Richard Obert, azcentral sportsPublished 11:07 a.m. MT March 28, 2018
Phoenix Mountain Pointe continues to make moves beyond the Norris Vaughan era with new head coach Rich Wellbrock adding Conrad Hamilton as his defensive coordinator and Ross Crow as offensive coordinator.
Both men were ran high school programs in the Valley.
Hamilton was head coach at both Phoenix North Canyon and Scottsdale Chaparral. He was defensive coordinator on two of Chaparral’s state championship teams during the Charlie Ragle era.
Crow led Avondale Agua Fria’s program the last two years. Before that, Crow was head coach at Phoenix Sierra Linda.
“I’m just excited for our kids, to get to be coached by a staff that both Ross and Conrad has helped me put together,” Wellbrock said of the coaching additions. “I know the community is really excited.”
Wellbrock said that Hamilton is bringing his defensive coaches from Chaparral with him.
Crow also is bringing help, according to Wellbrock.
“I’ve kind of given him and Ross a little leeway hiring their own guys,” Wellbrock said. “At this level, you’ve got to have guys you can trust.”
Pride stocked with talent once again
Mountain Pointe again figures to have one of the best teams in the state with the return of quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, running back Jakim McKinney and offensive lineman Deandre Henry. Mountain Pointe also has one of the top defensive backs in the West in Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson.
Crow was offensive coordinator at Surprise Shadow Ridge before he became head coach at Sierra Linda, where he was 7-13 in two seasons. His Agua Fria teams went 2-8 and 1-9.
Hamilton teaches at Chaparral, but the Firebirds went out of state for their next head coach, hiring offensive-minded Brent Barnes, who had a successful run at Norman (Okla.) North, where he was 26-9 in three years.
Nine of Hamilton’s 10 years coaching high school football in the Valley was spent at Chaparral. He was head coach at North Canyon for one season, before returning to Chaparral. He was the DC at Chaparral on two of the state title teams while Chaparral strung together three championships in a row from 2009-11.
Hamilton left Chaparral as head coach in 2016 to join Todd Graham’s staff at Arizona State as a defensive analyst. He returned to Chaparral last year back in his role as defensive coordinator under Thomas Lewis.
Hamilton is a fiery coach, just like Wellbrock.
How will that mix on the sideline?
“When we’re fired up, we’ll keep an arm’s distance,” Wellbrock said. “We want the best for the kids.
“After we talked, we figured out it was a good union. I’m excited.”
Wellbrock, who was 2-8 in his only season leading Chandler Basha in 2017, says this will be much like his days at Goodyear Desert Edge, where he delegated to coordinators. The Scorpions had a big run under Wellbrook, leading to a state championship in 2015.
Mountain Pointe safety Kenny Churchwell, one of the top 2018 recruits in Arizona, announced his commitment to UCLA on Friday morning.
Mountain Pointe safety Kenny Churchwell, one of the top 2018 recruits in Arizona, announced his commitment to UCLA on Friday morning.
In Chuchwell’s three-year varsity career, he had 185 tackles with eight interceptions and 31 passes defended.
Churchwell chose the Bruins over fellow Pac-12 finalists Arizona and Arizona State. The safety held offers from the Bruins, Sun Devils, Wildcats along with Utah, Wyoming, Boise State, Washington State, Colorado State, Cal and Hawaii.
Churchwell was offered by UCLA on January 14th, visited campus this past weekend and committed Friday morning.
Churchwell joins Arizona commits Oduah Isibor, Jax Wacaser and Sean Seawards from the class of 2017.
He is also now a crosstown rival to his former teammate and fellow safety. In the class of 2017, Mountain Pointe safety Isaiah Pola-Mao committed to USC exactly 364 days ago.
By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor | January 23, 2018
The Pride have found the new leader of their pack.
Tempe Union High School District officials announced Tuesday they would recommend that the governing board approve Rich Wellbrock as the new head football coach at Mountain Pointe High School.
“We are excited to welcome Coach Wellbrock to Mountain Pointe High School,” Principal Bruce Kipper said in a release. “His wealth of experience, success at the state level, and working in diverse school settings tells us he is the right guy for our school community.”
The next governing board meeting is Feb. 7 and an agenda has not yet been set, so it is unclear if formal action on the recommendation will occur then.
Wellbrock has been around the Arizona high school football scene for several years, with an overall coaching record of 93-48. He has coached at Tolleson, Desert Edge and most recently, Basha high schools. He only spent one year at Basha, compiling a 2-8 record in the 2017 season.
Before last season, Wellbrock headed the Desert Edge football program from 2010-2016 amassing a 75-14 record, including a state championship in 2015, when the Scorpions defeated No. 1-seeded Paradise Valley in the Division III state championship, 29-27.
In 2013, Desert Edge also set a state record for team passing yards in a season, but also fell to Queen Creek in the 2012 Division III state championship.
During Wellbrock’s state championship run, Desert Edge’s running game was phenomenal.
It set a new state record for team rushing by running for 5,046 yards and 69 touchdowns on 654 carries. Desert Edge also had four different rushers over 500 yards and two over 1,000 yards.
Behind Jakim McKinney and Gary Bragg, the Pride rushed for 3,801 and 45 touchdowns this past season. Wellbrock will see the return of a strong starting running back in McKinney, who led the Pride with 1334 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Wellbrock will have big shoes to fill at Mountain Pointe, as he’ll be taking over for longtime head coach Norris Vaughan, who retired to move back to Georgia to be closer to his family. The Pride also captured a state championship in 2014 as a part of an undefeated season.
Mountain Pointe is coming off a 10-3 season, and it fell to Brock Purdy and the Perry Pumas in the 6A state semi-finals.
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.
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.
For the first time since 2014, both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools are coming off losses in the same week after the Pride was stunned by Desert Ridge and the Thunder fell in double overtime to Highland.
The Thunder (5-3) will carry a two-game losing streak into Mesa, but will be met by a Desert Ridge (7-1) squad that is coming off arguably its biggest win of the season after beating Mountain Pointe 31-20.
Against Mountain Pointe, the Jaguars ran a two-quarterback system with sophomore Matthew Purnell and junior Cooper Schmidt that seemed to give the Pride defense fits all night long.
The two quarterbacks combined for 108 yards on the ground, including a 17-yard Cooper Schmidt touchdown run that gave the Jaguars the lead late in the game.
Schmidt has been more effective on the ground this season, rushing for 406 yards and six touchdowns compared to Purnell’s 99 rushing yards and one touchdown. But, Purnell has been more effective through the air, completing 70 percent of his passes compared to Schmidt’s 57 percent.
While the Thunder defense will have to keep an eye on both quarterbacks, it’ll also have to watch out for the Jaguars’ trio of running backs.
Lucas Wright, Tyrese Allen, and Deonce Elliot all have been strong out of the backfield, as each one has rushed for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Tyrese Allen leads the way with 567 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Thunder seniors Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey will play a major role on Friday in stopping their running game.
How the Desert Vista offense handles the Jaguars defense will be another key to this 6A Central Region matchup. The Desert Ridge defense picked off two passes late in the game and held their running to a minimum.
The Jaguars stacked the box and tried to hold Mountain Pointe’s run game to a minimum, but look for the Thunder to rely on senior quarterback Derek Kline.
The 6-foot-5 Nevada transplant has been huge for Desert Vista all season long, throwing for 1,377 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also been great using his legs to escape pressure and run when no one is open, tallying 305 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Friday night will be a battle at the line of scrimmage between two teams looking to solidify themselves in the playoff picture. And after two straight losses, Desert Vista will be looking to come out strong and catch the Jaguars off guard.
The two teams kick off at 7 p.m. at Desert Ridge High School.
Mountain Pointe vs Corona del Sol
The Pride (6-2) will look to bounce back from their first home loss since 2011 when it takes on the Corona del Sol Aztecs (1-7) on Friday.
Mountain Pointe should be able to bounce back as the Aztecs won’t provide much resistance on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve allowed 285 points this season and haven’t won since their matchup with La Joya Community on Aug. 25.
While the Aztecs don’t provide much of a defensive resistance, they do have a high-powered offense behind junior quarterback Ryan Helt, who has thrown for 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
He’s also thrown 13 interceptions in the process. The 6-foot-1 quarterback has thrown for at least 150 yards in each game and recently threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns against Gilbert.
His favorite target this year has been junior receiver Ricky Pearsall, a 6-foot-1 junior who has caught 61 passes for 1,030 yards and was a big part of Helt’s success against Gilbert, catching 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the pair of Aztecs, they will run into one of the best secondaries in the state.
The Pride secondary hasn’t allowed over 100 yards passing since their matchup with Desert Vista in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
It also has picked off 14 passes this season and deflected 55 more. Helt will run into one of the best all-around defenses he has faced this season, as the Pride boast a big defensive line led by senior Shomari Hayes along with their strong secondary.
After being somewhat silenced against Desert Ridge, look for the Mountain Pointe backfield to break out quickly against a defense that has allowed over 100 yards rushing in every game this season.
With two games left in the season, look for the Mountain Pointe Pride to get back on track before its final game of the season against Gilbert High on Oct. 27. Mountain Pointe and Corona del Sol kick off at 7 p.m. at Corona del Sol high school.
There is another Thursday night marquee Arizona high school football matchup this week on Yurview, as Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe square off. Both teams enter with identical 6-1 records, making this a pivotal 6A matchup. The game can be seen on Yurview Arizona at 7:00pm MST and will also be streaming live at Yurview.com.
Both Desert Ridge and Mountain Pointe are on winning streaks entering Thursday’s contest. Jeremy Hathcock’s Desert Ridge has won four straight games, each of them by 20 points or more. On the other side, the Pride haven’t lost since a Week 2 tilt with California power Chaminade. They’ve won five straight, squeaking out the last two by 5 points and one point respectively.
Run Run Run
Both teams love to hand the ball to their backs. The Jaguars hand it to Tyrese Allen, and he’s racked up nearly 2000 yards over the last two seasons.
Mountain Pointe has a two-headed monster in the backfield, and Norris Vaughan’s Pride run for 267 yards per game. Senior Gary Bragg has almost 700 yards so far this season, while junior Jakim McKinney has a 200 yard, 4 touchdown game to his name this season. He’s the lightning to Bragg’s thunder.
Players to Watch
DB Don’Jae Logan – Desert Ridge
He’s the #4 rated defensive back in Arizona, which is saying something going against all those stud quarterbacks in the state. He’s headed to Stanford next season with his 3.7 GPA.
DT Shomari Hayes – Mountain Pointe
Picking up the slack for injured Mathew Pola-Mao, the #2 ranked 2019 prospect in Arizona, Hayes has received a Fresno State offer and has garnered a lot of interest from Pac-12 schools.
DB Kenny Churchwell – Mountain Pointe
He has Pac-12 interest as well, picking up offers from both Arizona State and Arizona among others. Watch for Mountain Pointe to get him the ball on offense also.
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Anyone on the sideline, close to the action, had to notice that there was a little something extra going on between Jacobby Dinwiddie and Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson.
The two were getting after it all game long on Friday night as Mountain View’s top wide receiver, Dinwiddie, and Mountain Pointe’s Pleasant-Johnson, a cornerback, were on the same side of the field for most of the Pride’s 35-3 win.
It was more than the two quality athletes trying to get the best of each other in one-on-one matchups.
There was emotion, respect and familiarity between the two competitors.
And for good reason.
Their earliest memories as little kids are of each other. Their moms are best of friends and the boys essentially grew up with each other. They’ve been battling each other – whether it was video games or who made the best ramen noodles or red zone jump balls – ever since.
“We call each other blood brothers,” Dinwiddie said. “We’ve known each since we were born. We grew up together and were rarely apart. We always played games and competed for everything.”
Boredom meant heading outside and practicing against each other.
“We’ve always had each other’s back,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “When we got bored we would go out and run routes and be competitive with each other.”
Where one was, there was the other.
That seemed to be the case last night as well. Were No. 13 was, No. 31 was right there with him.
Twice in the red zone they had to battle for the ball.
In a jump ball scenario Pleasant-Johnson, whose mother Jacquel Pleasant was taken by cancer in 2011, came down with the interception. The second time, Dinwiddie ran a good route, got to the pylon, but couldn’t secure the ball. It hit him in the hands, but Pleasant-Johnson disrupted the play.
“I saw (Mountain View quarterback) Brandon (Nunez) look my way,” Pleasant-Johnson said of the interception. “I knew it was coming my way and I got the job one. It was very exciting.”
Dinwiddie knew it was going to be a battle all game.
“It was fun to go against someone who knows you,” Dinwiddie said. “He knows you better than yourself. It was fun competition. It helps you get better.”
Dinwiddie finished with seven catches for 85 yards, and had a big pass play for a TD called back because a wide receiver held to help spring him. He had a good game, but Pleasant-Johnson won in the red zone and the scoreboard.
“We were just competing out there,” Dinwiddie said. “We try and make each other better. When it was over we were taking pictures, and I will probably chill with him (on Friday night) for a little bit. We both made some plays, but I should have had one of those touchdowns. You learn from it.”
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