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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.”



Churchwell Ready To Be A Leader On “Angry” Pride

The Mountain Pointe Pride are known for their punishing defense, and they were among the best in 2016 with Isaiah Pola-Mao leading the way. Pola-Mao is now at USC, but the other Pride safety from that defense, Kenny Churchwell, is hoping to pick up where the MP defense left off.

“(Pola-Mao) helped me as a player and a coach,” Churchwell said. “He helped me change my attitude because I was hot-headed.  I can’t lie – I was hot-headed. I turned into a calm, patient, ready to hit somebody…take all my energy off that. He taught me a lot, and I’m ready to show it to the next person at Mountain Pointe.” 

Churchwell said his chemistry with Pola-Mao made it so they always knew where the other one was on the field without having to say a word. It was a special bond, and he sees something similar being formed with senior defensive back/slot receiver Delano Salgado.

Churchwell is also channelling former Mountain Pointe running back/linebacker Rashie Hodge Jr. as a leader and sees a strong senior group ready to lead the Pride.

“I’m trying to be the best, one of the best, to ever come out of Mountain Pointe,” Churchwell said. “It’s not just me as a leader, we have Delano Salgado, we’ve got (quarterback) Nick Wallerstedt,..We have a lot of people and a lot of weapons. We are ready for the season.”

Recruiting-wise, the Mountain Pointe safety holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Utah, Washington State,  Wyoming, Boise State, Colorado State and Hawaii.

The Pride are hungrier than ever after making an appearance in the 6A state championship game last year but falling to the Chandler Wolves. The group is laser-focused and return plenty of aforementioned talent as well as running back Gary Bragg, who’s season ended after an ACL injury five games into the season. 

“We changed mentally and physically. We’re tired of getting second place, we’re tired of getting close to the championship and not winning it,” Churchwell said.  “We’re angry. We’re ready to play. We’re all tired, and we’re going to step up as leaders – me, Nick, Delano, (defensive back Marshawn Gibson). We’re going to step up as a team, and we’re going to win. I promise.”

Mountain Pointe begins their 2017 season on Friday at Sandra Day O’Connor. 

Pride Without Another Star?

azcentral’s Richard Obert reported that the Pride will be without Isaiah’s younger brother, junior defensive tackle Matthew Pola-Mao after an “undisclosed injury.” Pola-Mao had 52 tackles and six tackles for loss last year as a sophomore and led a dominant defensive line with Shomari Hayes.

Under the tutelage of Head Coach Norris Vaughan, 30 Mountain Pointe football players have signed with Division One schools over the past eight years.



Alex Lewis  –  Nebraska
Ben Demarr   –  Air Force
Davon Jones   –  Mississippi Valley State


Izzy Marshall  –   Arizona State
Jose Romero   –  Arizona
JR Plote   –  South Dakota State


RJ Hollis  –  Hawaii


Kenny Lacy  –  UCLA
Tre Campbell  –  Georgia State
Landry Payne  –  Oregon State
Thair Blakes  –  UAB


Jalen Brown  –  Oregon/Northwestern
Wesley Payne  –  Oregon State
Timmy Hernandez  –  Oregon State
Markell Simmons  –  TCU
Natrell Curtis  –  UAB
Dominique Fenstermacher  –  UNLV
Mitchell Fraboni  –  ASU
Emmanuel Butler  –  NAU
Deontay Townsend  –  Sam Houston State
Xavier Cochrane  –  Colorado


Nick Carman  –  Utah
Davis Perrott  –  Washington State
Paul Lucas  –  Oregon State
Brandyn Leonard  –  New Mexico State


Jack Smith  –  Arizona State


Isaiah Pola-Mao  –  USC
Eddie Rivas  –  NAU
Jaydon Brooks  –  Navy
Rashie Hodge  –  South Dakota State

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 holds off Red Mountain for 6A title game berth

Jake Rill, Special for azcentral sports10:35 p.m. MST November 18, 2016

Senior wide receiver Jaydon Brooks is the emergency quarterback for Phoenix Mountain Pointe. On Friday night, there was an emergency.

It wasn’t because of an injury, but rather offensive inefficiency. Top-seeded Mountain Pointe was tied with No. 13-seeded Mesa Red Mountain late at Tempe McClintock High. And worse yet, it hadn’t scored since early in the second quarter – which was a defensive touchdown.

Brooks came to the rescue.

With 6 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the 6A Conference semifinal, Brooks received an end-around handoff, then threw a go-ahead, 59-yard touchdown bomb to senior receiver Isaiah Pola-Mao, lifting Mountain Pointe to a 21-14 win and pushing his team into next Saturday’s state championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I was looking at him, I was like, ‘Wow, he’s wide open, there’s no one there. I can’t mess this up,’ ” Brooks said. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

RELATED: Updated high school football playoff schedule

And he did exactly what he needed to.

While Red Mountain (8-5) scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to tie the game, Mountain Pointe (13-0) struggled on offense. It punted on its first three possessions in the second half, picking up only a pair of first downs.

But on the second play of a 74-yard drive, it all changed. Brooks’ pass spiraled through the air toward the right sideline, looking much more like a quarterback’s throw than a wide receiver’s. All Pola-Mao had to do was catch the pass in stride, running it in for the easy go-ahead score.

“To be honest, couldn’t have been any better timing from our coaches,” Brooks said. “I’m just glad they had the faith in me to get it down there to Isaiah to make him do his thing.”

Red Mountain opened the second half with touchdowns on two consecutive drives. Junior quarterback Austin Duffy threw a 25-yard touchdown to junior fullback Mack Klafter, then a tying 33-yard score to senior receiver Josh Daniels. Duffy had completed just one pass in the first half.

Mountain Pointe had lost momentum, while Red Mountain seemingly was gaining steam toward perhaps another improbable victory.

MORE: Complete high school football playoffs coverage

“We couldn’t catch a ball; we couldn’t throw a ball,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “It was one of those nights where we couldn’t do anything right.”

Yet, it will be Vaughan’s team in the state final against Chandler High next Saturday.

When Vaughan addressed his team after the game, he pointed at his squad being able to make a big play. There were a few even before the go-ahead touchdown.

Junior running back Delano Salgado broke off a 68-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, finishing with 167 yards on 12 carries. In the second quarter, senior linebacker Rashie Hodge Jr. returned a fumble 39 yards for a score.

Because of that trio of big scoring plays, Mountain Pointe has a chance at a second undefeated season in four years next weekend.

“Our kids played hard, and we just made some adjustments,” Vaughan said. “And they did a good job there in the end on defense.”

Mountain Pointe’s Isaiah Pola-Mao pulls down an interception intended for Red Mountain’s Dominic Pereira in second quarter play. By Cheryl Haselhorst, Staff photographer

GameNight: Mountain Pointe has scare, but heads back to title game

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2016 11:15 pm | Updated: 11:45 pm, Fri Nov 18, 2016.

Jaydon Brooks has been Mountain Pointe’s emergency quarterback the last couple of the years.

An emergency cropped up Friday.

While he technically didn’t come in at quarterback, the Pride offense was in dire need of rescue as top-seeded and heavily favored Mountain Pointe was deadlocked in a tie in the fourth quarter of the 6A Conference against No. 13 Red Mountain.

Brooks, a wide receiver by trade, took a handoff on a reverse, pulled up on the right side and hit a streaking Isaiah Pola-Mao for a 59-yard touchdown with 6:55 left in the game for a 21-14 win.

“I don’t know if I’d call it an emergency, but we needed something big happen,” Brooks said. “I have never completed that pass, and when I saw Isaiah that open I knew I had to get it to him somehow.”

The ball – according to Pola-Mao – seemed to be in the air forever, but he caught to give the Pride (13-0) the margin of victory back in order to return to the state championship game for the third time.

“It was a great call by the coaches,” Pola-Mao said. “They noticed the (Red Mountain) corners were crashing line of scrimmage. When you are that open you can over think it, but there was no way I was going to drop that one.”

The win gives the Pride a chance to win its second state title in four seasons when they play No. 2 Chandler (11-2) on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“It don’t even know what to say about it,” Brooks said. “It’s not real yet.”

And it almost didn’t happen thanks to a valiant effort by Red Mountain (8-5).

The Mountain Lions trailed 14-0 at halftime, but went into the intermission on a high after the Pride failed to score in the final moments of the second quarter despite getting down to the Red Mountain 3-yard line.

A false start, a dropped pass by Brooks on a difficult catch in the end zone and then a missed 19-yard field kept it at 14-0 at the half.

Red Mountain scored on its first two possessions of the second half as Austin Duffy started to heat up in completing a 25-yard score to a wide open Mack Klafter and a 33-yard acrobatic catch Josh Daniels with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

While the Mountain Lions will always remembering pushing a team ranked in the top 10 nationally to the brink, what will hurt was the missed opportunity to take the lead.

Duffy connected with Daniels again, this time for 43 yards, plus a personal foul on Mountain Pointe’s Pola-Mao for unnecessary roughness, to put the ball to the Pride 6.

The Pride defense stepped up – especially when running back Lance Lawson pulled up to throw a pass and no one was open he was tackled for a loss.

It led to an eventual 32-yard field by that was no good. Wide left.

“We had to get points on that third trip down there,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisneiwski said. “It’s easy to look at plays after they don’t work, but we thought what we had was the right play in that moment. We still had a chance there and didn’t get anything out of it. It’s a different game if we take the lead there, but we didn’t.”

Two drives later, Brooks found Pola-Mao for the go-ahead score and then the Mountain Pointe defense, including a tipped ball by linebacker Rashie Hodge on the second-to-last drive and a sniffing out of a screen play on fourth down on Red Mountain’s final drive, closed out the game.

“We did some uncharacteristic things, missed wide open receivers, dropped touchdowns and missed kicks,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “Give Red Mountain credit it, they played hard. We won and advanced and that’s all that matters.”

It was the first time all year Mountain Pointe didn’t have a lead to start the fourth quarter and just the second time all year an opponent had a chance to tie the game in the final 12 minutes.

“We needed something like this,” said junior running back Delano Salgado, who had 166 yards rushing including a 68-yard touchdown in the first quarter. “We know a team can play with us and push us. We really haven’t had that situation and we were able to respond.”

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

Box score

Mountain Pointe 21, Red Mountain 14

RM   0   0   14   0–14

MP  7    7    0    7–21



MP-Salgado 68 run (Abercrombie kick), 2:15


MP- Hodge 34 fumble return (Abercrombie kick)m 10:34


RM – Klafter 25 pass from Duffy (Huffman kick)

RM – Daniels 33 pass from Duffy (Huffman kick), 5:37


MP – Pola-Mao 59 pass from Brooks (Abercrombie kick), 6:55

Team stats

                  RM                 MP

First downs   11                 14

Rush-yards    32-159          29-262

Comp-Att-INT 6-17-0         4-10-0

Pass yards      129              97

Total yards      288             359

Fumbles/lost   2/2             3/1

Penalties        6-33            4-30

Individual stats


RM – Lawson 22-104, Romero 3-7, Duffy 4-26, Rappoport 1-2, Moore 2-20. MP – Hodge 10-46, Salgado 12-166, Woodbury 1-5, Stephens 3-25, Wallerstedt 3-20.


RM – Duffy 6-16-0-98, Lawson 1-1-0-(-)1. MP – Grover 3-9-0-35, Brooks 1-1-0-59.


RM – Daniels 3-87, Klafter 1-25, Pereira 2-3, Moore 1-14. MP – Pola-Mao 1-59, Brooks 1-23, Hodge 1-15. 

Missed FG

RM -Huffman 39, 32. MP – Abercrombie 19.


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Mountain Pointe’s Jaydon Brooks breaks free of attempted tackles by Cesar Chavez’s Tavion Allen (3) and Corey Brown (10) before scooting across the goal line for a third quarter touchdown.  By Cheryl Haselhorst, Staff photographer

GameNight: Pride moves 11-0 with win over No. 16 Chavez

Posted: Friday, November 4, 2016 10:27 pm

Mountain Pointe football continued its campaign for a perfect season on Friday night with a 52-14 win over Cesar Chavez in Ahwatukee.

The Pride offense couldn’t be contained, as the unit torched the Champions for 255 yards rushing. But for head coach Norris Vaughn, success in the pro style offense is nothing new.

“The other teams could dominate like that if they wanted to run it,”he said. “We just do what we’ve got to do, and right now, that’s what is working for us. We wanted to go out there and pound it and end the game early, and we did. Rashie (Hodge) is a good player, and he can run with it, and he did tonight.”

Hodge carried the ball 12 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 46-yard receiving touchdown in the second quarter.

Mountain Pointe’s defense, meanwhile, was nearly perfect tonight, holding the Champions to just 73 yards of offense in the first half, and 165 yards for the game.

“They have two really talented guys, Rogers and Allen, and we covered them well. I was upset we had a punt blocked, but we played really well,” he said.

Cesar Chavez scored on the blocked punt, and would score its other touchdown two minutes later. However, the Pride defense didn’t give a up a play for more than 30 yards in the game, even with their starters on the bench for most of the second half.

“(The second team) came in and did a good job. They’re a little green and had to play something they’re not used to because they’re JV guys, but they held them.”

They were able to force three turnovers in the second half, including a fumble recovered by Shomari Hayes near the end of the third quarter.

“I saw an opportunity and I took advantage of it. Coach told us if we stay focused and do our jobs, we’d get those opportunities,” Hayes said.

Top-seeded Mountain Pointe will have another opportunity to extend its perfect season on Thursday when they host No. 8 Desert Ridge in the quarterfinals.

* Argeros is a Ahwatukee-based freelancer.

Box score

Mountain Pointe 52, Cesar Chavez 14

CC 00 14 0 0 – 14

MP 14 28 7 3 – 52



MP – Salgado 30 run (Abercrombie kick) 7:40

MP – Wallerstedt 23 run (Abercrombie kick) 0:29


MP – Hodge 2 run (Abercrombie kick) 8:36

MP – Hodge 5 run (Abercrombie kick) 4:13

MP – Cota 28 fumble recovery (Abercrombie kick) 4:05

CC – Thomas 15 punt block (Ritchie kick) 2:06

MP – Hodge 46 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick) 1:39

CC – Rogers 9 pass from Russell (Ritchie kick) 0:06


MP – Brooks 30 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick) 0:57


MP – Abercrombie 33 Field Goal, 3:06

Team stats

                       CC           MP

First downs      11          17

Rush-yards     31-98    43-255

Comp-Att-Int 5-16-1     8-14-2

Pass yards       67          143

Total yards      165         398

Fumbles/lost    6-2        1-0

Penalties/yards 8-71     10-95

Individual stats


CC – Thomas 1-5, Allen 2-2, Russell 15-19, Ritchie 1-6, Rogers 11-66, Skaff 1-0. MP – Hodge 12-65, Salgado 10-64, Brooks 1-(-2), Wallerstedt 3-8, Stephens 13-37, Woodberry 1-48, McKinney 3-35.


CC – Russell 5-15-2-67, Rogers 0-1-0-0. MP – Wallerstedt 8-14-2-143.


CC – Allen 3-45, Rogers 1-9, Crain 1-13. MP – Hodge 2-68, Pola-Mao 1-10, Brooks 3-52, Churchwell 1-7, Hinojosa 1-6.

Missed FG

MP – Abercrombie (45).


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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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GameNight: Mountain Pointe’s Brooks leads the way in blowout of Gilbert

Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2016 12:35 am | Updated: 12:43 am, Sat Oct 29, 2016.

The Mountain Pointe Pride took home the victory Friday night after a decisive 56-16 win over the Gilbert Tigers.

It was Mountain Pointe’s 10th consecutive win for a perfect regular season record. It was also head coach Norris Vaughan’s fourth undefeated season in eight seasons at Mountain Pointe, and his seventh undefeated season in his 12 years of coaching in Arizona.

 “We work really, really hard and our kids play hard,” Vaughan said. “We work hard, we play hard and hope things come out all right.”

The Pride got things rolling early in the first quarter when senior wide receiver Jaydon Brooks took a Gilbert punt 70 yards for the score.

“Jaydon had a great game, he had two punt returns for touchdowns” Vaughan said. “He caught several passes, he’s a super player.”

The Tigers scored on the ensuing drive with a 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3. Mountain Pointe junior wide receiver Delano Salgado answered back with a 6-yard plunge into the end zone with 4:54 remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter senior running back Rashie Hodge Jr. found the end zone on two separate occasions. He ran 57 yards for one score and sophomore quarterback Nick Wallerstedt connected with him on a 39-yard pass for another.

“Hodge had a great game, he caught a couple big plays,” Vaughan said. “Our quarterback was big tonight as well. I thought we played really well, but we had a few errors here and there.”

The Pride’s defense stymied the Tigers with a scoreless second quarter. They totaled seven sacks on the night, while Gilbert’s junior quarterback Jack Plummer went 23-45 for 294 yards and a touchdown.

“We played pretty well on defense,” Vaughan said. “Their quarterback is pretty special; he played well, did a lot of things and caused a lot of problems.”

The Tigers opened up the second half with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Plummer to junior wide receiver Dawson Tanner, but Mountain Pointe moved down the field and scored off a Salgado 5-yard run to push the lead back to 26.

In the fourth quarter Brooks put the nail in the coffin with a 65-yard punt return, his second of the night, and Wallerstedt added a 37-yard run to put the Pride up 56-16 over the Tigers.

“I thought our quarterback played really well,” Vaughan said. “We thought he had a big game running and throwing.”

Mountain Pointe finishes the regular season 10-0 (5-0), while Gilbert falls to 1-9 (0-5). The Pride will find out where they’re seeded Saturday, Oct. 29, when the AIA reveals the playoff brackets for 6A and the other divisions around Arizona.

Box Score

Mountain Pointe 56, Gilbert 16

MP 14 21 7 14

GHS 9 0 7 0


MP – Brooks 70 kick return (Abercrombie kick), 9:51

GHS – Carlson 35 FG, 6:28

MP – Salgado 6 run (Abercrombie kick), 4:54

GHS – Tanner 2 run (Carlson kick blocked), 1:46


MP – Hodge Jr. 57 run (Abercrombie kick), 11:14

MP – Hodge Jr. 39 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 4:55

MP – Brooks 23 pass from Wallerstedt (Abercrombie kick), 1:01


GHS – Tanner 10 pass from Plummer (Carlson kick), 9:59

MP – Salgado 5 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:53


MP – Brooks 65 kick return (Abercrombie kick), 9:13

MP – Wallerstedt 37 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:32

Team Stats


Rush-Yards-TD: 32-260-4

Att-Comp-TD-INT: 10-15-2-2

Pass Yards: 180

Total Yards: 440


Rush-Yards-TD: 18-67-1

Att-Comp-TD: 23-45-1

Pass Yards: 294

Total Yards: 361

Individual Stats


MP – Wallerstedt 10-15-180, 2 TDs, 2 INT

GHS – Plummer 23-45-294, TD


MP – Hodge Jr. 6-74, TD, Salgado 8-49, 2 TDs, Brooks 3-0, Wallerstedt 4-78, TD, Stephens 11-59

GHS – Middleton 3-16, Hardy 2-1, Plummer 6-16, Tanner 3-13, TD, Laganke 1-10, Luton 2-0


MP – Brooks 7-100, TD, Hodge Jr. 2-78, TD, Stephens 1-2

GHS – Heywood 4-70, Tanner 5-36, TD, Morales 4-30, Mckernan 1-3, Turcotte 3-29


MP – Abercrombie 8-8 PAT

GHS – Carlson 1-2 PAT, FG

Kick Returns

MP – Brooks 2-135, 2 TDs


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

, azcentral sports6:29 p.m. MST October 25, 2016

Playoff bubbles: High school football teams hoping to extend seasons

Football practices are intense, and bubbles are about to burst.

Who will be left on the other side of the playoff bracket come Saturday?

Who will sneak in?

Who will make a move?

Here’s a breakdown of the five 11-man conferences heading to the final week of the regular season:

6A Conference

Top seed: Phoenix Mountain Pointe

No. 16: Tempe Corona del Sol

Who will bounce a top 16 team? Laveen Cesar Chavez or Phoenix Alhambra. The winner of Friday’s finale gets the Metro Region title and automatic playoff berth. Chavez is 22 and Alhambra 30.

Who else could barge in? Yuma Cibola, if it beats No. 13 Tucson for the Southern Region crown. Cibola, No. 20, is hosting, so it is hoping the long bus ride takes a toll on the Badgers.

Don’t give up: No. 17 Chandler Basha won’t win the Premier Region, but if it beats No. 3 Gilbert Perry, it could garner enough points to get in.

5A Conference

Top seed: Vail Cienega

No. 16: Glendale Deer Valley

Who will bounce a top 16 team? Laveen Betty Fairfax, at 19, has clinched the Union Region title, so it bounces somebody.

Who else could barge in? The Northeast Valley Region is a mess, so, if Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep’s playoff ban isn’t lifted by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board by Friday, Scottsdale Chaparral, at No. 18, looks like the best bet. It has to beat No. 24 Phoenix Arcadia to assure it is the second-place team. If NDP doesn’t go, the runner-up team gets the auto bid.

Don’t give up: Buckeye Verrado is teetering on the edge at 17. To get in, just beat No. 2 Goodyear Desert Edge on Thursday. But that’s tough duty and would be historic, given that Verrado has never beaten Desert Edge.

REWIND: High school football rewind: Mountain men

4A Conference

Top seed: Scottsdale Saguaro

No. 16: Casa Grande

Who will bounce a top 16 team? No. 18 Tucson Amphitheater or No. 21 Tucson Pueblo. They meet at Amphi to determine the Gila Region champion.

Who else could barge in? Scottsdale Coronado and Goodyear Estrella Foothills could play spoilers en route to securing region titles. Coronado, sitting at 27, gets in if it beats No. 11 El Mirage Dysart. Foothills, at 24, secures a playoff berth with a win over No. 14 Buckeye.

Don’t give up: Prescott is at No. 17, but if it beats No. 9 Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain, it throws the Grand Canyon Region into a three-way tie that includes No. 13 Cottonwood Mingus.

SUPER 10: Big shakeup

3A Conference

Top seed: Show Low

No. 16: Mohave Valley River Valley

Who will bounce a top 16 team? This is the only conference that gives the top two teams in each of the six regions automatic state playoff berths. So most regions are up in the air as far as teams sneaking in. Page is at 18 and clinched the No.2 spot from the North with last week’s win over Chinle.

Who could barge in? Chandler Valley Christian still has life at 3-6, because to gain a top-two spot out of the Metro Region, it needs to be Queen Creek Casteel, a team comprised of just freshmen and sophomores.

Don’t give up: River Valley, a state champion two years ago, needs to beat No. 10 Wickenburg to secure the second spot in the West and not have to fret over how the seeds fall on Saturday morning.

WEEK 10: High school football First and 10: Crunch time

2A Conference

Top seed: Eagar Round Valley

No. 16: Whiteriver Alchesay

Who will bounce a top 16 team? All six region champions have been decided. Unlike 3A, only the region champs are guaranteed state playoff berths with the rest battling it out for power points to get in.

Who could barge in? Red Mesa is at 17 and has to beat Sanders Valley and hope somebody among the top 16 slips.

Don’t give up: No. 18 San Tan Foothills finishes against No. 22 Glendale Prep. If it wins, it would just have to hope for the numbers to roll just right.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert or 602-316-8827. Follow him Listen to Richard Obert with Dan Manucci on the Which Wich Arizona High School Football Preview Show on Friday night 6-7 on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.