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.
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.
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Both the Pride and Thunder are loaded with talent. Here are a few to watch on the field Thursday.
• Nick Wallerstedt, quarterback
Everyone knows about Mountain Pointe’s running backs. Once the running game gets established, look for the junior QB to affect the game in a big way. He’s already run for 303 yards and three touchdowns this season and he has been effective through the air in 2017 as well, throwing for 520 yards and three touchdowns.
• Jakim McKinney, running back
Heading into this season, the back to watch in the Mountain Pointe backfield was Gary Bragg, who started off last year as one of the top backs in the state before tearing his ACL. Although he is still one of the top backs in the state, McKinney has put his mark on the Pride backfield. While Bragg has rushed for 445 yards and four touchdowns, McKinney has 518 yards and nine touchdowns, complementing Bragg perfectly.
• Shomari Hayes, defensive lineman
After the injury to Matthew Pola-Mao, fellow defensive lineman Shomari Hayes has emerged as a major weapon for the Pride. He leads the team in tackles and has recorded three sacks in five games this season. If Hayes can wreak havoc in the backfield Thursday, Kline and the Thunder run game could be in for a long night.
• Larry Davis, linebacker
Davis is the anchor for the Desert Vista defense. He led the Thunder in tackles as a junior and continued that success this season for a strong DV defense. With the strength of the Pride’s running game, Davis will be a big factor if the Thunder look to come out on top, and he will need to lead the charge at the line of scrimmage.
• Derek Kline, quarterback
Kline is a newcomer to the Tukee Bowl, but he could arguably be the biggest factor of whether the Thunder will come out on top. Since starting the season throwing two interceptions against Perry, he’s been exceptional. But, he’ll be going up against one of the best secondarys in the state, led by Delano Salgado and Kenny Churchwell.
• James Stagg, tight end
One of the more intriguing matchups of this year’s Tukee Bowl will be Kline vs. a strong Mountain Pointe secondary. This is where Stagg could play a big role for the Thunder. As a big-bodied tight end, the Naval Academy commit could must go up against a fast and strong secondary for Mountain Pointe.
Tukee Bowl 2016: Defensive back Isaiah Pola-Mao #9 of Mountain Pointe takes down #84 of Desert Vista during the 20th annual Tukee Bowl on Friday, September 30, 2016. [Photo courtesey of Bill Hardiman, special to Tribune]
Rivalries often develop between two teams or two individuals, but when two high school teams share the same community, it adds even more meaning to a game.
That’s how it has always been in Ahwatukee when Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools take to the field for the annual Tukee Bowl. The stands are full and you can feel the fans’ energy.
“It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s a big-game atmosphere, every year,” said Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds. “It’s a lot of people and there’s a lot of energy. You can feel it. I think the players, naturally get excited about that game.
“There aren’t too many rivalries around the state that are quite like this one and the reason I say that is because you have two high schools that are nestled back here in the Ahwatukee Foothills in a real tight-knit community and the kids all know each other, so it makes it really cool.”
Phoenix City Councilman and Ahwatukee representative Sal DiCiccio said he has attended most of the contests, including the first, and added that “it’s huge for the community.”
Even though the scores present a different story, the last two contests have been close, with Mountain Pointe coming out on top both times to even the overall bowl record to 10 apiece.
The Pride went on to finish with records of 12-1 and 13-1 and appeared in the state semi-finals and the state championship. The Thunder finished the 2014 and 2015 seasons with identical 7-5 records, falling to Chandler High in the state playoffs both years.
Hinds has been on the sidelines every year for the matchup between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe.
He remembers when the rivalry started. While the Thunder staff has stayed consistent, Mountain Pointe has gone through a couple of changes over the years. In the beginning, Hinds even had the opportunity to coach against an old friend.
“A rivalry is a rivalry, but when it first started for me, the guy I played for in high school, Karl Kiefer, was the head coach at Mountain Pointe,” Hinds said. “So, it made it real special, real neat and pretty fun.”
Players on both sides have personal connections with each other as well. Two of the best defensive players in this year’s matchup, Kenny Churchwell of Mountain Pointe, and Desert Vista’s Larry Davis, have been best friends for quite some time.
“Seeing them again for the last time on the same field together, that is going to be something special,” Davis said.
The competition between the two schools doesn’t just take place on the field, but off it as well.
For the past two years, both schools have used the week leading up to the game to fundraise for the Make-a-Wish foundation in a weeklong competition. They call it “Wish Week.”
“We know many are excited and looking forward to the game, so our student body started raising money for Make-a-Wish during the week of this game,” Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said. “I am proud of our students for wanting to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Added Desert Vista Principal Christine Barela: “Everyone enjoys winning, but the overall spirit and positive atmosphere it brings to the school the week of the game and game night is positively electrifying! It is so much fun.”
Outside of fundraising, the game also is a social event for both student bodies that is a must-see event.
Brandon Schmoll, a Desert Vista alumnus and a member of the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, said that if there was one football game you went to, it was the Tukee Bowl.
“Even if you’re not a student or a parent, but you like the feel of being close to the field watching a high-energy game and at the same time support your local school, it’s perfect,” Schmoll said.
The game equals some of the best rivalries in Arizona, like the “Battle for Arizona Avenue” between Chandler High and Hamilton. Hinds added that the rivalry reminded him of the old matchups between McClintock and Tempe high schools.
“This is very rare to have a rivalry like this. People think it happens all over but it’s not true,” DiCiccio said. “It’s been interesting to watch the power shift over the years. First, Desert Vista was strong, then Mountain Pointe and now they’re kind of even. That’s the great thing about this game – anything can happen.”
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School as they look to add another memorable game into the long history of the Ahwatukee Bowl.
Phoenix Mountain Pointe continues to display why it’s the No. 1 high school football team in the state.
Much like they did during their first three wins, the Pride were dominant early on the defensive side and their overpowering offensive line created all sorts of running opportunities for a backfield that absolutely tortured Pinnacle to the tune of a 58-34 victory Friday night at Karl Kiefer Stadium.
“The offensive line and our running backs were the story of the game,” said Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan.
Led by quarterback phenom Spencer Rattler, Pinnacle (3-3) climbed their way back into the game after falling behind 44-14 with just over nine minutes left to play in the game.
After Rattler found Quinton Powell down the middle of the field for a near perfect 66-yard touchdown pass and an onside kick was recovered, the 6’2 commit to the University of Oklahoma found Kaleb Covington in the end zone to suddenly cut Mountain Pointe’s (4-1) lead to 44-34 with 4:15 left to play.
“We had some guys who were banged up and tired so we kept having to sub guys in,” Vaughan said. “They just kept coming at us.”
It was too little too late for the Pioneers though, as quarterback Nick Wallerstedt and the Pride kept to the ground game and simply lulled the Pinnacle defense to sleep until time ran out.
What easily could’ve been a game most highlighted by Mountain Pointe’s stout defense, resulted in a true showing of just how dangerous Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney can be behind one of the best offensive line’s in the state.
“The line was great, they did what they always do,” running back Jakim McKinney said. “They got off the ball and when they pulled, they pulled as fast as they could. Every time they created that hole [us] backs were able to find it and just run.”
Finishing the game with four rushing touchdowns, McKinney knew just how to find those holes. On the second play of the fourth quarter, McKinney took a handoff from Wallerstedt, stepped outside a bit, looked back inside and bolted through a hole on the way to a 58-yard touchdown run — his second of the game.
He later added a 25-yard touchdown run and another to seal the victory for Mountain Pointe. His partner in the backfield, Bragg, scored the first touchdown of the night for the Pride.
“We’re like a perfect duo,” McKinney said. “When one of us gets tired after a long run, the other one switches in and we just keep grinding until one of us scores. We both ran great tonight.”
The constant grind on the ground saw its true effectiveness to begin the second half. Running 18 plays — 17 of them on the ground — Mountain Pointe took eight minutes off the clock as they trudged 80 yards down the field, essentially taking all momentum out of Pinnacle’s sails.
From there, the rout was on and Rattler was never able to develop a healthy relationship with his receivers until it was far too late.
Even when the Pioneers put together a handful of positive plays on offense, third down came knocking and they struggled throughout the night to move the chains when they most needed to.
To no surprise, Mountain Pointe dominated the line of scrimmage. It’s what they’ve been best known for over the years and the one thing they’ve stuck to through their first five games.
Despite a few first half mistakes, they tightened up some things at halftime and provided a strong showing on their first home game of the season.
“We came out strong for our first home game,” Bragg said. “It feels great.”
Mountain Pointe will travel to Desert Vista on Thursday night for the annual Tukee Bowl.
Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney (#33) is lifted by teammates after he scores a touchdown in the second quarter of their high school football game against Chandler on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, at Chandler High School in Chandler, Ariz.
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).
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