Mountain Pointe punishes Hawks, gears up for semifinal - Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor Mountain Pointe punishes Hawks,... [ read more ]

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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’s Marshawn Gibson, #7, grabs what would have been a touchdown pass away from Highland’s Dayton Huffman, #2, late in the third quarter.  Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

Mountain Pointe cruises by Highland into Semis

By Eddie Poe   |  11.11.17

For the #1 seed Mountain Pointe Pride, its quest back to the 6A State Championship begins and ends with one word.

Believe.

Following its 44-7 trouncing of the #8 seed 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 each yelled the same word 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 Karl Kiefer Stadium just over a month ago, Highland gave the Pride a run for its money and a reason to fear its season hopes coming to a crash. 

The Hawks went into the locker room with a 13-0 halftime lead but ended up shocked in the end as Mountain Pointe turned the switch on in the second half and pulled off a dramatic 14-13 win. A win 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 much 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 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 aired out one of the more perfect passes that 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 shutdown 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 cut 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, Friday night’s 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 number one 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 #4 seed 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 #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.”

“Be prepared.”

 

Photo: Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Mountain Pointe facing familiar foe after first-round blowout

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

As everyone expected, No. 1 Mountain Pointe High School breezed by No. 16 Cibola High Friday night to advance to the second round of the 6A state playoffs.

The Pride jumped out to a quick lead and built a 37-0 lead before the half ended. At the final whistle, the Pride held 65-0 lead and began looking to their next matchup as they attempt to return to the state championship for the second straight year.

To accomplish that goal, the Pride will have to get through a familiar foe, a team that pushed them to the brink earlier this year.

Back on Oct. 6, Mountain Pointe (9-2) committed a trio of first-quarter turnovers that allowed the Highland High Hawks (8-3) to build a 13-0 first-half lead.

But the Pride team that came out of the locker room at halftime looked like a completely different squad.

Behind a Delano Salgado 37-yard touchdown run and a Gary Bragg one-yard touchdown run, the Pride stormed back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. They also held the Hawks scoreless in the second half and escaped with a 14-13 win.

This time around, things might be a little different.

One big factor of the first meeting was Mountain Pointe’s slow start. Turning the ball over three times can often lead to a large deficit that some teams don’t have the ability to overcome.

Also, Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, who threw one interception and fumbled twice in the first matchup, has grown as both a player and a passer since that game.

The junior gunslinger threw for only 41 yards in that game and since then has yet to throw under 100 yards. He threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns on Friday against Cibola.

One player that Wallerstedt will have to watch out for in this matchup is defensive back Jalen Johnson, who’s picked off four passes this season for the Hawks.

The Hawks come into Friday night after a big 41-21 win over No. 9-seed Desert Mountain on their home field.

But just like that game in October, the Hawks will have to travel to Karl Kiefer Stadium and attempt to beat the Pride on their home field – something only one team has accomplished since 2011.

First-year head coach Brock Farrel and the Hawks bring a lot of talent to the table. They have received contributions from several players this year, but junior Kohner Cullimore and senior Jacob Wood have been two of the biggest.

They have played on both sides of the ball this year and have been relentless as well. Cullimore, has racked up 54 tackles this season from the safety position and picked off two passes.

On offense, Cullimore has carried the ball 70 times for 360 yards and seven touchdowns and he als has caught 20 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. It doesn’t stop there for the superstar junior, as he also returned has two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2017.

Jacob Wood has been just as big for the Hawks this season. He’s rushed for a team-high 460 yards and six touchdowns this season, including a 91-yard, three-touchdown performance against Gilbert on Oct. 20. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior has racked up 62 tackles from his linebacker position and also has been just as big in the passing game, picking off four passes.

Mountain Pointe boasts one of the best defenses in 6A, and to take home a second straight playoff victory, it will need to isolate both Wood and Cullimore on the offensive side of the ball. The line will also have to key in on these two, along with Highland leading tackler Tate Speaker, who has 99 tackles on the season.

The Pride’s ability to run the ball has been its strength all season long. The team has a stable of backs that includes Bragg, Jakim McKinney, Salgado and senior Je’on Moss, has recently emerged, scoring two touchdowns in the past two games.

Their success on the ground also has set up the passing game for Wallerstedt, giving him time in the pocket to either throw or to tuck the ball and run if no one is open.

If the Pride can establish their running game and avoid turning the ball over, it should be able to walk away with this one and advance to the semifinals for a matchup with the winner of No. 4-seed Perry and No. 5-seed Hamilton.

No. 1 Mountain Pointe and No. 8 Highland kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Mountain Pointe High School.

-Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

Mountain Pointe again enters playoffs as top seed

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  Nov 2, 2017

For the third time in five years, head coach Norris Vaughan and the Mountain Pointe High School football team will enter the state tournament as the No. 1 seed.

It may have come as a surprise to some, as Desert Ridge, the only in-state team that handed Mountain Pointe a loss this season, received the No. 2 seed. But, the Pride have proved themselves time and time again as one of the best teams in Arizona.

Junior kicker Ben Abercrombie drilled a 31-yard field goal as time expired to deliver another win for the Pride Friday and secure their 8-2 regular season record. Now, the Pride will look to No. 16-seed Cibola (5-5) on Friday at Karl Kiefer stadium.

The Raiders enter the 6A State Tournament high off a big 28-15 win over Tucson High Magnet School, capturing a piece of the 6A Southern Region and an automatic bid into the state playoffs.

As the Raiders were ranked at No. 21 in the final AZPreps365 rankings of the season, capturing the region championship knocked bubble teams like No. 15-ranked Desert Vista and No. 16-ranked Gilbert out of the playoff picture.

The Raiders, led by longtime head coach Lucky Arvizo, are riding a three-game winning streak heading into their first-round matchup. While the Raiders sport a record of 5-5, they have won four of those games on the road as they head to Ahwatukee on Friday  

Offensively for the Raiders, it has been a heavy dose of Jesse Escott all season long. The senior running back has carried the ball 194 times for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns.

But the 5-foot-7, 200-pound back has played in only seven games this season and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in every game. He has scored at least one touchdown in every game but one, a 28-25 loss to Valley Vista.

The Raiders are led by an Arvizo on the sideline and under center, as junior quarterback Ethan Arvizo holds the reins on the offensive side. He’s completed 104 passes for 1,488 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. He’s also only thrown five interceptions in 2017 and two of those came in a 41-0 blowout loss to Southwest EC at the beginning of the season.

The junior gunslinger has spread the ball around this season with 13 different Raiders catching passes, but nearly half of his completions have gone to Gabriel Ramirez. The junior receiver has caught 50 passes for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017.

The only other Raider with over 200 yards receiving is sophomore Zeke Rios, who has caught 16 passes for 232 yards.

The Raiders’ three offensive weapons will run into one of the strongest defenses that they will have faced.

While Arvizo will have to throw into a secondary that has picked off 17 passes and deflected 69 more this season, Escott will run into a defensive line that limited Chandler running backs Drake Anderson and DeCarlos Brooks to 114 yards on Sept. 8.

Defensive linemen Shomari Hayes and Kenneth Lofton have combined for 15 sacks this season and were recently joined by junior lineman Matthew Pola-Mao, who returned from an injury Friday night to make his first appearance of the season.

In the secondary, Ramirez will have to find a way to deal Delano Salgado, Marshawn Gibson and Kenny Churchwell to have any impact on the game.

All season long the Pride have relied on their running back tandem of senior Gary Bragg and junior Jakim McKinney, who have combined for 1,858 yards and 22 touchdowns.

But recently, junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has solidified himself as a solid throwing quarterback, passing for a combined 276 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games.

The Mountain Pointe offense will run into a strong grouping of linebackers from Cibola. Senior Sebastian Torres leads the group, and the team, with 96 tackles in 2017 and is averaging 10.7 tackles per game. He’s also caused a fumble and recovered two more.

Along with Torres, junior Elijah Contreras and senior Jacob Mcghee have been big for the No. 16 seed. Contreras has tallied 89 tackles on the season, leads the Raiders in sacks, and has caused two fumbles.

Mcghee has only racked up 25 tackles on the season but has picked off two passes and has forced four fumbles. These three, along with defensive tackle Damian Magdaleno, will look to contain the Mountain Pointe offense and try to upset the No. 1 team in 6A.

If the Pride can stay disciplined on both sides of the ball and avoid major penalties – something the team didn’t do a lot in its season finale against Gilbert last Friday – look for the No. 1 seed to race into the second round and face the winner of No. 8 Highland vs. No. 9 Desert Mountain.

Mountain Pointe hosts this Friday’s playoff game at 7 p.m.

Around the rest of 6A, Desert Ridge will face off with No. 15-seed Westview. Chandler, Perry and Hamilton were given the three, four and five seeds and will match up with Mesa Mountain View, Boulder Creek and Skyline, respectively.

In 5A, the defending state champion Williams Field drew the No. 7-seed after upsetting previously undefeated Queen Creek on Friday. The Blackhawks will face-off with No. 10-seeded Chaparral.

The Firebirds handed the Blackhawks their last loss of the season on September 15. Since then, the defending state champions have snapped off five straight wins, including a 28-27 last-minute win over No. 14-seed Campo Verde.

In the 4A conference, the Higley Knights received the No. 3-seed and Seton Catholic received the No. 6 seed, which could set up another rematch of their season finale matchup from Friday, in the second round.

Marcos de Niza earned the No. 9 seed and a matchup with No. 8 Cactus Shadows.

While 6A, 5A and 4A conferences will play on Friday night, the 3A and 2A games will take place on Saturday.

In the 3A conference, Casteel will look to continue their undefeated season after receiving the No. 3 seed and a matchup with No. 14-seed Empire. No. 2-seeded American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek, which lost its only game of the season in week two against No. 1-seed Pusch Ridge, will face off with Ganado in the first round as they seem to be on a collision course with the Colts.

Finally, in the 2A conference, three East Valley teams remain and two of them will face off in the first round, as No. 7-seed Gilbert Christian will take on No. 10-seed Tempe Prep. The No. 11-seeded San Tan Foothills squad will have the opportunity to host a first-round game after capturing the 2A Metro East regional title with an overall record of 8-2. The Sabercats will host No. 6-seeded St. Johns on Saturday at 6 p.m.

 

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. 

     

    Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor

    Pride, Thunder look to wrap up season with wins

    By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  10.27.17

    With one week remaining in the regular season, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista come into their final week’s matchup at opposite ends of the spectrum.

    The Pride bounced backed from a loss to Desert Ridge with a blowout victory of Corona del Sol, and the Thunder fell to that same Desert Ridge squad last week for its third straight loss.

    Both teams remain optimistic as the state playoff tournament approaches.

    Mountain Pointe vs. Gilbert

    In its final regular season matchup of the season, the Pride (7-2) will take on Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers (4-5).

    Mountain Pointe has faced off with talented quarterbacks all season long, but mobile signal callers have given the team fits this season.

    Although the result was a win, Spencer Rattler and the Pinnacle offense got to a talented Pride defense for 34 points.

    Derek Kline and Desert Vista scored 16 in a hard-fought battle.

    Desert Ridge tormented the Pride with an option run game.

    Plummer has pummeled defenses all season long, throwing for 2,550 yards, 31 touchdowns and only seven interceptions on just under 300 attempts.

    Although Plummer looks like a pocket passer with a 6-foot-5 stature, he has a deceptive ability to run the ball as well, tallying 370 rushing yards and eight touchdowns this season.

    If the talented Pride defensive line can keep Plummer contained in the pocket, it should be able to pick up some easy stops in the backfield.

    Look for Mountain Pointe’s secondary to take advantage of Plummer’s quick decisions as it has given opposing quarterbacks fits all season long, picking off 16 passes in the process.

    The biggest threat through the air for the Tigers has been senior Dawson Tanner. The 5-foot-10 receiver has caught a team-high 48 passes for 795 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has been Plummer’s favorite target all season long.

    Along with Tanner, Plummer has also spread the ball around to Domonick Amendolara and Drew Hudson, who both have over 300 yards receiving and have combined for six touchdowns.

    Kenny Churchwell, Marshawn Gibson, Delano Salgado and company will present a formidable opposition for this trio of receivers, though.

    Offensively, the game plan hasn’t really changed all season long for the Pride. Although the lead back has changed from game to game, Jakim McKinney, Gary Bragg and Delano Salgado have almost been unstoppable this year, averaging close to 260 yards per game.

    When the rushing game has been stymied, quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has been more than comfortable using his legs in passing situations.

    He is also coming into his own as a passer, throwing for a season-high three touchdowns against Corona del Sol on Friday, his first game this season with more than one passing touchdown.

    The Mountain Pointe offense will be met by tough defense, however.

    It is led by Tyler Laganke, Corvan Otanez and Kawai Lucio. Laganke has been the leader for the Tigers defense, leading the team in both tackles with 107 and sacks with six.

    Otanez is second on the team in tackles with 91 but leads the team in interceptions. These two alone should provide plenty of resistance, especially with a berth in the state playoffs on the line for Gilbert.

    The Pride play at home on Friday; the two teams kick off at 7 p.m.

    Desert Vista vs Corona del Sol

    This game is an absolute must-win  for the Thunder as a loss to Corona del Sol, a team with only one win, could push Desert Vista out of the playoff picture.

    After providing some resistance for part of the night against No. 2-ranked Desert Ridge, the Thunder head into Friday night with some confidence and a hope that some of their injured starters can make a return for the season finale.

    Coach Daniel Hinds said he has been hit with injuries this year more than any other in his 16 years of coaching.

    Without the presence of Jake Smith, Keishaud White and Navy commit James Stagg, who are three of the Thunder’s top four receivers, the Desert Vista offense has been somewhat stagnant.

    The defense has stepped up in situations, but after a 35-7 loss to Desert Ridge, Hinds admitted they can only do that for so long.

    Although their record doesn’t reflect it, the Thunder will be met by a high-powered offense from Corona del Sol led by junior quarterback Ryan Helt and junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall.

    Just recently, Pearsall set a new single-game record for receiving yards when he caught 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns. In the same game, Helt threw for 510 yards total.

    If the defense can hold Helt and Pearsall to a minimum, look for the Desert Vista offense to have a breakout game one week before state as the Aztecs defense has allowed 341 points this season and are currently on a seven-game losing streak.

    Quarterback Derek Kline should be able to take on this struggling Corona del Sol defense and lead his Thunder into the state tournament. If the Thunder can creep in, don’t be surprised if they surprise a few teams in the playoffs when they return to full health, as they showed earlier this season.

    Desert Vista hosts with kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday.

    Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, finds a blocking hole to run through on the way to scoring Pride’s second touchdown. Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst

    Pride get back on track with big win over Corona

     
    By Eddie Poe AFN Contributor  |  10.20.17

    Quarterback Nick Wallerstedt found the end zone three times through the air and once on the ground. JaKim McKinney and Gary Bragg each ran for two touchdowns. Kenny Churchwell and Delano Salgado manned the secondary with ease.

    No. 3-ranked Mountain Pointe returned to its brand of football on Friday night and finished the regular season unbeaten on the road, defeating the Corona del Sol Aztecs at Hascall Henshaw Stadium, 56-6.

    A week after suffering its first loss at home since 2011 to the hands of then No. 5-ranked Desert Ridge, Mountain Pointe (7-2) controlled both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff and cruised to an easy win over Corona (1-8).

    “I’m really proud with how these guys rebounded,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “It was a great team victory, we needed this.”

    After being held to just 181 yards on the ground against Desert Ridge, the Mountain Pointe rushing attack proved relentless on Friday night as it has most of the season, with McKinney and Bragg leading the way.

    Coming into its final road game of the season averaging 258.8 yards per game — leading all 6A Central teams — the Pride offensive attack stood tall behind its offensive line as the running game returned to its former self and Wallerstedt aired it out.

    On its opening drive of the game, Mountain Pointe recorded two quick first downs and on a broken coverage down the field, Wallerstedt found Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson for a wide open touchdown to give the Pride an early 7-0 lead.

    It was the first of three passing touchdowns for the junior quarterback and his best game of the season through the air. He credits his improvements throughout the season to both his faith and his coaches on the sideline.

    “The coaches have really been believing in me,” Wallerstedt said. “I’ve just been believing in my arm and the rest has figured itself out.”

    “He’s really coming into himself,” Vaughan said.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the Pride forced two Ryan Helt interceptions and recovered a fumble on Corona’s first drive of the second half.

    Mountain Pointe’s defensive unit has often failed to receive the notoriety during the season’s victories, but with a 6A Central leading 14 interceptions coming into Friday night’s game, it showed why it’s a force to be reckon with.

    “We did everything we wanted to do tonight,” Vaughan said. “The defense stepped up and really forced [them] into some mistakes.”

    Heading into its final regular season game, the game plan for Mountain Pointe is to keep things simple. Don’t try to do too much but also place an importance on making the plays that need to be made.

    “We just need to focus on consistency,” Vaughan said. “Penalties continue to hurt us and we really need to work on that.”

    Mountain Pointe will look to carry momentum into its final regular season game next week and look to make a statement as it heads into the playoffs. The Pride will take on the No. 15-ranked Gilbert Tigers on senior night.

    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

    Pride’s Delano Salgado, #3, streaks done the line on the way into the end zone to score Mountain Pointe’s first touchdown in the third quarter. [By Cheryl Haselhorst]

    Pride squeak out win over Highland

    By Jacob Rosenfarb AFN Contributor

    With the building’s namesake in attendance, Karl Keifer Stadium was brimming with anticipation and excitement Friday evening.

    That excitement quickly turned to despair, as a trio of first quarter turnovers put the Mountain Pointe Pride in a hole most teams would not be able to overcome.

    But most teams don’t have a player like Delano Salgado.

    The senior running back was the most effective of the three backs Mountain Pointe utilized, as he scored the Pride’s first touchdown of the game on a 37 yard carry. He carried the Pride to victory as they defeated Highland high school 14-13 to improve to 6-1.

    “He’s really important,” said starting quarterback Nick Wallerstedt. “We like to go to him when we’re down because he can pick us up. He can make a big play anytime.”

    The first half of the contest was dominated by Highland, as they forced three first quarter turnovers and jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead. They stifled the vaunted Mountain Pointe running attack and moved methodically down the field. Highland likely would’ve escaped this game with a victory if not for their kicking, as Highland missed two field goals under 30 yards, one of which came in the game’s final five minutes.

    Nevertheless, Mountain Pointe emerged victorious, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat for this year’s homecoming game. Fittingly, the homecoming game’s biggest player also happens to be the homecoming king.

    “It’s so important to win on homecoming,” Salgado said as he sported a dashing sash and crown. “We haven’t lost on this field in I don’t know how long, so tonight was great.”

    Credit is also due to the Mountain Pointe defense. After allowing a touchdown pass late in the first quarter, the Pride defense tightened up and epitomized the old football adage of bending but not breaking. The Highland offense would consistently move their way down the field, but when they reached the redzone, the defense tightened up. They forced field goals when Highland was looking for touchdowns, and that ultimately is what decided the game.

    It was not the strongest start for Wallerstedt, who appeared rattled after an interception on one of his first throws of the evening. He proceeded to fumble snaps on two separate drives later in the first quarter as Mountain Pointe failed to mount any plays of semblance. Many coaches would’ve made a quarterback change or lost faith in their starter, but head coach Norris Vaughan did neither.

    “I didn’t think it was his fault,” said Vaughn, referring to the two first quarter fumbles. “I just told him to keep playing and do what we do.”  

    Wallerstedt did recover from his rough start, as he remained poised in the pocket and managed the game well for the Pride. He was also incredibly effective running the ball, as he picked up multiple first downs with his legs. Overall, Wallerstedt provided the intensity and leadership Mountain Pride needed to emerge from this slugfest victorious.

    “I told the team we’re not losing this game,” said a stoic Wallerstedt. “We stepped on the gas and we got angry. We needed to win this game.”

    While it wasn’t pretty, Mountain Pointe escaped Friday night with a win and cemented their place atop the 6A central division standings.  

     

    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.