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

Mountain Pointe cruises by Highland into Semis - Mountain Pointe’s Marshawn Gibson, #7, grabs what would have been a... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe stomps Cibola - Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, reaches out to catch the ball... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe again enters playoffs as top seed - Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst/AFN Contributor Mountain Pointe again enters... [ read more ]

Arizona high school football championship brackets - Jakim McKinney rushes againt Desert Ridge in the fourth quarter on... [ read more ]

2018 Top Arizona Football Recruits - Pride players in 247 Sports top Arizona recruits. 2018 Top Arizona... [ read more ]

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 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.

 

Congratulations Shomari Hayes for being invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl.  Pictured with Coach Norris Vaughan.

Congratulations Kenny Churchwell for being invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl.  Pictured with Coach Norris Vaughan.

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

By  YurView – 

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.

Hot Streaks

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.

 

Desert Ridge takes on Mountain Pointe on Yurview Arizona and streaming live on Yurview.com at 7:00pm MST on Thursday October 12th.

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 Delano Salgado (3) breaks past Desert Vista’s Jacob Schamante (14) in the first half at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. on Sept 28, 2017. Patrick Breen/The Republic

Thunder, Pride resume regional play this Friday

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

A week after the Pride hung on to the Tukee Bowl for another year, both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high school football teams return to Friday night games as they resume regional play.

Mountain Pointe (5-1 on the season, 1-0 in regional play) will host Highland (5-1, 1-0), which is coming off its first loss of the season against No. 1-ranked Perry. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

The Hawks drew a bye this past week, meaning they have had almost two weeks to prepare for a Mountain Pointe team that sits at the No. 3 spot in the AZpreps365 power rankings, as of Monday.

Highland is led by first-year coach Brock Farrel, who has instilled a powerful running game and an even stronger defense in his team.

Before the matchup with Perry, where they fell 56-6, the Hawks hadn’t allowed more than 22 points in any game. After dealing with Brock Purdy and a high potent passing offense, the Hawks will now have the challenge of containing Mountain Pointe running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney.

The Pride pair has been almost unstoppable all season and head coach Norris Vaughan has proved his team’s ability to run the football, even after it appears to be stagnant for part of the game. Bragg has reached double-digit carries in every game this season and McKinney has done the same in every game but two.

The key to this game for the Pride will be the battle at the line of scrimmage. If the big offensive line of Mountain Pointe can provide the holes and running lanes that it has all season for McKinney and Bragg, look for the pair to have a big game at home Friday night.

But Mountain Pointe could run into a tough run defense from Highland, led by senior Tate Stevens, who has racked up a team-high 52 tackles this season. As a team, the Hawks have only allowed 200-plus rushing yards twice this season.

One of those games involved the loss to Perry, whose defense Purdy punished for 260 yards through the air and 120 on the ground.

If the Hawks bottle up the running back tandem of Bragg and McKinney, look for quarterback Nick Wallerstedt to have a big impact. He’s been effective with his feet this season, scrambling for 359 yards and four touchdowns.

The successful running game has opened opportunities for play action passes and quarterback draws for the junior, who at times has provided big plays in crucial moments.

Even if the Hawks can limit scoring opportunities for the Pride, they will have a tough time scoring against a defense that has allowed only 116 points all season.

The Pinnacle offense, led by Oklahoma commit Spencer Rattler who threw for 302 yards against the Pride, scored 34 points, the highest total Mountain Pointe has allowed all season.

A strong defensive line, led by Shomari Hayes (5.5 sacks) and Kenneth Lofton (6.5 sacks), has wreaked havoc in backfields all season long and will have the challenge of stopping Highland running backs, Jacob Wood and Kohner Cullimore. The two have combined for 625 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Since Highland presents a strong running attack look for the Pride to stack the line of scrimmage Friday night and force Highland quarterback Kaleb Herbert to beat them through the air.

After throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Westview in a 45-16 rout, the 5-foot-11 junior has a total off 444 passing yards and two passing touchdowns on the season. Herbert will have a tough challenge, throwing into a secondary that has picked off at least one pass in every game this season and has deflected 45 more.

Desert Vista vs. Gilbert

The Thunder will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the Gilbert Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Desert Vista High School.

The Tigers (3-3) are coming off a loss to Desert Ridge in a game where the two teams combined for 115 points.

So far, the Tigers have been led by Plummer on the offensive side of the ball. He has thrown for 1,652 yards and 21 touchdowns while only being picked off only four times. All four interceptions have come in the past two games, against strong secondaries in Desert Ridge and Red Mountain.  

The 6-foot-5 quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five receivers have over 200 yards this season and a sixth has 175 yards through six games.

Through those six games, though, senior wide receiver Dawson Tanner has been his favorite target, catching 24 passes for 467 yards and seven touchdowns. Corvan Otanez has been big for Plummer as well, using his 6-foot-3 frame to catch five touchdown passes this season.

While the Tigers have had success through the air, teams have beat them when they have pressured Plummer. In Gilbert’s 41-28 loss to Red Mountain, the Mountain Lions sacked Gilbert nine times, and forced him to throw two interceptions. Plummer still threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns, but had a completion rate of 46 percent.

With defensive standouts Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey, look for the Thunder to put pressure on Plummer and try to force him into a couple of mistakes early.

The Desert Vista defense has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season, tallying 11 sacks and 23 tackles for loss this season. They also have forced quarterbacks into throwing five interceptions this season.

Offensively, quarterback Derek Kline has been a stud for the Thunder in 2017, passing for 1,153 yards and 12 touchdowns and adding 216 yards on the ground. He and his offensive line will face off with a Gilbert defense that has picked off six passes and tallied 13 sacks through six games.

The Tigers are led by strong safety Tyler Laganke and Otanez, who have 71 and 60 tackles a piece. Laganke has found his way into the backfield on multiple occasions, racking up four sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

Look for the Thunder to bring a balanced attack as it did against Mountain Pointe.

     

    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.