yard touchdown pass to give Perry an early 7-0 lead.

    The following drive, receiver D’Shayne James got past the Pride secondary and Purdy connected on a 70-yard pass, leading to a 16-yard touchdown pass to Colby Dickie. Just five minutes into the game, the Pumas were up 14-0.

    Mountain Pointe responded with a 20-yard field goal from Ben Abercrombie but the Pride had no answer for Purdy as a 21-3 deficit then turned into 28-3 as running back Kenny Fultz got past two defenders and took it to the house for a 40-yard touchdown.

    “They beat us in every way,” Vaughan said. “They outplayed us, outscored us, outcoached us, and when we did do something right we gave it right back.”

    The Pride came out of the half trailing 35-17, and with a new sense of hope it seemed.

    Quarterback Nick Wallerstedt ran it in from 17 yards out on the opening drive of the second half, and the Pride were within two possessions, 35-24, for the first time since the opening quarter.

    It was short-lived though as the Pumas returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield. Mountain Pointe’s special teams ate at them all game long as Perry often began each drive in Pride territory. Purdy and the Pumas drove down the field and on a third down play at the goal line, with the Pride looking for a huge stop to keep the game within two scores, Fultz found the end zone from six yards out on a sweep, effectively stunning the Pride.

    Mountain Pointe was hurt often by penalties and on several occasions, allowed Perry to move down the field with ease because of careless defensive mistakes.

    “I didn’t think it was all bad,” Vaughan said. “We did a lot of good things too, we just didn’t have that depth and it hurt us.”

    “Those guys on the other side deserved it.”

    A loss in the semifinals was not how Vaughan and his team had envisioned its season coming to an end. After falling in last year’s 6A Final to Chandler — who return to the state final and will face Perry — the Pride felt strongly that they had unfinished business to take care of.

    After a 36-24 loss to Chaminade Prep (West Hills, CA) during the second week of the season, Mountain Pointe took care of Chandler the following week and cruised to five consecutive wins. Their season nearly came to a halt on October 12 when they were upset by Desert Ridge at home but responded with two victories to end the regular season.

    The Pride were surprised with the top overall seed in the 6A playoffs and handled Cibola in the opening round, 65-0.

    The quarterfinals matched Mountain Pointe up with the Highland Hawks. Both teams were vying for a tough battle much like their regular season matchup where Highland took a 13-0 lead into halftime at Mountain Pointe, but were stunned by the Pride as Vaughan and his team mounted a 14-13 come-from-behind win.

    Highland stood little chance against the Pride in the highly anticipated rematch, falling 44-7.

    With key players on the offensive line such as Matthew Palo-Mao missing a good portion of the season, Vaughan wasn’t quite sure how the season was going to end up.

    “I thought we had a chance to be good,” he said. “We definitely struggled with injuries all season, we really missed some guys.”

    Nonetheless, the Pride persevered, all the way to the state semifinals. Led by one of the state’s top defensive units, highlighted by Kenny Churchwell, Marshawn Gibson and Delano Salgado in the secondary, and Tyre Johnson and Shomari Hayes up front, Mountain Pointe gave opposing offenses all sorts of fits.

    On the offensive side, JaKim McKinney, Gary Bragg and Salgado spearheaded a running game that made throwing the ball look mostly obsolete. McKinney ran for over 1,000 yards on the season and at 5’7 with out of this world speed, scampered all over opposing defenses.

    At the helm, Wallerstedt came into his own at the quarterback position as the season went on. His ability to manage the game early on in the season eventually led to the opening up of the offense and an accuracy through the air that will be tough to defend next season.

    The Pride will say goodbye to 27 seniors in the spring and for many of them on Friday, tears were shed and heads were hung in defeat as their quest to make it to Tucson came up short.

    But until next season, Mountain Pointe has all the reason in the world to hold their heads high.

    “I’m proud of everything these guys accomplished this season,” Vaughan said. “They should be proud.”

       

      Photo: Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

      Despite semi-final loss, the Pride should be proud

      By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

      Mountain Pointe High School missed a ticket to the big dance this Saturday in Tucson, where two Chandler Unified School District high school football teams will be vying for the Division 6A state title, but head coach Norris Vaughan is upbeat.

      “I’m proud of everything these guys accomplished this season,” Vaughan said. “They should be proud.”

      The Pride should be proud, having turned in a great season and only falling twice through the regular season – first at the hands of one of the top teams in California and later in a hard-fought battle against the Desert Ridge Jaguars. The team sustained numerous key injuries throughout the year, including one to star defensive lineman Matthew Pola-Mao.

      Mountain Pointe’s football season – and its quest for a second straight appearance in the 6A State championship – came to an end Nov. 17 when the Pride fell to the No. 4-seeded Perry Pumas 56-31 in the state semi-finals.  Perry will now play Chandler High for the title.

      At the end of the season, Mountain Pointe still earned the No. 1-seed in the playoffs. Vaughan and his team got there by utilizing a stable of running backs and putting one of the best defenses in the state on the field every Friday night.  

      Their first four games of 2017 were considered somewhat of a gauntlet: a rematch with the defending state champs, a national opponent, and a matchup with one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.

      The team started off the season with a big 46-6 win over Sandra Day O’Connor before heading to the UA Brothers in Arms Classic in Mission Viejo, California, where they were pitted against the Chaminade Eagles – a team now ranked in the top 10 in its state. Knowing it would be a tough battle going in, the Pride put up a fight but fell 36-24.

      Then they rebounded, and snapped off a five-game winning streak. They took down a depleted Chandler squad in a 24-21 nail-biter that showcased the defensive prowess and running ability of the Pride.

      Then they blew out Mountain View 35-3 and contained Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler enough to squeak out a win and extend their win streak to three.

      Their fourth straight win came in the Tukee Bowl when they traveled to Desert Vista High School and defeated the Thunder for the second consecutive year and to break the 10-10 tie in their two-decade rivalry.

      When the Highland Hawks came to Karl Kiefer stadium, though, things started to get a little rocky for the Pride. Via three first half turnovers, the Hawks took an early 13-0 lead. But behind a two-score effort from Delano Salgado in the second half, the Pride came storming back to escape with its fifth straight win.

      When Mountain Pointe was set to defend its home turf for a second straight week, head coach Jeremy Hathcock and the Desert Ridge Jaguars weren’t going to let them off the hook.

      Even though the Pride picked off four passes in the game, the Jaguars handed them their first loss at Karl Kiefer stadium since 2011.

      The Jaguars stacked the box, filling all the running lanes and forced the Pride to show they could throw the ball. A team that produced 3,801 rushing yards and averaged 292 rushing yards per game was held to only 190 between five players. Not one player rushed for over 100 yards.

      While the loss was an eye-opener, the Pride rebounded and ended the season with two straight wins. Due to the strength of their schedule throughout the season, Mountain Pointe captured the No. 1-seed.

      Of their 10 regular season games, five teams ended up earning playoff berths, four of which were in the top 10.  Two other teams were left out of the playoffs because of the regional winners that were ranked below them.

      The Pride then cruised through the first two-rounds of the playoffs, blowing out their opponents by a combined score of 109 – 7, which included a 44-7 victory over a Highland team.

      With a second-straight trip to the state championship on the line, Vaughan said his players might have run into one of the best quarterbacks they have seen all season.

      That quarterback was Perry’s 6-foot-1, 197-pound quarterback Brock Purdy, who threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns against a Mountain Pointe Pride defense that had been stout all season long. Along with the air attack, running back Kenny Fultz ran for 95 yards and three touchdowns to put the nail in the coffin.

      “I think (he’s) as good as we’ve seen all season,” Vaughan said. “He’s magical back there, he’s a phenomenal quarterback.”

      The good news for the Pride, is they won’t have to see Purdy in the future. The bad news, though, is that Mountain Pointe will graduate 27 seniors at the end of the school year.

      That means Vaughan will have to find a way to replace several key players, including a majority of his secondary in Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, and Marshawn Gibson, who led the team with eight interceptions this season. Other key seniors include Shomari Hayes, Jacob Olsen, and Tyre Johnson.

      While Vaughan will lose several key defensive players. Pola-mao will be back next season, along with quarterback Nick Wallerstedt – who came into his own late in the season throwing for 170 yards against Perry, and leading rusher Jakim McKinney.

      McKinney was a key clog in the Mountain Pointe offense this year and formed one of the better rushing duo’s in the state with senior Gary Bragg.

      While they both rushed for over 1,000 yards his season – Bragg with 1,021 and McKinney with 1,334 – the junior back found the end zone 18 times this season for the Pride and should have a bright future in the backfield with Wallerstedt next season.

      But whether Vaughan will be able to replace his stout defense from 2017 is a question only time will answer.

       

      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.

       

      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.”

       

      Matthew Pola Mao  (Photo by Sports360AZ)

      No. 2 Matthew Pola-Mao, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, DT, 6-2, 290

      A four-star by Scout.com, he has started at nose tackle since his freshman year on varsity. He is the younger brother of senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, who signed with USC. Pola-Mao has offers from UA, ASU, Washington,  among others.

      See full article below.

      Arizona’s top high school football prospects: 2019 class

      , azcentral sports11:35 a.m. MT April 19, 2017

       

      Spring football is around the corner, and it’s time to get going on the class of 2019 for Arizona high school football prospects.

      I’ll roll out 10 each week until I reach 100.

      RELATED: Arizona’s top high school football prospects: 2018 class

      No. 10 Aaron Wood, Mesa Skyline, RB, 5-9, 175

      He ran for 1,000 yards as  a sophomore, splitting time with a senior. Great work ethic and passion for the game. Has added 25 pounds since the end of last season.

      No. 9 Nate Polk, Scottsdale Saguaro, S, 6-2, 190

      A long, athletic, rangy defensive back who comes from tremendous football bloodlines. His father played in the NFL. His brother Ray played for Colorado. He is a dynamic defensive playmaker with great ball skills who could be the next Isaiah Pola-Mao to come through high school.

      RELATED: Arizona’s best high school football programs – ranked by state titles

      No. 8 Avery Carrington, Chandler, DB, 6-2, 180

      He transferred from Hamilton in January. He is the brother of former Hamilton All-Arizona defensive back Devon Carrington, who went on to have a good career at Stanford. This Carrington could be just as good if not better. He anticipates well covering a lot of field. He had 41 tackles and three interceptions on Hamilton’s varsity as a sophomore.

      No. 7 Ryan Puskas, Peoria Liberty, S, 6-2, 190

      Great athlete who runs track. He covers the field really well. Makes plays on defense with his speed and physical play. He 54 tackles, five for losses, last season on varsity. He also blocked five punts. One of the more valuable special teams players in the state. He had three interceptions and eight pass breakups. His recruiting will blow up.

      RELATED: Arizona’s best high school football coaches – ranked by state titles

      RELATED: Arizona’s best high school football coaches – ranked by state titles

      No. 6 D’Shayne James, Gilbert Perry, WR, 6-3, 210

      Similar build as Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry, James is getting serious looks from Nebraska. He had 58 catches for 823 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Big-play threat who makes plays after catches.

      No. 5 JaCobby Dinwiddie, Mesa Mountain View, WR, 6-2, 180

      He made a major impact as a sophomore when he caught 70 passes for 1,012 yards and six TDs. His offers will depend on his grades. Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State are on him. He’ll be getting great looks in spring ball. Excellent athlete. Big-play target.

      ARIZONA NFL CONNECTIONS: NFL players from an Arizona college or high school

      No. 4 Dez Melton, Glendale Deer Valley, Athlete, 6-4, 210

      Tremendous athlete who picked up his first offer from Arizona. He can play anywhere. The Skyhawks used him at running back and he ran for 1,362 yards and 15 touchdowns on 190 carries. He caught 17 passes for 271 yards. And his best position in college could be safety.

      No. 3 Jacob Conover, Chandler, QB, 6-1, 196

      He beat out two guys in grades above him to become the starting quarterback and led the Wolves to the 6A state championship, then a Georgia state championship team in Texas in late December. His stats were off the charts: 3,715 yards, 32 TDs passing with just five interceptions. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes.

      RELATED: Biggest impact football players from Arizona in past 10 recruiting classes

      No. 2 Matthew Pola-Mao, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, DT, 6-2, 290

      A four-star by Scout.com, he has started at nose tackle since his freshman year on varsity. He is the younger brother of senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, who signed with USC. Pola-Mao has offers from UA, ASU, Washington,  among others.

      No. 1 Spencer Rattler, Phoenix Pinnacle, QB, 6-2, 180

      He started picking up football scholarship offers from Power 5 conferences after his freshman season. Rattler, also a talented basketball player, is up to 12 offers, five from the Pac-12, including both Arizona and Arizona State and UCLA, Colorado and Utah. He has grown a little more each year. His athleticism is off the charts and his arm strength and IQ only getting better. Watch for his best season yet in his third year as a varsity starter.

      MORE: Notable Arizona high school football recruiting misses

      Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at richard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert

      6A Championship Preview: A Heavy Weight Bout

      You almost had the sense that this day would come back on week three of the high school football season. Mountain Pointe surprised the state with just how good they are with a 52-7 win over Chandler. It just feels right that these two powerhouse teams would meet again and give us what I think many expected the first time these two teams met.

      Mountain Pointe has been the class of Arizona and rightfully so as they have one of the best defenses we’ve seen in quite some time in terms of talent, size and skill. Despite working through injuries on offense, they have enough athletes and the big hogs on the offensive line to continue to be a threat on offense.

      Key Matchup: Chandler center Caleb Medina vs Mountain Pointe defensive tackle Matthew Pola-Mao.

      This will be a big time battle in the trenches when you look at the offensive and defensive lines for both teams. One that I am very excited to see is big Chandler Caleb Medina up against the stud sophomore Matthew Pola-Mao on the interior of the defensive line. A huge part of the Chandler offense is their inside run from the spread formation handing the rock to T.J. Green and Ryan Johnson. I have been at games this season where Green has gone untouched at the point of attack because of how great a job the Chandler interior line does led by Medina. Mountain Pointe attempting to take away the run, especially between the tackles will be a big key.

      If Mountain Pointe wins, it will be because… The own the ball and time of possession on offense. While Chandler’s defense is much improved since these two teams played last, the Pride owning the ball on offense will keep the game played at their pace. While their defense being on the field is anything but a liability, keeping Chandler’s offense off the field can only help your cause.

      If Chandler wins, it will be because…They start fast. All I can say is wow from what I saw in person to what Chandler did to Brophy the second to last week of the regular season and then to Desert Vista in the second round of the playoffs. Two very good teams were smacked and didn’t know what hit them and the game was over before it felt like it had even started. 97-7 is what Chandler outscored Brophy and Desert Vista in tge FIRST HALF of those two games combined. They play much better with a lead and are very hard to keep up with after getting out to fast starts. They also have the tendency in games I’ve seen them lose over the last few years to force the issue and get away form their game when playing from behind.

      Kickoff for the 6A state title between Mountain Pointe and Chandler will be at 7pm Saturday from University of Phoenix Stadium.

      Mountain Pointe freshman Matthew Pola-Mao (75) and his brother, junior Isaiah Pola-Mao (9), are part of young core of players getting plenty of playing time that will make the Pride stronger in the years to follow.  Billy Hardiman/Special to Tribune]

       

      State championship: ‘Rivals’ Rivas and Pola-Mao better each other

      Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 5:05 pm

      Eddie Rivas and Matty Palo-Mao have similar body types.

      The same competitive drive as well.

      So when the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Rivas, an offensive lineman, and 6-2, 300-pound Pola-Mao, a defensive lineman, lock up in a Mountain Pointe practice it can be monumental.

      “Matty is my little rival,” Rivas said with a laugh. “He’s my little brother in some ways. We’ve spent a lot of time getting after it when he’s on scout team.”

      The outcome varies on the day, but it is clear they make each other better.

      “He gets me sometimes. He’s younger than me, but I’m not going to say I don’t beat him a lot.”

      Pola-Mao, who is getting attention from Pac-12 schools, knows when he is done with his one-on-ones with Rivas Friday nights are a little easier.

      “He’s the best and anyone I see isn’t as good,” Pola-Mao said. “We are about the same size, but I’m probably stronger. We make each other better.”

      Rivas, who is committed to Northern Arizona, believes it is that kind of daily work that allowed the Pride become of the top rushing teams in the state and on the precipice of a second state title since 2013.

      “We work hard all the time just to get to this game,” Rivas said. “It starts in practice. We know Chandler is good, and big up front. They are probably the best matchup against us size wise, but no one is better than guys we face all week.”

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

       
       

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      Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao attempts a diving catch agaisnt Pinnacle.  Photo by Kristin Grover, Special to Tribune

      MP’s Pola-Mao named Central Region MVP

      Posted: Monday, November 21, 2016 12:25 pm  |   By Jason P. Skoda, Prep Sports Director

      The 6A Central Region selected its all region team.

      Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao was named MVP for this play at wide receiver and safety.

      Desert Vista quarterback Nick Thomas was named Offensive MVP and Desert Vista linebacker Lelon Dillard was named Defensive MVP.

      Here is a look at the full team:

      6A Conference All-Central Region

      MVP: Isaiah Pola-Mao, Mountain Pointe

      Offensive MVP: Nick Thomas, Desert Vista

      Defensive MVP: Lelon Dillard, Desert Vista

      Offense

      RB

      First team

      Rashie Hodge Mt. Pointe

      Cameron Brice Corona Del Sol

      Tyrese Allen Desert Ridge

      Second team

      Delano Salgado Mountain Pointe

      Kohner Cullimore Highland

      Gary Bragg Mountain Pointe

      QB

      First team

      Jack Plummer Gilbert

      Offensive Line

      First team

      Eddie Rivas Mountain Pointe

      Myles Wilson Desert Vista

      Rudy Rauls Mountain Pointe

      Uriah Medder Corona Del Sol

      Mason Honne Mountain Pointe

      Second team

      Mckenzie Potterf Desert Vista

      Dallin Clement Highland

      Matt Fick Corona Del Sol

      Nick Omitt Desert Ridge

      Ian Baxter Desert Ridge

      WR

      First team

      Keishaud White Desert Vista

      David Morales Gilbert

      Jake White Desert Vista

      Second team

      Jared Zimmerman Highland

      Dawson Tanner Gilbert

      Ricky Pearsall Corona Del Sol

      TE

      First team

      James Stagg Desert Vista

      Second team

      Garrison Turcotte Gilbert

      Defense

      Secondary

      First team

      Antwaun Woodberry Mountain Pointe

      Kenny Churchwell Mountain Pointe

      Steven Gomez Desert Ridge

      Donjae Logan Desert Ridge

      Second team

      Alijah Gammage Desert Vista

      Corvan Otanez Gilbert

      Caleb Humphrey Desert Vista

      Brad Beaver Desert Ridge

      Interior Line

      First team

      Ashton Dana Highland

      Dylan Conner Corona Del Sol

      Matthew Pola-Mao Mountain Pointe

      Shomari Hayes Mountain Pointe

      Second team

      Christian Medeiros Desert Ridge

      Noah Evan Highland

      Garrett Fulton Gilbert

      Brett Johnson Desert Vista

      End

      First team

      Jalen Harris Desert Ridge

      Khalif Ravenell Mountain Pointe

      Second team

      Trey Bussler Corona Del Sol

      Dylan Bryan Gilbert

      Linebacker

      First team

      Christian Allen Desert Ridge

      Chad Porter Desert Vista

      Jacob Clemens Corona Del Sol

      Second team

      Xaiver Cota Mountain Pointe

      Michael Washington Mountain Pointe

      Tate Stevens Highland

      Kicker

      First team

      Riley Erickson Desert Vista

      Second team

      Tony Decozio Desert Ridge

      Punter

      First team

      Kaden Riforgiate Corona Del So

      Second team

      Austin Mcnamara Highland

      Returner

      First team

      Jaydon Brooks Mountain Pointe

      Second team

      Connor McKernan Gilbert

      Long Snapper

      First team

      Adam Bay Desert Ridge

      Second team

      Conor Egan Desert Vista

      Honorable Mentions

      Desert Vista

      Tristin Flores, OL

      Joe Money, TE

      Larry Davis, LB

      Nick Lopez, OL

      Jared Ostendorp, OL

      Highland

      Sean McCord DB

      Braiden Williams DL

      Jake Ohara

      Hunter Short DB

      Jacob Wood LB

      Jalen Johnson DB

      Tyler Johnson DL

      David Fabok DL

      Noah Newburgh DB

      Danial Castillo WR

      Tyler Johnson WR

      Jacob Wood RB

      Brydon Horne RB

      Connor Williams OL

      Davis Brown OL

      Cody Bartz OL

      Jake Kersting QB

      Riley Bond OL

      Mountain Pointe

      Noah Grover Qb

      Sky Hinojosa WR

      Justice Hudson OL

      Alex Vogel OL

      Marshawn Gibson DB

      Donte Lindsey DB

      Jacob Olsen LB

      Daniel Pena DT

      Dakota Fey P

      Gilbert

      Garrison Turcotte LB

      Tyler Turcotte OL

      Garrett Fulton OL

      DJ Ruhl DB

      Corona Del Sol

      Griffin Baker TE

      Alex Purcell C

      Kaden Riforgiate LB

      Jason Staples DE

      Brian McCluskey DB

      Kobee Marion DB

      Desert Ridge

      Kylar Day

      Khris Broom

      Tyler Mcleve

      Jason Harris

      Connor Goetz

      Robert Mancha

      Versatility on the offensive line fuels Pride offense

      Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2016 10:04 pm

      The Mountain Pointe football roster lists the offensive linemen without specific positions.

      No one is listed as a tackle, guard or center. Everyone is listed OL.

      It reflects the match-up strategy employed this year by the Pride coaching staff.

      The same five players have started the last four games, but their positions change on the basis of on the strength of the opposition’s defensive front.

      Four different players have started at center over the last four games. The lineup against Corona del Sol (4-4) this week for the Pride (8-0) will be different from what its lineup last week against Desert Ridge.

      “In years past we couldn’t have done that,” Mountain Pointe offensive line coach Aaron Frana said. “Have a center go play tackle? That’s a tough assignment. These are guys are like, ‘You want me to move? OK.’ They never question it.

      “I love it. They want to win and they do whatever it takes to do it.”

      The key–other than the players’ versatility–is the level of play of senior Eddie Rivas, who is the strategy’s lynchpin as he is moved around to take on the opposition’s top player.

      “I take it as a direct challenge,” said Rivas, who has played four of the five line positions. “The coaches put their faith in me to take on the top guy and I want that responsibility, plus I know whoever plays in the position I left is going to get the job done.”

      His climb to one of the best linemen in the state didn’t start out all that well when he had a chance to play in the Chandler playoff game as a sophomore.

      “I was like, ‘Whoa, tell me what to do,’” Rivas said. “I think (the defense) they were going to be that fast and strong. I knew I had a lot of work do when I pulled and I hit a linebacker and he didn’t move. I was like ‘get somebody else in there.’”

      Two years later, he is the key to most versatile line in the state.

      “He was a big raw kid,” Frana said. “He’s matured, got stronger in the weight room and now he can match up with anyone on the edge. When you have a kid who can play all five positions, you take advantage of it.”

      The idea began to take shape when senior Joe Sales-Lopez sustained a concussion and had trouble getting cleared until this week.

      With Sales-Lopez, who was going to be the starting left guard, out, the lineup starting changing. Star defensive linemen Matthew Pola-Moa and Shomari Hayes rotated at tackle.

      When they needed a break because of their defensive responsibilities, sophomore Alex Vogel was inserted. And when he handled himself well, it became clear the unit had another capable body.

      “I was not expecting it this year,” said the 220-pound Vogel, who has started at both tackle spots and center. “I made way on to the scout team and things progressed from there. I was kind of nervous at first but at the first snap you just play.”

      The other three are junior Mason Honne, who has played left tackle and center; and seniors Justice Hudson, who has played center and left guard, and Rudy Rauls, who has played right guard all year.

      With all the changes, many people might expect some struggles with continuity and/or rhythm. But the Pride is churning out 345 yards rushing a game with 33 touchdowns.

      “Our offensive line has played really well,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We moved guys around in the past, like Natrell Curtis would play tackle or guard, but we’ve never done it at center before. That’s really unusual. They’ve played no matter where we’ve put them.”

      Expect more of the same as the regular season wraps up and the Pride tries to clinch the 6A Central Region title this week—and possibly the fourth undefeated regular season since 2009 the following week against Gilbert.

      There could be as many as six games remaining and there could just as many starting lineups along the offensive line.

      “We will have a raffle to see who starts where,” Frana, who is also the co-offensive coordinator, joked. “It says a lot about them not only as athletes, but they have to be smart, too, to play different positions. We’ve put a lot on their plates and they keep going out an executing at a high level.”

      – Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. 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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