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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 goes up against Perry on Friday, November 17th with the winner advancing to the State Championship game.   Red Mountain takes on Chandler in the other semi.  

2017 AIA Football6A State Championship Bracket

Mountain Pointe will host Highland on Friday, November 10th at 7:00 pm in the State Championship Quarterfinals.  Find the 6A State Championship bracket here.

Jakim McKinney rushes againt Desert Ridge in the fourth quarter on Thursday, October 12th. (Photo: Carlos Salcedo/azcentral sports)

Arizona high school football championship brackets

, azcentral sportsPublished 12:48 p.m. MT Oct. 14, 2017 | Updated 9:03 a.m. MT Oct. 30, 2017

The Arizona high school football brackets are set. Get all the matchups and a breakdown for each division here. We’ll update each week with the latest scores. 

6A football tournament bracket

The 6A state championship will be Saturday, Dec. 2, at Arizona Stadium at the University of Arizona at 7 p.m. | See the AIA bracket.

First round

Friday, Nov. 3

No. 16 Yuma Cibola at No. 1 Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 7 p.m.

No. 9 Scottsdale Desert Mountain at No. 8 Gilbert Highland, 7 p.m.

No. 12 Mesa Skyline at No. 5 Chandler Hamilton, 7 p.m.

No. 13 Anthem Boulder Creek at No. 4 Perry, 7 p.m.

No. 14 Mesa Mountain View at No. 3 Chandler, 7 p.m.

No. 11 Laveen Cesar Chavez at No. 6 Phoenix Pinnacle, 7 p.m.

No.  10 Phoenix Horizon at No. 7 Mesa Red Mountain, 7 p.m.

No. 15 Avondale Westview at No. 2 Mesa Desert Ridge, 7 p.m.

Bracket Breakdown: Chandler is playing the best football right now. So the No. 3 seed will only serve as motivation for a team that doesn’t need a lot of motivating. Chandler took out a No. 5 seed Chandler Hamilton in a 50-14 drubbing Friday night.

Chandler and Pinnacle in the second round will be huge. Chandler needed overtime to beat Pinnacle early in the year, but Chandler lost four defensive starters and wide receiver Gunner Romney to injuries in that game.

Desert Ridge, the No. 2 seed, is a nice story, but it will be tough to get past Chandler in the bottom-half semifinal. Mountain Pointe is a surprise No. 1 seed but has struggled down the stretch, even in wins. A Perry-Hamilton quarterfinal is going to be another shootout classic. Whoever wins that will still have to face a physical Mountain Pointe team in the semifinals. If Perry gets to the semis, I like the Pumas’ chances to reach the state final for the first time in their history. But this is Chandler’s season to win again. 

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. 

     

    Lucas Wright breaks away from Mountain Pointe defenders at Mountain Pointe High School Thursday night. | By Greg Macafee

    Desert Ridge knocks off No. 1 Mountain Pointe

    The Mountain Pointe secondary picked off four Desert Ridge passes, but could never jump start their running game as they suffered their second loss of the season Thursday night at Karl Kiefer stadium 31-20.

    After a back and forth battle throughout the game, Desert Ridge quarterback Cooper Schmidt scampered into the end zone on a quarterback keeper from 17-yards out to give the Jags a 24-20 lead. But with 3:28 left in the game, they still needed a defensive stop to secure the victory and that’s exactly what they got.

    Nick Wallerstedt found Sky Hinojosa across the middle for a crucial 4th and 10 conversion and it seemed like the Pride were going to complete a comeback. But two plays later, junior linebacker Gabe Segura jumped a route to pick off Wallerstedt and take it 50-plus yards for a pick-six touchdown to secure the upset victory.

    “Our kids showed so much resilience and being that we have 12 sophomores we could’ve came out and tanked but I think we really found out who we are today,” Desert Ridge head coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “Like I tell our kids, this is really a great victory, enjoy today, shoot enjoy it tomorrow but come Saturday were back to work.”  

    The key to victory Thursday night for the Jaguars was the battle at the line of scrimmage. Desert Ridge stymied a Mountain Pointe running game that has been almost unstoppable all season long, tallying over 2,000 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.

    Coming into the game, Mountain Pointe’s leading rusher Jakim McKinney had 741 yards on the season and was held to just 68 yards, his second lowest total of the season. While the running game was held in check, Wallerstedt was forced to pass but often used his legs to escape a strong Desert Ridge pass rush. He scored the final points of the ball game for the Pride with 1:12 left in the third quarter on a 29-yard quarterback keeper.

    “They just put a lot of people in the box,” Mountain Pointe Head Coach Norris Vaughan said. “So, we just threw the ball and when we didn’t convert, we had to kick field goals.”

    After Wallerstedt’s touchdown run, the Jaguars would answer with a drive that was highlighted by junior running back Lucas Wright, who finished the game with 116 rushing yards and 43 receiving yards. Sophomore quarterback Matthew Purnell first connected with him early in the drive for a long pass completion, moving the chains into the Pride’s half of the field.

    Then, Purnell found Stanford commit Donjae Logan for a 10-yard pass and catch that put the Jags on the one-yard line, setting up Wright for a one-yard touchdown run to bring the Jags within three. Then they took the lead on Schmidt’s quarterback keeper and never looked back.

    The combination of Schmidt and Purnell running a quarterback option offense was tricky for a Mountain Pointe defense and Vaughan said they had a hard time stopping it.

    “We didn’t play real well, they did a great job, they beat us all the credit to them,” Vaughan said. “But we really had trouble stopping them. Their little option game hurt us and I think that was pretty much the story of the game.”

    Historically, the Pride have been almost unbeatable at home with their last loss at Karl Kiefer stadium coming on September 30, 2011 against Brophy College Prep. After the loss, Vaughan said you can’t win them all and we can only move forward to the next game.

    For the Pride, that comes on October 20 when they travel to Corona del Sol to take on the Aztecs at 7 p.m.  

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

    Mountain Pointe’s Delano Salgado (3) breaks past Desert Vista’s Jacob Schamante (14) in the first half at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. on Sept 28, 2017. Patrick Breen/The Republic

    Thunder, Pride resume regional play this Friday

    By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

    A week after the Pride hung on to the Tukee Bowl for another year, both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high school football teams return to Friday night games as they resume regional play.

    Mountain Pointe (5-1 on the season, 1-0 in regional play) will host Highland (5-1, 1-0), which is coming off its first loss of the season against No. 1-ranked Perry. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

    The Hawks drew a bye this past week, meaning they have had almost two weeks to prepare for a Mountain Pointe team that sits at the No. 3 spot in the AZpreps365 power rankings, as of Monday.

    Highland is led by first-year coach Brock Farrel, who has instilled a powerful running game and an even stronger defense in his team.

    Before the matchup with Perry, where they fell 56-6, the Hawks hadn’t allowed more than 22 points in any game. After dealing with Brock Purdy and a high potent passing offense, the Hawks will now have the challenge of containing Mountain Pointe running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney.

    The Pride pair has been almost unstoppable all season and head coach Norris Vaughan has proved his team’s ability to run the football, even after it appears to be stagnant for part of the game. Bragg has reached double-digit carries in every game this season and McKinney has done the same in every game but two.

    The key to this game for the Pride will be the battle at the line of scrimmage. If the big offensive line of Mountain Pointe can provide the holes and running lanes that it has all season for McKinney and Bragg, look for the pair to have a big game at home Friday night.

    But Mountain Pointe could run into a tough run defense from Highland, led by senior Tate Stevens, who has racked up a team-high 52 tackles this season. As a team, the Hawks have only allowed 200-plus rushing yards twice this season.

    One of those games involved the loss to Perry, whose defense Purdy punished for 260 yards through the air and 120 on the ground.

    If the Hawks bottle up the running back tandem of Bragg and McKinney, look for quarterback Nick Wallerstedt to have a big impact. He’s been effective with his feet this season, scrambling for 359 yards and four touchdowns.

    The successful running game has opened opportunities for play action passes and quarterback draws for the junior, who at times has provided big plays in crucial moments.

    Even if the Hawks can limit scoring opportunities for the Pride, they will have a tough time scoring against a defense that has allowed only 116 points all season.

    The Pinnacle offense, led by Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler who threw for 302 yards against the Pride, scored 34 points, the highest total Mountain Pointe has allowed all season.

    A strong defensive line, led by Shomari Hayes (5.5 sacks) and Kenneth Lofton (6.5 sacks), has wreaked havoc in backfields all season long and will have the challenge of stopping Highland running backs, Jacob Wood and Kohner Cullimore. The two have combined for 625 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

    Since Highland presents a strong running attack look for the Pride to stack the line of scrimmage Friday night and force Highland quarterback Kaleb Herbert to beat them through the air.

    After throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Westview in a 45-16 rout, the 5-foot-11 junior has a total off 444 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on the season. Herbert will have a tough challenge, throwing into a secondary that has picked off at least one pass in every game this season and has deflected 45 more.

    Desert Vista vs. Gilbert

    The Thunder will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Desert Vista High School.

    The Tigers (3-3) are coming off a loss to Desert Ridge in a game where the two teams combined for 115 points.

    So far, the Tigers have been led by Plummer on the offensive side of the ball. He has thrown for 1,652 yards and 21 touchdowns while only being picked off only four times. All four interceptions have come in the past two games, against strong secondaries in Desert Ridge and Red Mountain.  

    The 6-foot-5 quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five receivers have over 200 yards this season and a sixth has 175 yards through six games.

    Through those six games, though, senior wide receiver Dawson Tanner has been his favorite target, catching 24 passes for 467 yards and seven touchdowns. Corvan Otanez has been big for Plummer as well, using his 6-foot-3 frame to catch five touchdown passes this season.

    While the Tigers have had success through the air, teams have beat them when they have pressured Plummer. In Gilbert’s 41-28 loss to Red Mountain, the Mountain Lions sacked Gilbert nine times, and forced him to throw two interceptions. Plummer still threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns, but had a completion rate of 46 percent.

    With defensive standouts Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey, look for the Thunder to put pressure on Plummer and try to force him into a couple of mistakes early.

    The Desert Vista defense has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, tallying 11 sacks and 23 tackles for loss this season. They also have forced quarterbacks into throwing five interceptions this season.

    Offensively, quarterback Derek Kline has been a stud for the Thunder in 2017, passing for 1,153 yards and 12 touchdowns and adding 216 yards on the ground. He and his offensive line will face off with a Gilbert defense that has picked off six passes and tallied 13 sacks through six games.

    The Tigers are led by strong safety Tyler Laganke and Otanez, who have 71 and 60 tackles a piece. Laganke has found his way into the backfield on multiple occasions, racking up four sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

    Look for the Thunder to bring a balanced attack as it did against Mountain Pointe.

       

      Mountain Pointe’s Gary Bragg runs past Desert Vista’s Colby Humphrey in the first half at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. on September 28, 2017.  (Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic)

      Mountain Pointe grinds out win over Desert Vista in Ahwatukee Bowl

      , azcentral sportsPublished 10:33 p.m. MT Sept. 28, 2017 | Updated 6:50 a.m. MT Sept. 29, 2017

      With emotions playing a part in the Ahwatukee Bowl, Phoenix Mountain Pointe fumbled on the opening kickoff. It had a rash of penalties, including a personal foul that helped a Phoenix Desert Vista scoring drive.

      But, in the end, visiting Mountain Pointe prevailed 21-16, behind stellar defense, quarterback Nick Wallerstedt’s ability to escape defenders, defensive lineman Shomari Hayes’ wreaking havoc in the backfield and another great rushing game by Jakim McKinney.

      McKinney, coming off a 200-yard game, whisked away Desert Vista’s momentum with a 61-yard scoring run with 7:53 left to give the Pride a 21-10 lead.

      Desert Vista (4-2) scored on the last play – a 60-yard strike from Derek Kline to sophomore Tyson Grubbs – to make it look closer.

      It was the sixth consecutive season that second-ranked (6A) Mountain Pointe (5-1) beat Desert Vista. The last time Desert Vista beat Mountain Pointe was the 2011 season when it won the state championship.

      “I’m proud of my guys,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said.

      It was the sixth straight year Mountain Pointe beat its Ahwatukee rival in football

      Standout performer

      Junior RB Jakim McKinney, 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, ran for 154 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He had 200 yards and four TDs on 19 carries last week in a 58-34 win over Phoenix Pinnacle.

      More standouts

      • Mountain Pointe senior defensive lineman Shomari Hayes, 6-2, 290, was in Desert Vista’s backfield much of the night, making life miserable for Kline. He had three sacks and slowed down Desert Vista’s run game.
      • Wallerstedt, a junior quarterback, gave Mountain Pointe a 14-3 lead on a 15-yard scramble early in the second quarter. He was able to extend drives most of the night with his left, escaping trouble and finding the sideline after first-down runs.
      • Bragg, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury, once again showed great burst. He gave Mountain Pointe a 7-3 lead with a 34-yard run after Desert Vista cashed in on Mountain Pointe’s fumble on a kickoff to start the game with Matt Lewis’ 42-yard field goal.

      Star watch

      Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan lauded the play of Desert Vista junior defensive tackle Brett Johnson, 6-3, 250, who was key to clogging  the middle and slowing down Mountain Pointe’s power run game and making Wallerstedt really work for tough yardage.

      Quotes

      • “Too many mistakes, too much emotion,” Vaughan said. “We didn’t play well, and they did.”
      • “They were blitzing and I got some good blocks and I was able to break it,” McKinney on his long TD run.

      Stat of the game

      Desert Vista took the second-half kickoff and drove 87 yards on 13 plays, scoring on Travon Offutt’s 4-yard run that cut the score to 14-10. Kline completed three passes on the drive and was helped after an 11-yard run on a late hit by Mountain Pointe that gave the Thunder another 15 yards.

      Up next

      Desert Vista plays host to Gilbert next week, while Mountain Pointe plays host to Gilbert Highland.

      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. Watch the azcentral sports high school football show on the azcentral sports Facebook page, with a new episode live every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

      Jakim McKinney breaks a run to the outside Thursday night against Desert Vista. [Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst]

      Mountain Pointe High defeats Desert Vista in Tukee Bowl

      By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor  |  9/29/17

        Led by another stellar running performance from running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney, the Mountain Pointe Pride took the overall lead in the annual Ahwatukee Bowl with a 21-16 lead over Desert Vista Thursday night at Desert Vista High School.

        Just like they have all season long, the Pride pounded the football on the ground throughout the night. Although the Thunder defense kept Bragg and McKinney contained for most of the night, both broke off long touchdown runs. 

        Bragg’s lone touchdown of the night came on a 34-yard scamper at the 7:11 mark of the 1st quarter. The 5-10, 175 pound running back broke to the outside and sprinted up the sideline for Mountain Pointe’s first score of the ball game.

        McKinney’s score with 7:53 left in the 4th quarter put the game away for the Pride. Like he had done multiple times throughout the ball game, he broke it to the outside, avoided a tackle or two and streaked down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown run.

        “Coach Vaughan likes to keep pounding it and keep on doing it,” junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt said of the consistency of Mountain Pointe’s running game. “Because one play they are just going to give up and it’s going to be a big play.”

        Wallerstedt was a big part of Mountain Pointe’s success Thursday night as well, scampering for a rushing touchdown of his own from 14-yards out to put the Pride up 14-3 in the 1st half. In the end, Wallerstedt he was just trying to pick up a few yards when he did not see anyone open downfield.

        The only blemish for the junior quarterback came in the 2nd quarter, just 12 seconds before half. Their seemed to be a miscommunication between him and his wide receiver, and senior defensive back Austin Werbelow was all alone to come down with the ball.

        Although the Pride got the last laugh, it was the Thunder who started off on the right foot. After the Thunder won the toss and deferred to the second half, the Pride chose to receive. Delano Salgado received the kickoff and took off up the left side of the field. But when he reached an open section of the field, the ball suddenly popped out and the Thunder recovered.

        The Thunder ended the ensuing offensive drive with a 42-yard field goal from junior kicker Matt Lewis. But it would be the only points of the first half for the Thunder as a hyped-up Mountain Pointe defensive line, led by senior Shomari Hayes, found their way into the backfield plenty of times throughout the night. 

        “We came in here energized man, it’s fun playing them, the Tukee Bowl it’s always fun,” Hayes said. “I came in here energized up and anything I can do for the team I’ll do it, whether that means getting in the backfield every play or sitting on the bench, whatever it takes to help this team win. 

        Even after multiple three-and-outs throughout the first half, the Thunder offense never gave up. Coming out of the locker room to start the second half they put together their longest drive of the game.

        Starting on the 15-yard line, the Thunder drove 85 yards for a score. The drive was led by Derek Kline, who completed a pass to Werbelow on 4th down to keep it alive. But, it was finished off by running back Travon Offut. The 5-foot- junior carried the ball the final three plays of the drive, before punching it into the end zone from four yards out.

        “He ran hard tonight and these kids are getting better every week,” Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds said of Offut.

        The Thunder added a touchdown as time expired when Derek Kline found a receiver from 60-yards out for the 21-16 final score of the 21st annual Ahwatukee Bowl.

        The Pride improve to 5-1 on the season and will face Highland (5-1) on October 6. Desert Vista falls to 4-2 on the season, with both losses coming to teams in top three of the AZPreps365 power rankings, will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the No. 12-ranked Gilbert Tigers.

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

        Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, evades a Mountain View tackle on his way into the end zone for the Pride’s first touchdown.  [Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst]

        Running game leads Mountain Pointe to third win.

        By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor | 9/16/17

        For a team that finished third in the 6A Conference in 2016 and fell short in the state title game, Phoenix Mountain Pointe looks to be doing everything they can to avenge last season’s result. 

        A week after upsetting then No.1 Chandler on the road, top-ranked Mountain Pointe kept its foot on the gas pedal Friday night, cruising to a 35-3 victory over No. 22 Mesa Mountain View. 

        “We were dominant on both offense and defense tonight,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “Our quarterback made plays and our backs ran really hard behind our line for most of the game.”

        Mountain Pointe (3-1) wasn’t perfect on either side of the ball by any means. It racked up over a dozen penalties throughout the game, which allowed Mountain View (2-2) a time of possession which nearly seemed like an eternity. Fortunately for the Pride, secondary play from Kenny Churchwell and Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson kept the Toros out of the end-zone numerous times despite the long list of penalties. 

        “[They] certainly made their fair share of plays,” Vaughan said. “We were so dominant on defense but it was the penalties that allowed them to stay on the field and keep their drives going.”

        For the second straight week, Mountain Pointe got the offensive push up front that they’re accustomed to seeing, which created a plethora of holes for the backfield. 

        After a drive early on led to a touchdown run by Jakim McKinney, a hole opened up once again to start the second quarter and Gary Bragg found paydirt for the second rushing touchdown in the game, scampering for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Pride a 14-3 lead.

        A critical mistake to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory, came back to bite the Toros right before the half. Mountain Pointe took over possession at the Toros’ 23-yard-line and a few plays later, McKinney ran it in from nine yards out for his second touchdown of the game. 

        “We’ve all been working really hard at practice,” McKinney said. “Sometimes the guys up front make mistakes but they get right back up and they got a lot better tonight.”

        A few minutes before the half, Mountain View had their best opportunity to get back in the game but another crucial mistake proved costly. On a screen pass out left, quarterback Brandon Nuñez hit Jacobby Dinwiddie in the flat and the offensive line carved out an open path to the end zone and Dinwiddie took it to the house for what seemed like a must-have touchdown. Unfortunately, a holding penalty negated the touchdown pass and Mountain Pointe went into the half with a 21-3 lead.

        From there the rout continued as on the opening play of the second half, a hole practically the size of Arizona opened and quarterback Nick Wallerstedt it himself for a 77-yard touchdown run. 

        “We knew what to expect tonight and I felt like our guys came out and played really hard on both sides,” Vaughan said. “We just need to cut down on penalties.”

        To go along with four touchdowns on the ground, Wallerstedt connected with Pleasant-Johnson late in the fourth on a touchdown pass. He finished with a TD reception and an interception — a pick for a touchback late in the second quarter that stalled a Mountain View drive.

        The Pride will return home next week for the first time this season, when they welcome quarterback phenom Spencer Rattler and Pinnacle High School (3-2).