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Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer
“If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to get back to the state championship game, there’s no question,” Vaughn said.

Hut, hut! Pride, Thunder ready for the 2017 season

  • By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  

Ahwatukee always has at least one successful high school football team. But in 2017, the community will have two teams with the talent to make a run for a state championship.

Last year ended the same way for both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools – with losses to Chandler High in the Class 6A State Tournament. Desert Vista was knocked out in the quarterfinals, while Mountain Pointe made a run to the state championship game.

The Pride finished the season ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and had beaten Chandler High earlier in the fall by 45 points.

On its run to the championship and throughout the season, however, the Pride suffered numerous injuries. In its semifinal victory over Red Mountain High the team lost at least four starters.

This season, the Pride will return with another strong defense featuring defensive backs Kenny Churchwell and Delano Salgado, who combined for 93 tackles and six interceptions.

But injuries already have impacted the 2017 Pride.

The defensive line will be missing Matthew Pola-Mao, who will miss the season due to injury, head coach Norris Vaughn said.

Nevertheless, Vaughn said he likes his team’s chances if his players can avoid more major injuries.

“If we can stay healthy, we have a chance to get back to the state championship game, there’s no question,” Vaughn said.

Desert Vista is also feeling confident about its chances on the gridiron.

“I feel like teams are going to have to try and win by their defense,” leading tackler Larry Davis said. “They gotta win by not letting our offense score because I don’t think a lot of people are going to score. Our defense is pretty stacked.”

For Mountain Pointe, look for Jacob Olsen and Shomari Hayes to fill the void left by the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Pola-mao.

Olsen led the team in sacks in 2016 with six and made 87 tackles as well. Hayes was another big piece of the Prides hard-hitting defense last season, racking up 74 tackles, 11.5 of them being for a loss.

The Pride will have a stout defense in 2017, but they will also have another solid offense.

Tailback Gary Bragg returns from an ACL injury that ended his junior season after rushing for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. They will also return quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, who filled in for injured Noah Grover last season, throwing for 558 yards and four touchdowns.

Salgado will also have a significant role in the offense for the Pride. The senior tailback rushed for 730 yards and six touchdowns last season.

After a 7-5 season, the Desert Vista Thunder are looking to return strong in 2017 with a potent offense and an even stronger defense.

They finished their run in 2016 with a devastating 62-7 loss against eventual state champion Chandler High in the quarterfinals, after finishing the regular season ranked 10th in Class 6A.

Although Desert Vista graduated starting QB Nick Thomas and leading rusher Lelon Dillard, the Thunder still have several returning players who will have a larger role in 2017.

With Nevada transplant quarterback Derek Kline under center, the Thunder will boast an offense with plenty of weapons, both in the backfield and on the outside.

James Stagg and Keishaud White both return to the offense after combining for nine touchdowns and 750-plus receiving yards last season.

Defensively, head coach Daniel Hinds said, the Thunder is returning its entire secondary as well as Davis, who made 93 tackles last season and racked up 6.5 sacks as well.

Caleb Humphrey and Stagg also return to a defense that could be dangerous throughout the season.

Of course, a highlight of the season will come Sept. 28, when Desert Vista hosts its crosstown rival in the Tukee Bowl.

Last year’s Tukee Bowl saw seniors on both sides scoring all 43 points of a 27-16 Mountain Pointe win.

Rashie Hodge Jr. and Antwaun Woodberry combined for three touchdowns on the ground while Noah Grover found Isaiah Pola-mao through the air for the only passing touchdown of the game.

For Desert Vista, Lelon Dillard found the end zone on the ground and senior kicker Riley Erickson put two field goals and an extra point through the uprights.

Both Ahwatukee teams always provide exciting matchups for the bowl game.

“Everything about it, you have this community two schools in it, the kids know each other,” Hinds said. “It’s just fun to be a part of.”


State championship: With rust gone Grover ready to return to form

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2016 11:35 pm | Updated: 12:03 pm, Wed Nov 23, 2016.

Noah Grover couldn’t be who he wanted be for six weeks.

And then once he returned to being quarterback of Mountain Pointe he wasn’t himself.

The Pride senior made a surprising return from a broken femur after healing quicker than expected to start the state semifinals against Red Mountain.

Then he went out played out of character.

Grover missed open receivers, was indecisive and let the circumstances get to him.

“I was a little rusty,” Grover said. “It was the big game jitters. I got in there and the crowd was super loud and it got to me. I hadn’t been on the field in a long time.

“I started getting comfortable just before halftime. Then (Red Mountain) scored (to tie it at 14) and it put more pressure on us.”

The Pride (13-0) managed to get through it with a 21-14 win with the belief that Grover, who was the steady and consistent leader the offense needed before the injury, will return to his usual self with another week of practice leading up to Saturday’s 6A Conference state title game against Chandler (11-2).

“Clearly, he wasn’t himself,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “He had a full week of practice, but he played differently than he had all year. We knew we wanted to get him in a game before that state championship if we made it that far.

“We think he will be better but that remains to be seen. I know he can do it because he played exactly the way we needed him to do for the first six games.”

Grover was 3 of 8 for 42 yards against Red Mountain so the opportunities weren’t there, but it was clear he was shaky compared to the resume he put together in the first seven starts of his career when he completed 66 percent of his passes, hit receivers in stride and with touch that led to 13 touchdowns and three interceptions in 96 attempts, and averaging 18 yards per completion.

“I know playing in a game and having this week to practice is going to make a difference after getting some of that rust off,” Grover said. “We put in work all season for this. We are going to come and be ready to play Saturday.

“I am ready.”

* Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda


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Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao attempts a diving catch agaisnt Pinnacle.  Photo by Kristin Grover, Special to Tribune

MP’s Pola-Mao named Central Region MVP

Posted: Monday, November 21, 2016 12:25 pm  |   By Jason P. Skoda, Prep Sports Director

The 6A Central Region selected its all region team.

Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao was named MVP for this play at wide receiver and safety.

Desert Vista quarterback Nick Thomas was named Offensive MVP and Desert Vista linebacker Lelon Dillard was named Defensive MVP.

Here is a look at the full team:

6A Conference All-Central Region

MVP: Isaiah Pola-Mao, Mountain Pointe

Offensive MVP: Nick Thomas, Desert Vista

Defensive MVP: Lelon Dillard, Desert Vista



First team

Rashie Hodge Mt. Pointe

Cameron Brice Corona Del Sol

Tyrese Allen Desert Ridge

Second team

Delano Salgado Mountain Pointe

Kohner Cullimore Highland

Gary Bragg Mountain Pointe


First team

Jack Plummer Gilbert

Offensive Line

First team

Eddie Rivas Mountain Pointe

Myles Wilson Desert Vista

Rudy Rauls Mountain Pointe

Uriah Medder Corona Del Sol

Mason Honne Mountain Pointe

Second team

Mckenzie Potterf Desert Vista

Dallin Clement Highland

Matt Fick Corona Del Sol

Nick Omitt Desert Ridge

Ian Baxter Desert Ridge


First team

Keishaud White Desert Vista

David Morales Gilbert

Jake White Desert Vista

Second team

Jared Zimmerman Highland

Dawson Tanner Gilbert

Ricky Pearsall Corona Del Sol


First team

James Stagg Desert Vista

Second team

Garrison Turcotte Gilbert



First team

Antwaun Woodberry Mountain Pointe

Kenny Churchwell Mountain Pointe

Steven Gomez Desert Ridge

Donjae Logan Desert Ridge

Second team

Alijah Gammage Desert Vista

Corvan Otanez Gilbert

Caleb Humphrey Desert Vista

Brad Beaver Desert Ridge

Interior Line

First team

Ashton Dana Highland

Dylan Conner Corona Del Sol

Matthew Pola-Mao Mountain Pointe

Shomari Hayes Mountain Pointe

Second team

Christian Medeiros Desert Ridge

Noah Evan Highland

Garrett Fulton Gilbert

Brett Johnson Desert Vista


First team

Jalen Harris Desert Ridge

Khalif Ravenell Mountain Pointe

Second team

Trey Bussler Corona Del Sol

Dylan Bryan Gilbert


First team

Christian Allen Desert Ridge

Chad Porter Desert Vista

Jacob Clemens Corona Del Sol

Second team

Xaiver Cota Mountain Pointe

Michael Washington Mountain Pointe

Tate Stevens Highland


First team

Riley Erickson Desert Vista

Second team

Tony Decozio Desert Ridge


First team

Kaden Riforgiate Corona Del So

Second team

Austin Mcnamara Highland


First team

Jaydon Brooks Mountain Pointe

Second team

Connor McKernan Gilbert

Long Snapper

First team

Adam Bay Desert Ridge

Second team

Conor Egan Desert Vista

Honorable Mentions

Desert Vista

Tristin Flores, OL

Joe Money, TE

Larry Davis, LB

Nick Lopez, OL

Jared Ostendorp, OL


Sean McCord DB

Braiden Williams DL

Jake Ohara

Hunter Short DB

Jacob Wood LB

Jalen Johnson DB

Tyler Johnson DL

David Fabok DL

Noah Newburgh DB

Danial Castillo WR

Tyler Johnson WR

Jacob Wood RB

Brydon Horne RB

Connor Williams OL

Davis Brown OL

Cody Bartz OL

Jake Kersting QB

Riley Bond OL

Mountain Pointe

Noah Grover Qb

Sky Hinojosa WR

Justice Hudson OL

Alex Vogel OL

Marshawn Gibson DB

Donte Lindsey DB

Jacob Olsen LB

Daniel Pena DT

Dakota Fey P


Garrison Turcotte LB

Tyler Turcotte OL

Garrett Fulton OL

DJ Ruhl DB

Corona Del Sol

Griffin Baker TE

Alex Purcell C

Kaden Riforgiate LB

Jason Staples DE

Brian McCluskey DB

Kobee Marion DB

Desert Ridge

Kylar Day

Khris Broom

Tyler Mcleve

Jason Harris

Connor Goetz

Robert Mancha

Mountain Pointe’s Rashie Hodge cuts inside of the tackle attempt by Desert Ridge’s Stephan Gomez.  By Corey Cross, Special to AFN

On the doorstep: MP ready for seventh semifinal in eight seasons

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2016 11:03 am

Way back in 2009 when Mountain Pointe made the semifinals for the second time in school history it was a huge accomplishment.

It has since become an annual event for the Pride football program.

That doesn’t mean this year’s appearance, the seventh time in eight years, is any less appreciated. It just means Mountain Pointe has a chance to further the program and that this game is never the end goal.

“We have a good thing going,” associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator Eric Lauer said. “We have a coaching staff that gets it done. We have kids that know what it means to play for Mountain Pointe and rise to that level. The foundation is pretty strong because every team leaves something behind and expectations are high.

“The kids know we expect to be right here where we are right now.”

The top-seeded Pride (12-0) takes on No. 13 Red Mountain (8-4) at McClintock on Friday in the 6A Conference semifinals.

This year’s senior class remembers all to well the vision of the last year’s group shuffling toward the team bus parked on the south side of the Desert Vista campus after falling 31-21 to eventual champion Centennial.

Heads were down, helmets were left on to hide the reddened eyes, and hugs with consoling family members seemingly lingered longer than halftime of the Pride’s final game of the 2015 campaign.

The end of a season, especially for seniors wearing the maroon and gold for the last time, is never easy to accept.

“We were crying before it was even over,” Pride senior offensive lineman Justice Hudson said. “We thought we were going back, but it didn’t happen and now we get our chance to make sure it doesn’t happen like that again.”

For most programs a state semifinal berth is seen as widely successful season.

Not at Mountain Pointe.

A loss in the semifinals as the Pride have been dealt after making the title game in 2012 and the championship year of 2013 means they didn’t further the program in their minds. They held serve, met the standard but did not get back to the championship game.

“I was a just a sophomore and I remember thinking I’m never losing that game again,” junior defensive end Khalif Ravenell said. “Here we are back in this game, and I think we’ve positioned ourselves to win it all, honestly, but we have to go out and do it.”

It won’t come easy against the Mountains Lions after putting together a pretty good hot streak.

Red Mountain has won four of five including wins over No. 4 Skyline and No. 5 Brophy in the postseason.

The offense is led by all-purpose junior Lance Lawson, who has played quarterback, running back and slot receiver, as he has totaled 2,260 yards and 28 total (25 scored, 3 thrown) touchdowns.

“He’s special and runs with a purpose,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan. “He is going to be a challenge to stop. He plays a little of everything and they have good quarterback (Austin Duffy). They’re a good team that’s playing well. Anybody in the final four is good.”

The defense, which is lead by senior defensive end Andrew Brown, has 32 sacks, 66 tackles for a loss and 13 interceptions, has the task of slowing the Pride offense, which averages 471.6 yards a game through 11 games, including 317.3 on the ground.

The Pride offense may get senior quarterback Noah Grover back from a broken leg, but sophomore Nick Wallerstedt has done everything that’s been asked of him if Grover has to stay on the sidelines.

No matter who is behind center Mountain Pointe has a chance to make its third state title game in five seasons. Everyone in the program is hoping to adjust Thanksgiving plans around a week of football practice.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Vaughan, who has made the semifinals in 11 of his 12 years of coaching in Arizona. “It is more about the process than it is the result. The process takes the pressure off and the result should be good.

“It’s a game of moments and hopefully you have more moments than the other team.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

– Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow @AhwatukeeFN on Twitter.


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GameNight: Palo-Mao sets record, Pride move on to semifinals

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2016 12:04 am | Updated: 12:37 am, Fri Nov 11, 2016.

Up the road at Sun Devil Stadium, the college team that normally wears maroon and gold chose to dress in black Thursday, a reminder of a season killed, in large part, by injuries at key positions.

Down in Ahwatukee, the high school team that normally wears maroon and gold opted for black, as well.

And Mountain Pointe, like the Arizona State program it models its uniforms after, has been beset by a spate of injuries in 2016 that once threatened to derail the Pride’s potential.

But the way Mountain Pointe has continued to stomp on opponents, regardless of who it’s missing, the mood inside Karl Kiefer Stadium this year has been anything but funereal.

Despite playing without its starting quarterback and leading rusher for the fifth consecutive game, top-seeded Mountain Pointe cruised on its way to staying undefeated, beating No. 8 Desert Ridge 47-21 at home Thursday in the 6A quarterfinals.

Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao had three interceptions on the evening, returning two of them for touchdowns for Mountain Pointe, which advances to the state semifinals for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. The Pride will face No. 13 Red Mountain next Friday at McClintock High.

Mountain Pointe plans to wear its black jerseys throughout its postseason run, Pola-Mao said, in the hope of catching the magic of the 2013 Pride team that went 14-0 on its way to a state championship.

“We remember 2013, when they wore black every playoff game,” Pola-Mao said. “We were like, ‘They made a statement, they got it done. Let’s do the same thing.’”

Pola-Mao nearly single-handedly got it done Thursday for Mountain Pointe. The 6-foot-4 senior picked off Desert Ridge passes on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, taking each back for touchdowns to stake Mountain Pointe to a 27-3 lead.

The interceptions were Pola-Mao’s first since Oct. 7, with his second pick breaking former teammate Jalen Brown’s school record of 16 in a career.

“It had been on my mind every game,” Pola-Mao said.

Pola-Mao added a third interception in the fourth quarter, and fellow defensive back Antwaun Woodberry also recorded a pick-six Thursday, marking Mountain Pointe’s final score of the game.

Pride coach Norris Vaughan said injured quarterback Noah Grover, who is nearing a return after breaking his leg Oct. 7, could be ready next week to retake the starting job from sophomore Nick Wallerstedt, who had an 88-yard touchdown run Thursday.

But Mountain Pointe (12-0) has hardly missed a beat in Grover’s absence, just as it kept churning after losing running back Gary Bragg for the season to a knee injury in September.

“We don’t care (about the injuries),” Vaughan said. “All we care about is to win the tournament, survive and advance. That’s the only thing that matters, no matter how you do it.”

On the other side, Desert Ridge (8-4) is eliminated in the quarterfinals a season after reaching the Division I state championship game in 2015.

“It’s hard because I have four three-year starters as seniors, so to lose them is super tough,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “…We’re not a passing team. When you get out of your element against a team like (Mountain Pointe), it’s tough.

“But there’s not a lot to be ashamed of. We’re a good football team that just didn’t get it at the end. It was a hard year for us all around but the kids gave us a lot of effort, and that’s all you can ask for.”

* Killian is a Tempe-based freelancer.

Box score

Mountain Pointe 47, Desert Ridge 21

DR 3  3  8  7 – 21

MP 7 20 6 14 – 47



MP – Ravenell 17 fumble return (Abercrombie kick), 7:51

DR – Decozio 27 FG, 0:32


MP – Hodge 1 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:41

MP – Pola-Mao 20 INT return (kick failed), 5:57

MP – Pola-Mao 56 INT return (Abercrombie kick), 4:16

DR – Decozio 24 FG, 0:01


MP – Abercrombie 25 FG, 7:43

DR – Logan 54 run (Run good), 7:02

MP – Abercrombie 24 FG, 3:43


MP – Wallerstedt 88 run (Abercrombie kick), 7:32

DR – Winner 9 pass from Purnell (Decozio kick), 3:58

MP – Woodberry 42 INT return (Abercrombie kick), 1:27

Team stats

                               DR                  MP

First downs            14                    6

Rush-yards         31-125           32-270     

Comp-Att-Int      15-40-4            3-4-0

Pass yards            173                 19

Total yards            298                289

Fumbles/lost         1-1                  0-0

Penalties              6-65               9-74

Individual stats


DR – Logan 16-99, Wright 6-17, Brown 4-6, Schmidt 2-11, Fowler 2-(-13), Elliott 1-5. MP – Hodge 16-135, Wallerstedt 8-109, Salgado 6-19, Brooks 2-7.


DR – Fowler 7-21-0-60, Purnell 8-19-1-113. MP – Wallerstedt 3-4-0-19.


DR – Logan 5-38, Harris 3-35, Wright 2-37, Winner 2-30, Simonis 1-16, Broom 1-11, Brown 1-4. MP – Brooks 2-14, Pola-Mao 1-5.


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Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt sneaks around the side and heads for the goal line to score the Pride’s second touchdown.

Wallerstedt developing, Grover healing

Posted: Monday, November 7, 2016 9:51 pm

Arizona doesn’t adhere to the Daylight Savings time change like the rest of the country, but don’t tell Nick Wallerstedt there isn’t something going with the clocks around here.

He went from the new player in the program, to being unable to play for five games, to being backup quarterback to becoming the starting signal caller for an undefeated and top 10 team in the nation.

The hands on the clock were spinning just as fast as he head.

“It felt like it took two seconds,” Wallerstedt said.

Everything certainly happened quickly for the Mountain Pointe sophomore but he said he is starting to feel a comfort level this week against No. 8 Desert Ridge that wasn’t there in his first career start, which happened to come against the Jaguars on Oct. 14.

“It was a little overwhelming, but I was ready to play,” Wallerstedt said of the first game against Desert Ridge, a 27-13 win. “When you have all of these guys around you, you don’t have to do a lot.”

It was clear that the play calling for Wallerstedt, who played mostly in the shotgun at Corona but is now under center at Mountain Pointe, was more conservative and why not with the offensive line and stable of running backs the Pride have to tote the ball.

“They just wanted me to manage the game,” he said. “We have a lot of great players.”

The last few weeks the passing game has opened up a little bit as the 6-foot-3, 180 pounder got more comfortable.

He has increased his passing attempts each week – from four against Desert Ridge to 14 in the season finale against Gilbert to 15 last week against Cesar Chavez – and the results have been solid.

On the year, Wallerstedt has 30 of 51 passes for 548 yards with four touchdowns with five interceptions. He also has rushed for 160 yards with two touchdowns.

“He has really come along,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “At first we wanted him to manage the game, and that’s all was needed, but now he getting more chances to throw the ball.”

Wallerstedt’s time at starting quarterback might come to end soon if the smile on Noah Grover’s face Monday was any indication.

He was put through a battery of tests last week and didn’t have any setbacks. His availability this week at this point is unknown, but should the Pride advance Grover, who broke his leg on Oct. 7, could very well take back the reigns of the offense.

“If I am ready to go and if I’m cleared, you better believe I will be ready play,” Grover said.

Until then Wallerstedt will continue to develop as quickly as he can.

“I’ve developed a lot,” he said. “I know the system better. I had to get used to it with a lot of snaps.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda


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Keishaud White #5 of Desert Vista is guarded by linebacker Rashie Hodge #7 of Mountain Pointe during the second half of the 20th annual Tukee Bowl high school football game between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe at Mountain Pointe High School on Friday, September 30, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. [Billy Hardiman/Special to Tribune]

Playoff preview: Mountain Pointe, Desert Vista prepare for first round of 6A playoffs

Posted: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 9:26 am | Updated: 9:53 am, Wed Nov 2, 2016.

The expiration clock has started on the 2016 football season.

There are no more games guaranteed at this point. The prospect of the end can sometimes play havoc with players, especially seniors, as they try too hard to extend their careers as long as possible.

Or the idea of turning in their helmet and shoulder pads after they clear out their lockers can inspire them to play at an even higher level to savor every moment because for many, it is the last time they will play the game.

Whatever effect the sudden-death aspect of the playoffs might have on area teams is about to play out, starting with Friday’s kickoffs.

Top-seeded Mountain Pointe (10-0) hosts No. 16 Cesar Chavez (6-4) while No. 10 Desert Vista (6-4) travels to No. 7 Mountain View (7-3).

Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe are on opposite sides of the bracket, so the 21st Ahwatukee Bowl can only happen if both teams make the state title game on Nov. 26 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Before any of that can happen, the first week of the postseason awaits.

The top game in all of 6A Conference just might be Desert Vista at Mountain View.

Both teams come in hot with four-game streaks intact and confidence as high has it has been all year long.

Thunder learn from mistakes

The Toros, who are coached by Ohio transplant Mike Fell, opened the year 3-0, then lost three when some injuries along the line took its toll.

They finished with four straight wins, including a 42-35 win over Red Mountain to get it all started right after what was the low point of the season—a 30-0 loss to Skyline to open East Valley Region play.

The Thunder also lost to Skyline in a much closer game, 27-21, when it had a chance to win at the last second, but a fumble inside the Skyline 10-yard line ended comeback hopes.

It’s the kind of mistakes Desert Vista made early in the year, but has cleaned up down the stretch.

“Early in the years we were beating ourselves, shooting ourselves in the foot, against the good teams,” Desert Vista quarterback Nick Thomas said. “We started practicing better and pay more attention to details, and it all came together.”

Thunder coach Dan Hinds, who is in 12th playoff in 15 years of coaching the program, feels confident the team will be ready for the Toros.

“These guys believe in each other and that’s just important as the game plan,” said Hinds, who has led the programs to two state title appearances (2007 and 2011) and one title.

“We’ve preached brotherhood since we left for team camp, and it really paid off when this team could have been down and out,” Hinds added. “Instead, they stuck together and fought through some to get to this point.”

The teams have met seven times since 2004 with the Toros holding a 4-3 advantage, but the Thunder have won three in a row including last year’s 61-43 victory.

Pride has big advantage

The Mountain Pointe and Chavez series is a little more one-sided.

The Pride are 4-0 against Chavez since 2004 with the last meeting coming in 2014, a 48-6 win for the Pride at Chavez.

Chavez finished No. 19 in the power rankings but earned the 16th and final spot as the Metro Region champion.

“They have some really good players,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “They have a really big running. He’s the size of NFL back. If he gets a head of steam, he is tough to bring down.”

Mike Rogers is listed at 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds. The preeminent big back in the NFL is LaGarrett Blount and he is 6-foot and 250.

Rogers has rushed for 1,855 yards with 22 touchdowns with 1,510 yards, and 20 of those scores came in the final six weeks against other Metro Region opponents.

But he’ll be up against one of the best defenses in the state.

Mountain Pointe has three shutouts this season, and two other games where the opposition has scored a touchdown or less. For the season, opponents have scored an average of 11.1 points a game with some of that coming against subs.

While the identity of the offense has changed since injuries took away top running back Gary Bragg and quarterback Noah Grover, the defense has accepted the challenge of having the outcome dictated by its level of play.

“The coaches told us it was up to us to get the job done,” junior safety Kenny Churchwell. “We have to stop them, and get the ball back to the offense and we to score when we get a turnover.”

The offense opened up in the season-finale win over Gilbert as sophomore quarterback Nick Wallerstedt had his best game of his three starts.

Mountain Pointe senior Rashie Hodge Jr., who has averaged 122.2 yards a game over the second half of the season, continues to break off big runs and grind out games.

Wallerstedt was 10 of 15 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had four rushes for 78 yards, including a 37-yard score in the fourth quarter against Gilbert.

“He’s getting more comfortable and we opened it up for him,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “There are going to be some drives and games where we are going to need him to make plays and he has shown he can do it.”

The Pride have been the consensus No. 1 ever since topping No. 2 Chandler in September. After finishing with its fourth undefeated season, making the semifinals for seventh time in eight years won’t be enough.

A championship has been the goal from the start and continues to be the big-picture goal while the team focuses on each week of the four-game playoff journey individually.

“It’s going to be tough, but they’ve showed up and played every week,” Vaughan said prior to the Gilbert game. “We feel like if we play our best game then it is going to be hard to beat us, but penalties and turnovers change a game.

“As long as we limit some of that stuff we will be in a position to win the game at the end.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

– Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow @AhwatukeeFN on Twitter.


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Head Coach Norris Vaughan is focused on bringing Mountain Pointe High School its second Arizona state football championship. (Photo by Ben Halverson/Cronkite News)

Mountain Pointe football coach Vaughan turned Pride into powerhouse

BY BEN HALVERSON/CRONKITE NEWS | October 14, 2016 @ 3:16 pm

PHOENIX – In 2008, Mountain Pointe High’s football team finished with a 2-8 record and wasn’t even regarded as the best program in Ahwatukee, much less Arizona.

A year later, the school hired Norris Vaughan as head coach and the Pride flipped their fortunes, finishing with a 12-1 record and advancing to the the state semifinals.

Vaughan has continued to build on that quick turnaround, transforming Mountain Pointe into a perennial playoff contender.

The Pride, after a 7-0 start, sit atop the Class 6A rankings this season as they prepare to take on second-ranked Desert Ridge High in Mesa Friday night.

Since Vaughan took over, Mountain Pointe has an 82-15 record, reaching the state playoffs every season and creating a culture of winning at the school that has stirred support throughout the community.

From flags to stickers to school colors, it’s hard to go a Friday night in Ahwatukee without seeing the signs of support for Mountain Pointe football.

Vaughan and the Pride delivered the school’s first state championship in 2013, finishing that season 14-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation by MaxPreps. Vaughan was named Arizona coach of the year by several publications and the Arizona High School Coaches Association that year.

Though the results are hard to ignore – Vaughan’s teams have reached at least the state semifinals in all but one season – Vaughan said he immerses his coaching staff and his players in the process of building a great football program first.

“I’m concerned about results but I don’t concern myself with results as much as I do the process,” Vaughan said.

“I let (the players) lead. We want them to grow and become successful people as much as, or more than, successful players. We try to develop their character, class, courage, and it all starts with commitment. Through practice you develop confidence and if you do all those things, that equals champions. That’s our philosophy.”

Assistant coach Eric Lauer, who is in his 12th season on the Pride’s coaching staff and eighth under Vaughan, said he saw an obvious change in the culture when Vaughan took over the program.

“Attitude is a choice, attitude is huge,” Lauer said. “That’s the thing that probably changed here first. They were tired of losing and when (Vaughan) came in, (the players) said ‘what do you want us to do, coach? Because what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working.’

“It turned things around right away.”

Vaughan said the players have bought into his philosophy, and he credits their change in attitude for making the program dominant.

Senior quarterback Noah Grover, who recently was lost for the remainder of the season because of a fractured femur, said that, under Vaughan, there’s a sense of pride when players take the field to represent Mountain Pointe football.

“It means a lot,” Grover said. “The atmosphere around here, and the guys in the locker room, it’s amazing.”

Mountain Pointe running back Rashie Hodge Jr. avoids a Corona del Sol defender on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.  (Photo: Jim Bochenek/Varsity Views)

Mountain Pointe beats Corona del Sol to stay unbeaten

Cory Kamerschak, Special for azcentral sports11:35 p.m. MST October 21, 2016

Phoenix Mountain Pointe’s defense stepped up in a big way to help keep its team undefeated as it knocked off Tempe Corona del Sol 38-0 Friday night.

The defense accounted for 21 of the team’s 38 points and Mountain Pointe head coach Norris Vaughan was impressed, saying they were tremendous. The defense picked the right time for a dominating performance because the team is playing with a backup quarterback after starter Noah Grover broke his leg in the game against Gilbert Highland earlier this month.

“We have a young quarterback and he made a big play there at the end, but he’s got some growing to do,” Vaughan said. “He’s gonna be fine, I think. Get a few more games under his belt, and we’ll be ready to rock.”

Mountain Pointe (9-0) sophomore quarterback Nick Wallerstedt went 4 of 10 for 119 yards. That number is slightly inflated because the passing game was almost non-existent until Wallerstedt completed a 70-yard pass to Rashie Hodge Jr. in the fourth quarter. Hodge also scored a touchdown on a 10-yard run in the first quarter then recovered a stripped ball and ran it into the end zone in the third quarter.

One of the defensive standouts from the game was Mountain Pointe senior linebacker Xaiver Cota. Early in the second quarter, Cota had an interception, and later in the quarter, he blocked a Corona punt, recovered it and ran the ball into the end zone, taking two defenders with him.

“My D-line helped me get vision on the quarterback and helped me do my job,” Cota said. “Allowed me to get plays at the right time.”

Corona del Sol (4-5) starting quarterback Austin Helt was held in check all night as the Mountain Pointe defense only allowed him to complete 3 of 9 passes for 4 yards and two interceptions. In the fourth quarter, Corona brought in backup quarterback Tim Martin and he went 2 of 2 for 3 yards.

Running back Cameron Brice was also bottled up for the most part, gaining 69 yards on 21 attempts. Mountain Pointe’s defense held Brice to five yards or fewer on 16 carries with eight for no gain or a loss.

Although the score was lopsided, Corona del Sol coach Rich Mettlach felt that there were still some positives his team could take away from the loss.

“I thought defensively we played very well,” Mettlach said. “Realistically, it probably could have been, should have been 10 to nothing at halftime. Otherwise, I thought we played pretty well.”

Les Willsey
Staff Writer,





It was Rashie Hodge’s night on Friday to carry a heavy load for top-ranked and unbeaten Mountain Pointe and the senior linebacker-running back was up to the challenge.

Hodge carried 23 times for 203 yards (unofficially) and scored all four of the Pride’s touchdowns in a 27-13 triumph over Desert Ridge in the 6A matchup of the week in the Valley.

Mountain Pointe (8-0 overall, 3-0 region) essentially wrapped up the Central Region title with the victory. It prevailled thanks to a dominating first period that saw the Pride outscore Desert Ridge 20-0 the first 12 minutes. Three of Hodge’s four TDs were tallied in the opening period. Mountain Pointe ran the ball exclusiively in the opening quarter and rushed for 152 yards on scoring drives of 56, 70 and 32 yards.

Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan decided to distribute more carries to Hodge in the wake of losing leading rusher Gary Bragg a couple weeks ago. Until Friday night it was backfield by committee among Anthony Stephens, Hodge, Antwaun Woodberry and Delano Salgado. Hodge doubled the carries of the any of the others and posted a consistent effort across all four quarters.

The outcome figured to hinge on the better rushing attack and Mountain Pointe demonstrated its superiority most of the night and particulalrly the first half. The Pride outrushed Desert Ridge 205-42 in the first half. They also converted the only turnover of the opening half — a Kenny Churchwell interception — into a touchdown. The pick halted Desert Ridge’s march into Mountain Pointe territory and instead turned a 7-0 lead to a 13-0 advantage midway through the quarter.

Hodge’s TD’s were in the first period were on runs of 24-, 3-and 11 yards — the latter with 2:07 left in the period. Meanwhile Desert Ridge’s 1,000-yard rusher Tyrese Allen was bottled up to the tune of 23 yards on eight rushes the first half. Allen churned for bigger chunks iof yards in the second half. He finished with 87 yards in 23 attempts.

Desert Ridge trailed 20-3 at the half and pulled within 20-6 after Antonio Decozio’s second field goal (39 yards and 26 yards). But Mountain Pointe spoiled any chance of a comeback marching 68 yards to open the final period, capped by Hodge’s 4-yeard TD run. with 8:46 to play.

Desert Ridge scored its lone TD on a 14-yard pass from CJ Fowler to Jalen Harris with 34 seconds left  Before that drive Desert Ridge was 3-of-21 passing for 3 yards. Fowler, who played most of the second half at quarterback in relief of freshman Matt Purnell, completed  6-of-6 passes for 80 yards on the scoring drive.