Breaking down 6A football state quarterfinals with predictions - Breaking down 6A football state quarterfinals with predictions Richard... [ read more ]

No. 8 Mountain Pointe runs over No. 9 Brophy Prep - No. 8 Mountain Pointe cruised to convincing victory over No. 9 Brophy in... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe rolls past Aztecs - Mountain Pointe defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepts Corona del... [ read more ]

Mtn. Pointe scores 21 points in 5 minutes in comeback win over Desert Ridge - Dominic Davis of Mountain Pointe hauls in a reception during the... [ read more ]

Game of the Week: Top prospects in the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista game - Richard Obert, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018 Game of... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe hands Highland first loss of season - Mountain Pointe High handed Highland High its first loss of the season on... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe sophomore running back Eli Sanders breaks away Friday in a 6A quarterfinal game at Chandler. The Pride’s season ended at 7-5 with the 49-21 loss.   

MP ends difficult season in 6A quarterfinal loss to Chandler

Chandler High again is beginning to look unbeatable in the 6A high school football playoffs.

On Friday, Mountain Pointe, which had won four straight games, could not keep up with the Wolves and fell, 49-21, in the state quarterfinals at Chandler.

It was only the second time in six games that the two-time defending 6A state champion Wolves have been held under 50 points.

Mountain Pointe finishes 7-5, its worst record since 2011. On the other hand, the Pride have reached the state quarterfinals nine times in 10 years.

The victory gives Chandler (11-1) a semifinal date with Highland (11-1) next Friday at Hamilton High in Chandler. Highland held off Liberty, 15-12, in a quarterfinal on Friday.

Chandler senior running back DeCarlos Brooks scored on a 71-yard run in the first quarter, on a night in which he had 248 rushing yards and six touchdowns, five on the ground and one on a 40-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Conover.

“That’s crazy,” Brooks said. “I have to give a shout out to my offensive line. They gave me holes to make cutbacks and do everything like I can do.

“They played phenomenal today and the defense played their butts off and kept getting us the ball so we could score. We just executed the game plan.”

Conover echoed his running back.

“It was an overall team effort. No matter what, we had to win,” Conover said. “The offensive line opened up great holes for the run game. Their protection was great, which was ultimately the team aspect of the win.”

Chandler coach Shaun Aguano, pleased with the win, already was thinking about pesky Highland in Friday’s semifinal at Hamilton.

“We’re coming in early and getting ready for the game next week by going over film and fixing the mistakes we had,” Aguano said. “We had a few turnovers that we can’t have if we are going to play in the championship game.

“I loved our physicality on both sides of the line, and if we can keep it up, we will be fine.”

Brooks and Conover agreed.

“We just have to execute the plays, play hard and physical, aggressive football like we have all year and we will get the win,” Brooks said of the semifinal match up.

According to Conover, “There will be a lot of preparation but ultimately we have to focus on what we can do.”

No. 8 Mountain Pointe was without injured rushing leading Jakim McKinney, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Brophy in the first round a week earlier.

“It was one of those situations where we were going to wait until game time, and come that time, (McKinney) couldn’t put enough pressure on it,” Pride coach Rich Wellbrock said. “Unfortunately, his really good career with Mountain Pointe had to end with him watching. I know he didn’t want any part of that.”

Chandler 49, Mountain Pointe 21

Mountain Pointe      0  14   7   0  – 21

Chandler               14  14 14  0 – 49

First

CH – Brooks 71 run (Peterman kick), 8:02.

CH – Brooks 1 run (Peterman kick), 4:20.

Second

MP – Davis 28 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 11:21.

CH – Brooks  11 run (Peterman kick), 7:49.

MP – Wallerstedt 71 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:27.

CH – Brooks 40 pass from Conover (Peterman kick), 5:49.

Third

CH – Brooks 43 run (Peterman kick), 7:49.

CH – Conover 5 run (Peterman Kick), 4:47.

MP – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:25.

Fourth

CH – Brooks 30 run (Peterman kick), 6:03.

Team statistics

                              MP               Chandler

First downs              7                 12    

Rush-yards              22-144        44-299

Comp-Att-Int           17-35-3       13-22-1

Pass yard                155              177

Total yards              299              476

Fumbles/lost           1/1               2/2

Penalties                 5-35             5-45

Individual statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe – Sanders 16-72, Wallerstedt 4-67, Washington 2-5. Chandler – Brooks 30-248, Brown-Taylor 12-44, Conover 3-7.

Passing

Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 13-22-2, 155 yards; Chandler – Conover 13-22-1, 299.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Davis 6-69, Washington 6-62, Gomez 2-9, Sanders 2-12, Dickson 1-12, Williams 1-3. Chandler – De La Torre 3-34, Liebrock 3-18, Brooks 2-52, Puffer 2-30,  McEuen 2-13, Richmond 1-10.

 

Eli Sanders is a sophomore, which is a good thing and a bad one for the Mountain Pointe running back. As a youngster, he still has a lot to learn as he grows and eases into a key role for the Pride. The good news: The potential Division 1 prospect still has two more seasons ahead of him.   

Pride’s Eli Sanders making most of opportunity on varsity

Mountain Pointe running back Eli Sanders doesn’t shy away from the bright lights on Friday nights, even though he is only a sophomore.

“When I get my chance I have to use all of my God-given talent,” Sanders said. “It’s what I worked hard for my entire life. I have to take advantage of my chance.”

Sanders was promoted to the Pride varsity from the JVs after he impressed coach Rich Wellbrock and the new Pride coaching staff during spring ball.

He still had moments that showed how young he is, joking around during a drill or not paying attention, but Mountain Pointe running backs coach Trace Carroll knew there was something special about Sanders.

“I was a little worried about him in the spring because he was still young,” Carroll said. “We knew it would be a slower transition but he started to get the hang of things. The sky really is the limit for him. He can go as far as he wants to.”

Sanders’ athleticism was passed down from his father, Steve, who played wide receiver at the University of Washington. It was Steve and Kelly, Eli’s mother, who gave their son the passion and ability to compete at the highest level.

“They’ve really pushed me and gave me the inspiration to play,” Eli said. “They made me work harder. I want to go out and accomplish everything I have worked for.”

Exactly what Sanders is working toward is a feat that doesn’t happen often: He wants to be the best running back ever from Mountain Pointe.

“He always says how he wants to be great and be the best,” Carroll said. “His work ethic during the week shows that.”

Sanders was the backup to standout senior running back Jakim McKinney, but Sanders’ playing time increased as the season unfolded.

McKinney, who has rushed for 984 yards and 13 touchdowns, has been among the state’s top backs for two years. He was the workhorse early for Mountain Pointe, receiving most of the touches and remaining on the field nearly every offensive snap.

It wasn’t until Mountain Pointe’s close loss to national power South Jordan (Utah) Bingham that Carroll and the coaching staff gave Sanders more touches, in hopes of preserving McKinney for the playoffs with a lighter load while developing Sanders.

Sander’s role has morphed into a change-of-pace back, but not in the traditional way.

“I call them lightning and lightning but Eli is the faster of the two,” Carroll said. “I always say Eli is all gas and no breaks. When he gets into the open field it’s something special to watch.

“But he still has trouble breaking down defenders in open space.”

Sanders (6 feet, 175 pounds) has a bigger body than McKinney (5-8, 170).

Still with room for improvement, Sanders has rushed for 724 yards and nine touchdowns.

That’s where McKinney’s leadership qualities come into play.

Sanders said playing behind McKinney is a constant learning experience with regard to techniques and ways to make defenders miss.

“Jakim is wonderful,” Sanders said. “Every time I watch him I learn something new. He’s a great back. He runs hard, he’s physical, he can make a cut and get away. Everything he does I can learn from him.”

Their relationship is similar to that of brothers. On the field, they are close and constantly motivating one another. Off the field, they joke around and Sanders often becomes the victim of friendly pranks.

Their friendship and ability to feed off each other has helped both as Mountain Pointe prepares to host rival Brophy Prep in a 7 p.m. first-round playoff game on Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.

“Eli really looks up to Jakim,” Carroll said. “Their relationship is probably the best for a two-back system that I have had coaching for 10 years.”

In recent games, the two have been on the field together, on either side of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt in the shotgun, a formation that has been nearly unstoppable with three threats to take it all the way on every snap.

Sanders’ speed has transferred to the track for Mountain Pointe. As a freshman, he was part of the 4×100-meter relay state-championship team. He also competes in long jump.

Running back has been his passion his entire life, and Sanders hopes to capitalize on the knowledge he gains from McKinney and other Pride seniors as his career continues.

“I’ve coached a lot of great backs in my time, including Devonte Neal and Darvon Hubbard at Chaparral last year,” Carroll said. “He is a mixture of them with speed and power. As a sophomore, he is up there at the elite level. He just has to keep going.”

Mountain Pointe enters the 6A playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a 6-4 record.   

6A playoff preview: No. 9 Brophy at No. 8 Mountain Pointe

Updated 

Mountain Pointe

The Pride played the second-toughest schedule of any team in Arizona, according to the AIA. Mountain Pointe ends the regular season 6-4, having lost three games by a touchdown or less.

Mountain Pointe’s defense has talented players at all levels, and the Pride have not allowed more than 27 points since an opening-game loss at Pinnacle. Senior receiver Rashion Hodge leads all tacklers with 82.

On offense, the Pride run the ball frequently behind a large offensive line. Mountain Pointe has developed somewhat of a three-headed rushing attack with senior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, senior running back Jakim McKinney and sophomore running back Eli Sanders. All three are fast and can shake off potential tacklers. Play action opens one-on-one match-ups for the Pride’s quick receivers down the field as well.

Through seven weeks, the Pride were 3-4 but turned the season around by winning three in a row.

“We’re really just happy to be on this three-game win-streak,” coach Rich Wellbrock said. “We’ve had some good second halves, now if we can play like that in the first half we’ll be good to go.”

Brophy Prep

The Broncos bounced back from a 1-9 2017 season to 7-3 this year, under first-year head coach Jon Kitna. Brophy lost two of its final three games in road matches against heavyweights Chandler and Perry in respective weeks. But, the Broncos pulled out a season-ending home win against playoff-bound Basha on senior night.

Brophy is led by its defense, which has allowed just a touchdown or less in six of its ten games this year. The Broncos’ leading tackler is senior Sully Shannon (86) and Will Broucek has added 81 and a team-high seven sacks.

While the defense has been stout, Brophy’s offense has struggled to move the ball at times. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Kitna has 1,431 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, but has also thrown 15 interceptions. Senior Marques White is Brophy’s leading rusher, with just 420 yards and two scores on the ground.

Mountain Pointe defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepts Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returns it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee. the Pride rolled to a 49-14 victory.   

Big second half lifts Mountain Pointe to 10th straight winning season

With playoffs on their minds, the Mountain Pointe Pride had one last job to do in their regular-season finale Friday, and they took their sweet time doing it.

Tied at halftime against Corona del Sol, a 1-8 team, Mountain Pointe erupted with 28 points in the third quarter and added an insurance touchdown in the fourth to roll past the Aztecs, 49-14, at Karl Kiefer Stadium in Ahwatukee.

The win assured the Pride (6-4), who played the toughest regular-season schedule in 6A, their 10thstraight winning record and likely assured them a first-round home playoff game on Friday, Nov. 2. Playoff seeding will be announced Saturday morning.

“I told them (at halftime) to do their job,” said Mountain Pointe first-year coach Rich Wellbrock. “When you do your job, it becomes a simple game and things seem to flow. It’s when we don’t do our job and we start thinking we have to do someone else’s job (that we struggle). That was our simple adjustment at halftime.”

A disquieting opening half has become a recurring theme for Mountain Pointe, which trailed Desert Ridge by 14 points a week earlier, Chaparral by 10 two weeks earlier, and squandered several scoring opportunities and was tied with Desert Vista at the half three weeks earlier.

At the outset Friday, though, it appeared the Pride was primed for the anticipated rout of an opponent that had lost seven straight games. Pride defensive end Anthony Dedrick intercepted Corona del Sol’s Ryan Helt on the opening snap and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown 15 seconds into the game.

But the Aztecs would fight back and put together two solid scoring drives to keep pace with the Pride, whose offensive line struggled with pass protection and run blocking.

The opening snap of the second half was just as electrifying as the first for the Pride as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt kept the ball and dashed 79 yards around right end along the sideline for a touchdown that seemed to awaken a sleeping giant.

The Pride went back to a formation that has been effective, with running backs Eli Sanders, a sophomore, and Jakim McKinney, a senior, in the game together on either side of Wallerstedt in the shotgun. Mountain Pointe kept the Corona del Sol defense guessing as the trio of backs combined for 388 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Sanders scored on runs of 48, 38 and 46 yards.

“I thought our kids ran the ball hard in the second half,” Wellbrock said. “The holes were there and when we needed someone to make the plays, Nick, Eli and Jakim were there to make the plays. And that helps.”

The Pride defense also upped their game, applying more pressure to Helt, sticking with receivers and stuffing the rush as they shut out the Aztecs in the second half.

Mountain Pointe is in the playoffs for the 10th straight season. In eight of the previous nine years, the Pride reached the semifinals or beyond, including one state title.

“Once we figure out who it is we need to get back to the details, make sure we are focused on the details, and that goes across the board offensively, defensively, and special teams,” Wellbrock said of playoff preparation.

Corona del Sol ends its season at 1-9. 

Mountain Pointe 49, Corona del Sol 14

Corona del Sol      7    7     0   0 – 14

Mountain Pointe   7    7   28   7 – 49 

First

MP – Dedrick 25 interception return (Abercrombie kick), 11:45.

Corona – Luscombe 22 run (Echerivel kick), 8:40.

Second

MP – Sanders 48 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:42.

Corona – Bullard 9 pass from Helt (Echerivel kick), 0:43.

Third

MP – Wallerstedt 78 run (Abercrombie kick), 11:36.

MP – Sanders 38 run (Abercrombie kick), 6:35.

MP – Wallerstedt 4 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:05.

MP – Sanders 46 run (Abercrombie kick), 0:50.

Fourth

MP – McKinney 19 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:29. 

 

Team Statistics

                                    MP          Corona

First downs                 16             11

Rush-yards                  41-438      19-110

Comp-Att-Int              7-14-0       20-42-2

Pass yards                   25             186

Total yards                  463           296

Fumbles/lost                 1/0           3/2

Penalties                      10-84       2-20 

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe –Sanders 10-164, Wallerstedt 10-146, McKinney 12-78, Rivera 6-27, Washington 3-23. Corona del Sol – Luscombe 11-61, Gutierrez 4-38, Shaw 2-6, Helt 2-5.

Passing

Mountain Pointe – Wallerstedt 7-14-0, 25 yards. Corona del Sol – Helt 20-42-2, 186.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Davis 2-9, Sanders 2-7, Gomez 2-3, Washington 1-6. Corona del Sol – Pearsall 9-122, Blackwell 2-21, Bullard 2-14, Luscombe 2-9, Rock 1-12, Echerivel 1-11, Shaw 1-6, Gutierrez 1-2, Brice 1- (-1).

, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018

Game of the Week: Top prospects in the Mountain Pointe-Desert Vista game

, Arizona RepublicPublished 2:41 p.m. MT Oct. 2, 2018

This is a look at the top prospects football fans can see in the azcentral sports Week 8 Game of the Week.

Phoenix Desert Vista and Phoenix Mountain Pointe clash on Friday night at Mountain Pointe in the ‘Ahwatukee Bowl’. 

Mountain Pointe (3-3)

Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson, CB, 6-2, 180, Sr.

He has reduced his college list to Colorado, Florida and Utah. He has said that he will likely announce his college during the first day of the early signing period on Dec. 19. Pleasant-Johnson will have to watch the edges against Desert Vista, which likes to employ a power run game.

VOTE: Top Performer ballot for Week 7

Anthony Dedrick, TE/DL, 6-4, 230, Sr.

He is on the edge of getting that break-through Power 5 offer. His current offers are from New Mexico State, San Diego State and South Dakota State. Versatile athlete who could play on either side of the ball.

STILL DECIDING: A look at the top uncommitted prospects

Jakim McKinney, RB, 5-8, 170, Sr.

Somebody needs to jump on this guy. His recruiting stock should be going up after what  he has been doing lately, with 768 yards and 10 TDs rushing in 10 games.

SCHEDULE: The list of this week’s football games

Dominique Davis, WR, 6-2, 168, Jr.

He has gotten himself on the major-college coaches’ radar after six strong games. He is averaging 23 yards on 31 catches with eight TDs.

Watch out for: Senior QB Nick Wallterstedt is committed to college baseball but he has recently made big strides. Nobody doubts his speed and his arm strength and accuracy have improved.

Desert Vista (5-1)

Brett Johnson, DT/DL, 6-4, 280, Sr.

Has committed to California but Arizona State still is pursuing him. Johnson’s strength, leverage, athleticism make him one of the more versatile and dynamic defensive linemen in Arizona.

TELL US: Nominate a Boys or Girls Athlete of the Week

Devon Grubbs, RB, 5-10, 170, Fr.

Only a freshman, but he looks like he could be the next great running back to come through Arizona. He was impressive in the loss to Gilbert Highland, breaking off big runs in the second half. He will only get bigger, stronger, faster. He is headed to Power 5 offers. He is averaging 15 yards on his first 13 varsity carries.

TELL US: Nominate an Academic All-Star of the Week

Tyson Grubbs, RB, 5-10, 182, Jr.

He injured his ankle while rushing for 135 yards and a TD against Highland two weeks ago and did not play last week. He has major-college potential, as well. If he can finish strong, he could have big-time Division I offers.

Watch out for: Junior wide receiver Elijah Ervin has the size (6-2, 180) and speed that college coaches like. On a run-oriented team, he leads the Thunder in receiving with 18 catches for 263 yards and four TDs.

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.

Mountain Pointe High handed Highland High its first loss of the season on Friday, Sept. 28 in Gilbert, Ariz.   

Mountain Pointe hands Highland first loss of season

The Highland Hawks came into Friday’s contest against Mountain Pointe favored with an undefeated record, while the Pride knew their playoff hopes were likely on the line.

Mountain Pointe’s offense came alive in the first half and held off a valiant comeback effort by Highland to defeat the Hawks, 48-27.

“Coming out of this game, the biggest thing I’m proud of offensively is that all season long when we got a penalty on a drive we didn’t continue to drive and score,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “It was real pleasing to see them fight through that adversity.”

The Pride got off to a fast start against Highland in the first half, as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt and running back Jakim Mckinney quickly found success against the Hawks’ defense.

Wallerstedt connected with senior tight end Jerrick Dickson early in the first quarter to give the Pride an early lead. Later in the first, senior running back Jakim Mckinney found his way to the end zone.

Wallerstedt and Mckinney would account for two more scores in the first half to push Mountain Pointe’s lead to 27-7 at halftime.

The senior quarterback shined for Mountain Pointe against a strong Highland defense, completing 15 of his 19 attempts for 163 yards and four touchdowns.

“He was special tonight,” Wellbrock said of Wallerstedt. “He did a little bit of everything. But he still has got a ways to get better.”

Facing a large deficit, Highland flipped a switch coming out of halftime, scoring two quick touchdowns – one of which a fumble — to narrow Mountain Pointe’s lead.

But the Pride answered.

Wallerstedt led Mountain Pointe on a long drive, eventually calling his own number from 10 yards out to once again make it a two-score game.

While Highland again scored to narrow the margin, Mountain Pointe answered, ending the Hawks’ hopes of an undefeated season.

Mountain Pointe’s defensive line played a vital role in the Pride’s upset victory, limiting Highland’s potent run-game.

“Their defensive line caused problems early,” Highland coach Brock Farrel said. “But really we only ran 17 offensive plays in the first half. Three of which were in the last two minutes when we did nothing. We just need to hang on to the ball.”

Highland (6-1) will look to bounce back next week as they travel to take on Corona del Sol (1-6).

As for Mountain Pointe (3-3), the win over talented Highland team is the type of confidence boost the Pride needed heading into the annual Ahwatukee Bowl next week against Desert Vista (5-1).

In his first year as head coach at Mountain Pointe, it will be the first time Wellbrock experiences one of best prep football rivalries in the Arizona. But he is prepared for what it has to offer. 

“We know what this rivalry is about and the kids will make sure we are on point next week,” Wellbrock said. “I guarantee you.”

Mountain Pointe 48, Highland 27

Mountain Pointe      20 7  7 14 – 48     

Highland                  7 0  20 0  – 27

First

Mtn Pt – Dickson 5 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 7:43

Mtn Pt – McKinney 7 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:01

Highland – Huffman 13 run (Mcnamara kick), 5:15

Mtn Pt – Dickson 10 pass from Wallerstedt (kick failed), 1:24

Second

Mtn Pt – McKinney 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 1:08

Third

Highland – Hester 15 pass from Herbert (Mcnamara kick), 7:58

Highland – Fumble recovery (Mcnamara kick), 7:51

Mtn Pt – Wallerstedt 10 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:54

Highland – Cullimore 64 run (kick failed), 1:43

Fourth

Mtn Pt – Davis 17 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 3:48

Mtn Pt – Washington 30 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:29

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Mountain Pointe–McKinney 29-114, Sanders 16-85, Wallerstedt 12-119, Dickson 2-4. Highland – Cullimore 10-167, Huffman 3-38, Herbert 2-4.

Passing

Mountin Pointe – Wallerstedt 15-19-163. Highland – Herbert 9-13-89.

Receiving

Mountain Pointe – Dickson 2-13, Washington 6-93, Williams 1-4, Davis 4-53, Sanders 1-5, McKinney 1-12. Highland – Burdick 2-18, Crandell 4-25, Hester 1-13, Cullimore 1-8, Huffman 1-23.

Team Statistics 

                                 Mtn Pt           Highland

First Downs                  29                    8 

Rush Yards                 59-322          15-209

Comp-Att-Int             15-19-0          9-13-0

Pass Yards                  163                  89

Total Yards                 485                 298

Fumbles/Lost              1/1                 2/2

Penalties                   6-58                5-42

Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney prepares to squeeze through a hole and score to close the first half in Pride’s 48-27 win over Highland. (AzPreps365 photo).

Mountain Pointe deals Highland first loss

September 28, 2018 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Les Willsey
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock has been patient with his team as they grow together in year one of his tenure. Wellbrock has said severall times he believes Mountain Pointe will be a different team come October.

October arrives in two days and Wellbrock may be on to something. Mountain Pointe was impressive all night on offense with quarterback Nick Wallerstedt piloting five 80-yard scoring drives and accounting for five touchdowns as the Pride knocked Highland from the unbeaten ranks with a 48-27 victory at Highland.

Mountain Pointe, No. 12 this week in the 6A power rankings, evened its record at 3-3 and bounced back impressively from a tough 29-28 loss to Queen Creek a week ago. Highland (6-1), under second-year coach Brock Farrel, was No. 1 in the power-rankings this week. Highland is 14-5 with Farrel at the helm and three of the five losses are to Mountain Pointe.

Wallerstedt, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior, completed TD passes of 5, 10, 17 and 30 yards to four different receivers. He added a fifth TD on a 10-yard run with 3:54 left in the third quarter . That TD served to a potential huge rally by Highland in the thrid period that saw the Hawks shave a 27-7 halftime lead to 27-21.

“We were emotionally invested  this week,” Wellbrock said. “We played with more of a sense of urgency. Nick was special tonight. He did a little bit of everything.”

Wallerstedt rushed for 120 yards on 14 carries and completed 15 of 19 passes for 190 yards. In the first period he connected on 7 of 8 passes in a 20-point quarter. In the fourth period he was 5 for 5 as the Pride tacked on two scores to cut Highland’s comeback bid short. 

Mountain Pointe got its offense rolling early mixing the run and pass in the first quarter that saw the Pride bolt to a 14-0 lead. Wallerstedt tossed the first of his four TD passes for the first score to Eli Sanders. The pride stunned Highland for a the second TD 42 seconds after the first. A fumble set Mountain Pointe up at Highland’s 36 and three plays later senior running back Jakim McKinney tallied from 8 yards out.

Mountain Pointe’s rushing attack was more than just Wallerstedt. The Pride netted a tad more than 300 yards for the game. McKinney checked in with 126 yards on 34 carries and Sanders added 67 yards on 17 rushes.

Highland pulled within 14-7 as its offense cranked out a scoring drive on its second possession. Dayton Huffman did the honors with a 13-yard run. That was all for Highland’s offense in the first half as they went to intermission down by 20.

As dominant as Mountain Pointe was in the first half, running 45 plays to 16 for Highland and having the ball for 18 of 24 minutes. its 27-7 lead nearly vanished. The Hawks drove 69 yards to begin the second half with quarterback Kaleb Herbert completing five passes for 58 yards, including the score to tight end Kyle Hester.

Seven seconds later an untouched McKinney fumbled and the ball was snatched out of the air and returned 20 yards for a TD by Highland defensive eend Cooper Holman. The large Pride lead was a single TD now midway through the third period.

Wallerstedt followed up and marched Mountain Pointe 80 yards in four minutes for its only score of the third period. Wallerstedt rushed for 48 yards on the drive.

Kohner Culliimore had several long runs, including a 64-yard jaunt to paydirt that briefly closed the gap to a TD again as the third period ended. Cullimore carried eight times for 149 yards.

 

Mountain Pointe junior middle linebacker Rashion Hodge says help from a knowledgeable source – his brother, Rashie, who was one of the best in the state at the position two years ago – is helping him grow into the leader of a stingy Pride defense.   Zach Alvira/Tribune Staff

Pride linebacker Hodge emerging as playmaker on stingy defense

Mountain Pointe’s Rashion Hodge knew at a young age that he was destined to be a linebacker.

He heard stories about his father playing it at South Mountain High and he saw his older brother, Rashie, transform into one of the best linebackers in the state as a senior for the Pride in 2016.

Rashie went on to play for South Dakota State but has since transferred to Glendale Community College as a running back.

With his brother back in the Valley, Rashion uses Rashie as a resource for advice, and it seems to be working.

“I picked a lot up from my brother,” Rashion said. “He taught me how to work hard. He had to work his way up to where he was. He worked hard and made a name for himself on varsity.”

Now a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, it’s Rashion who is starting to make a name for himself.

Through the Pride’s first three games, Hodge leads the Pride with 23 tackles, including one for a loss and a safety against Mountain View.

Last Saturday, Hodge and the Pride took on national power South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, ranked 15th, in the Polynesian Classic in Henderson, Nevada. Despite the 21-14 loss, Hodge registered 11 tackles.

It’s not easy for a junior to take control of an experienced defense.

“He is becoming a leader in the right way and that’s what we look forward to,” Mountain Pointe linebackers coach Brandon Whitener said. “He is already barking at guys if they line up in the wrong spot. That’s a good thing because he knows what is going on around him and will help him play even faster.”

Hodge has speed and range. His ability to run from sideline to sideline and maintain his balance while making a hit are traits that have jumped out to Whitener and the rest of the coaching staff in their first season at Mountain Pointe.

Beyond that, it’s Hodge’s length. His long arms give him the ability to shed an opposing blocker and make a play.

“You look at him and without bending over he can almost scratch his knee caps,” Whitener said, laughing. “That’s a long kid, and being able to run and still move and work in space is impressive.”

It’s been a seamless transition for Hodge under new head coach Rich Wellbrock and his staff.

Along with Whitener, Hodge has learned the Pride’s new defense from coordinator Conrad Hamilton, who spent six years in the NFL as a defensive back.

From the style of coaching to the overall scheme, Hodge said he feels like there is a new vibe about the Mountain Pointe program, one that will lead to success.

“We have a different level of coaching now,” Hodge said. “There is more of a college feel here now. Coach Hamilton knows how colleges and pros work and we know that we need to listen to him because he has the experience.

“I’ve learned a lot from him and Coach Whitener, like breaking down in pass coverage and foot work.”

Only three games into his first varsity season, Hodge has yet to receive a Division 1 college offer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t schools interested. They’re waiting to see how Hodge pans out. Hodge said the Oregon State coaching staff, where former Pride players Timmy Hernandez and Wesley Payne play, has expressed interest.

Whitener, however, hopes Hodge remains under the radar for the duration of the season. He believes that would allow Hodge to further improve.

“As a first-year starter, it can put a lot of pressure on a kid to perform, especially coming after his brother, who had a lot of success at Mountain Pointe,” Whitener said. “Right now, I just want him to be his own guy and understand what he needs to do with this defense. I want him to carve out his own path as far as what his future is going to entail.”

Exactly what his path is remains to be seen, but with coaches in place who want him to succeed, as well as an older brother sharing advice from his time playing the same position, Hodge is on the path to becoming one of the best linebackers in the class of 2020 in Arizona.

Before that, he has another goal in mind.

“I’m just trying to execute and work hard,” Hodge said. “I want to be the hardest-working man on the field and get my team to the championship.”

Hamilton @ Mountain Pointe   |  September 14th   |   7:00 pm

This motley crew is a goofy bunch – just don’t get in its way. The Mountain Pointe offensive shoves foes around to opens holes for a relentless ground game. It also enjoys mirth with line coach Frantz Pierre-Louis – known among the players as “Coach Zoe.”   Zach Alvira/AFN Staff

Pride’s physical – and playful – offensive line getting the last laugh

Football games often are won in the trenches. An offensive line that is big and physical to open holes for runners and protect the quarterback is every coach’s dream.

Coach Rich Wellbrock and Mountain Pointe High believe that they have that this season.

Why wouldn’t they? Mountain Pointe seems to have that every season. Physical play by dominating lines has been their trademark as they marched to the state semifinals or beyond eight of the past nine seasons.

“They’re the cornerstone of this team,” Wellbrock said of his linemen. “You can always count on them to do the right thing on the field, at the school and in the community. It’s a great group to have around.”

In their first season directing the Pride, Wellbrock and his staff inherited starters all over the field, including the offensive line. Seniors Cole Cundary, Alex Vogel, Zach Quihuis and Eriq Williams lead the way up front. The unit also has talented juniors Will Haire, Steven Williams and Kaleb Whitethorne.

The group averages 6-feet, 275 pounds – near the average for prep football teams in Arizona. They believe it’s their work ethic that separates them.

Mountain Pointe’s line will be tested Saturday when it takes on South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High, ranked 15th nationally in MaxPreps Xcellent 25, in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada, as part of the Touchdowns Against Cancer Games. Kickoff is 8 p.m. at Liberty High.

“It’s a position that doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s a group that comes out and does their job,” Wellbrock said of the line. “It’s hard to pinpoint anytime one of them does better than the other.”

Their daily work ethic is inspired by a position coach who has experience. Line coach Frantz Pierre-Louis – known among the players as “Coach Zoe” – is in his sixth year working at the varsity level. He was offensive coordinator and line coach at Phoenix Christian before joining the Chaparral staff in 2017.

The linemen say that the transition to the new coaching staff has been easy because Zoe has a similar coaching style to that of former coach Norris Vaughan and his staff.

“At least from our standpoint, they coach pretty much the same,” Quihuis said. “They teach us all the same types of technique. Coach Zoe may yell a little more but that would be about it.”

A strong bond with Zoe has been built in short order. Playful banter is common in the group.

“These guys are clowns,” Zoe said, laughing. “They speak their mind, they’re free spirits. I think we are the best unit on the team.”

From their time on the practice field to dinner afterward, Zoe says this tight-knit offensive line is among the most important units on the team.

Vocal leaders among the group have emerged, among them Quihuis. His leadership has stood out to teammates and coaches.

“Every day he does his job. He’s ready to go and he pulls everyone along with him,” Wellbrock said. “He pushes everyone to meet his level of intensity.”

That intensity fuels the success of the Pride’s offensive line during Quihuis’ two years as a starter.

Last season, Mountain Pointe had 5,495 yards of offense, most of it on the ground from running back Jakim McKinney, who has built a close bond with the line.

“They mean a lot to me,” McKinney said. “I do love them. We’ve been through a lot, especially in games and even outside of games. We all hang out and sometimes go to dinner. It’s a good connection for us.”

Mountain Pointe opened with a loss to Pinnacle, among the favorites to win the 6A state championship. The Pride rolled up 437 total yards and 34 points, totals that should be enough to win on most Fridays. They lost to the Pioneers by 22.

Zoe says there is always room for improvement.