Running game leads Mountain Pointe to third win. - Mountain Pointe’s Jakim McKinney, #33, evades a Mountain View tackle on... [ read more ]

Pride, Thunder both take to the road Friday after big wins - Marshawn Gibson marches down the field to start the fourth quarter against... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe avenges state title loss, upsets Chandler on the road - Tyre Johnson carries the ball against Chandler Friday night at Austin... [ read more ]

Mountain Pointe football upsets Chandler on the road - Richard Morin, azcentral sportsPublished 10:14 p.m. MT Sept. 8,... [ read more ]

Pride seeks revenge in game against Chandler tonight - After intercepting his pass, MP’s Isaiah Palo-Mao tries to jump over... [ read more ]

Football Game Preview: Chandler vs. Mountain Pointe - Wednesday, September 6, 2017  |  By: Staff... [ read more ]

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.


Ralph Amsden | Publisher  |  3 Feb 2017 2018 Early Prospect and Player Rankings

With 2017’s signing day in the books, here’s the earliest version of ArizonaVarsity’s 2018 prospect and player rankings. Our rankings will differ from Rivals official list, and will be updated and expanded on every month for the next year, until Signing Day 2018. This is the only version of the list that won’t be premium content, so make sure and subscribe to ArizonaVarsity so you don’t miss out on future content.

Important to remember- prospect rankings and player rankings are different. Prospects rankings involve athletes projected to be in-demand college recruits. Player rankings project and react to on-field performance at the high school level. Send any feedback to

Arizona Varsity 2018 Prospect Rankings
Rank Player/Position/School
1 Solomon Enis (WR) North Canyon
2 Kenny Churchwell (DB) Mountain Pointe
3 Joey Ramos (OL) Deer Valley
4 Jamarye Joiner (ATH) Cienega
5 Gunner Romney (WR) Chandler
6 Josiah Bradley (ATH) Saguaro
7 Max Wilhite (OL) Desert Edge
8 James Stagg (TE) Desert Vista
9 Jawhar Jordan (ATH) Hamilton
10 Jarick Caldwell (WR) Chandler
11 Sean Andersen (OL) Verrado
12 Jack Plummer (QB) Gilbert
13 Mike Rogers (ATH) Cesar Chavez
14 Ralph Frias (OL) Safford
15 Alijah Gammage (DB) Desert Vista
16 Brock Purdy (QB) Perry
17 Max Massingale (QB) Saguaro
18 Slater Zellers (LS) Notre Dame Prep
19 Shomari Hayes (DL) Mountain Pointe
20 Donjae Logan (DB) Desert Ridge
21 Jayden Lee (OL) Campo Verde
22 Giovanni Miranda (WR) Saguaro
23 Lance Lawson (ATH) Red Mountain
24 Brayden Flynn (DL) Hamilton
25 Tyson Jones (OL) Desert Edge
26 Tyler Shough (QB) Hamilton
27 Ja’Tai Jenkins (ATH) Verrado
28 Malik Clark (DL) Moon Valley
29 Keishaud White (ATH) Desert Vista
30 Chris Manoa (DL) Chandler
31 Josiah Bailey (ATH) Kellis
32 Hunter Mayginnes (OL) Hamilton
33 Robert Jordan (DL) Mesquite
34 Draycen Hall (RB) Higley
35 Gary Bragg (RB) Mountain Pointe
36 Damaria Norris (RB) Cactus
37 Tristen D’Angelo (WR) Boulder Creek
38 Ezekiel Robbins (DB) Hamilton
39 Bryce Jackson (DB) Chandler
40 Kaleb Seumanutafa (ATH) Apollo
41 James Reed (TE) Boulder Creek
42 Austin Young (OL) Desert Edge
43 Aidan Diggs (ATH) Millennium
44 Cade Matthews (LB) Higley
45 Treyvon Williams (DB) Desert Edge
46 Dakota Haynes (LB) Pusch Ridge
47 Cash Peterman (K) Chandler
48 Jared Wood (QB) Florence
49 Cole Fisher (RB) Notre Dame Prep
50 Austin Duffy (QB) Red Mountain
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- QB
Rank Player/School
1 Brock Purdy- Perry
2 Max Massingale- Saguaro
3 Jamarye Joiner- Cienega
4 Jared Wood- Florence
5 Tyler Shough- Hamilton
6 Mahal Lee- Cactus
7 Nate Dobson- Peoria
8 Jack Plummer- Gilbert
9 Austin Duffy- Red Mountain
10 Andrew Young- Cactus Shadows
11 Ruben Beltran III- Centennial
12 Ernie Peña- Millennium
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- RB
Rank Player/School
1 Draycen Hall- Higley
2 Lance Lawson- Red Mountain
3 Damaria Norris- Cactus
4 Mike Rogers- Cesar Chavez
5 Jawhar Jordan- Hamilton
6 Sekou Tyler- Paradise Honors
7 Gary Bragg- Mountain Pointe
8 Cole Fisher- Notre Dame Prep
9 Tyrese Allen- Desert Ridge
10 Troy Ferestad- Bisbee
11 Nolan Susel- Florence
12 Kris Jackson- Mesa
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- WR
Rank Player/School
1 Gunner Romney- Chandler
2 Solomon Enis- North Canyon
3 Cameron Gardner- Casa Grande
4 Josiah Bailey- Kellis
5 Tristen D’Angelo- Boulder Creek
6 Jacob Kaites- Scottsdale Christian
7 Jarick Caldwell- Chandler
8 Bujon Boyd- American Leadership (QC)
9 Joshua Walker- Desert Mountain
10 Keishaud White- Desert Vista
11 Xavier Watkins- Paradise Valley
12 Jake White- Desert Vista
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- TE
Rank Player/School
1 James Stagg- Desert Vista
2 James Reed- Boulder Creek
3 Shamon Salway- Window Rock
4 Tate Speaker- Perry
5 Mario Meza- Douglas
6 Edmond Ashton- Lee Williams
7 Carter White- Poston Butte
8 Jesse Bravin- River Valley
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- OL
Rank Player/School
1 Joey Ramos- Deer Valley
2 Max Wilhite- Desert Edge
3 Tyson Jones- Desert Edge
4 Mason Honne- Mountain Pointe
5 Jayden Lee- Campo Verde
6 Hunter Mayginnes- Hamilton
7 Austin Young- Desert Edge
8 Xavier Robinson- Deer Valley
9 Ralph Frias- Safford
10 Jozia Myers- Campo Verde
11 Jaden Hoyt- Northwest Christian
12 Javier Meza- Cesar Chavez
13 Jose Lopez- Salpointe
14 Tristan Rael- Chandler
15 Zach Neff- Perry
16 David Watson- Amphitheatre
17 Justin Segura- Horizon
18 Kaleb Seumanutafa- Apollo
19 Trevor Renfro- Centennial
20 Sean Benke- Mountain View (Marana)
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- DL
Rank Player/School
1 Brayden Flynn- Hamilton
2 Shomari Hayes- Mountain Pointe
3 Chris Manoa- Chandler
4 Brayden Smith- Ironwood Ridge
5 Kaleb Seumanutafa- Apollo
6 Robert Jordan- Mesquite
7 Raymond Cruz- Dysart
8 Dylan Gabbard- Show Low
9 Scott Jones- Cactus
10 Kyle White- Notre Dame Prep
11 Brandon Myree- Basha
12 Khalif Ravenell- Mountain Pointe
13 Ryan Salmon- Scottsdale Christian
14 Jared Mix- Mountain View (Mesa)
15 Jobiin Sweat- Perry
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- LB
Rank Player/School
1 Cade Matthews- Higley
2 Dakota Haynes- Pusch Ridge
3 Tre O’Guinn- North Canyon
4 Vincent Elrod- Notre Dame Prep
5 Cutter Hatch- Perry
6 Jordan Ware- Centennial
7 Jakob Redford- American Leadership (QC)
8 Shelton Mathis- Florence
9 Richard Molina- Yuma Catholic
10 Dante Coleman- Queen Creek
11 Shaun’dell Hawkins- Williams Field
12 Larry Davis- Desert Vista
13 Isaiah Joya- Yuma
14 Fabian Suniga- Shadow Ridge
15 Sebastian Bautista- Veritas Prep
16 Kevin Altmaier- Greenway
17 Jacob Olsen- Mountain Pointe
18 Tate Stevens- Highland
19 Shane Kratzer- Paradise Honors
20 Anthony Madril- Salpointe
21 Fernando Becerra- Carl Hayden
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- DB
Rank Player/School
1 Kenny Churchwell- Mountain Pointe
2 Alijah Gammage- Desert Vista
3 Josiah Bradley- Saguaro
4 Bryce Jackson- Chandler
5 Donjae Logan- Desert Ridge
6 Dylan Stevenson- Pinnacle
7 Solomon Enis- North Canyon
8 Sekou Tyler- Paradise Honors
9 Rodney Rogers II- Cienega
10 Devon Waite- Mountain View (Mesa)
11 Aaron Turrey- Sunnyslope
12 Elijah Neal- Peoria
13 Andrew Smith- Marana
14 Ricky Manning- Notre Dame Prep
15 Bradyn Brown- Pima
16 Bobby Carlon- Moon Valley
17 Daniel Frampton- Phoenix Christian
18 Jake White- Desert Vista
19 Treyvon Williams- Desert Edge
20 Derick Bush- Salpointe
21 Donte Lindsey- Mountain Pointe
22 Trent Campbell- Estrella Foothills
23 Jose Escalera- Central
Arizona Varsity 2018 Player Rankings- Specialist
Rank Player/School
1 Slater Zellers- Notre Dame Prep
2 Cash Peterman- Chandler
3 Jacori Wooten- Queen Creek
4 Patrick McInerney- Saguaro
5 Matt Brock- Mesquite


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

Versatility on the offensive line fuels Pride offense

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2016 10:04 pm

The Mountain Pointe football roster lists the offensive linemen without specific positions.

No one is listed as a tackle, guard or center. Everyone is listed OL.

It reflects the match-up strategy employed this year by the Pride coaching staff.

The same five players have started the last four games, but their positions change on the basis of on the strength of the opposition’s defensive front.

Four different players have started at center over the last four games. The lineup against Corona del Sol (4-4) this week for the Pride (8-0) will be different from what its lineup last week against Desert Ridge.

“In years past we couldn’t have done that,” Mountain Pointe offensive line coach Aaron Frana said. “Have a center go play tackle? That’s a tough assignment. These are guys are like, ‘You want me to move? OK.’ They never question it.

“I love it. They want to win and they do whatever it takes to do it.”

The key–other than the players’ versatility–is the level of play of senior Eddie Rivas, who is the strategy’s lynchpin as he is moved around to take on the opposition’s top player.

“I take it as a direct challenge,” said Rivas, who has played four of the five line positions. “The coaches put their faith in me to take on the top guy and I want that responsibility, plus I know whoever plays in the position I left is going to get the job done.”

His climb to one of the best linemen in the state didn’t start out all that well when he had a chance to play in the Chandler playoff game as a sophomore.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, tell me what to do,’” Rivas said. “I think (the defense) they were going to be that fast and strong. I knew I had a lot of work do when I pulled and I hit a linebacker and he didn’t move. I was like ‘get somebody else in there.’”

Two years later, he is the key to most versatile line in the state.

“He was a big raw kid,” Frana said. “He’s matured, got stronger in the weight room and now he can match up with anyone on the edge. When you have a kid who can play all five positions, you take advantage of it.”

The idea began to take shape when senior Joe Sales-Lopez sustained a concussion and had trouble getting cleared until this week.

With Sales-Lopez, who was going to be the starting left guard, out, the lineup starting changing. Star defensive linemen Matthew Pola-Moa and Shomari Hayes rotated at tackle.

When they needed a break because of their defensive responsibilities, sophomore Alex Vogel was inserted. And when he handled himself well, it became clear the unit had another capable body.

“I was not expecting it this year,” said the 220-pound Vogel, who has started at both tackle spots and center. “I made way on to the scout team and things progressed from there. I was kind of nervous at first but at the first snap you just play.”

The other three are junior Mason Honne, who has played left tackle and center; and seniors Justice Hudson, who has played center and left guard, and Rudy Rauls, who has played right guard all year.

With all the changes, many people might expect some struggles with continuity and/or rhythm. But the Pride is churning out 345 yards rushing a game with 33 touchdowns.

“Our offensive line has played really well,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We moved guys around in the past, like Natrell Curtis would play tackle or guard, but we’ve never done it at center before. That’s really unusual. They’ve played no matter where we’ve put them.”

Expect more of the same as the regular season wraps up and the Pride tries to clinch the 6A Central Region title this week—and possibly the fourth undefeated regular season since 2009 the following week against Gilbert.

There could be as many as six games remaining and there could just as many starting lineups along the offensive line.

“We will have a raffle to see who starts where,” Frana, who is also the co-offensive coordinator, joked. “It says a lot about them not only as athletes, but they have to be smart, too, to play different positions. We’ve put a lot on their plates and they keep going out an executing at a high level.”

– 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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Running back Anthony Stephens #1 of Mountain Pointe is hit out of bounds during the first 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.  [Photo by Billy Hardiman/Special to Tribune]

Stephens, Pride running game continue to roll without Bragg

Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2016 10:51 am

A characteristic of a seasoned running back is patience, waiting for a play to develop before turning up field.

Anthony Stephens has shown signs of being that type of runner, but he admittedly didn’t have it in him in Mountain Pointe’s third game of the year.

It was his first after being suspended for disciplinary reasons the first two games, meaning every carry was like three carries in his mind as he tried to make up for his mistake.

“I was anxious and I just wanted to go,” he said this week. “I wanted to make up for that lost time. I was the starting running back and then just like that I wasn’t. I had to calm down and see things differently.”

He sees things differently not only with the ball in his hands, but also what it truly meant to be a good teammate.

Missing that time because of something he did in the offseason cost him a more prominent role to start the year and vital time on the field.

More telling was the fact that he put himself before the team.

“I learned a lot,” Stephens said. “When you are in it for the team, it comes with a lot of sacrifices and commitments. I should have known it all along but that mistake really showed me what it means to be a teammate.”

The guy who took over his starting spot, junior Gary Bragg, tore his right anterior cruciate ligament two weeks ago in the win over Pinnacle.

Bragg was on his way to an all-state type of season with 891 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games, but now he is in rehab mode.

“All I can do is work hard and come back stronger,” Bragg said from the sidelines of the Ahwautkee Bowl.

It means Stephens and others have a chance to become the main back in the Pride’s dominant running game, which averages 327.5 yards a game entering Friday’s game at Highland (2-4).

The one thing that separates the 5-foot-10, 168-pound Stephens is that fact he only plays offense while Antwaun Woodberry (cornerback), Rashie Hodge (linebacker) and Delano Salgado (cornerback) have started on defense.

“We are going to mix it up, but we have to limit some of these guys on offense because they are so important on defense,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “Woodberry can be special, but he is kind still learning back there. Hodge could be the guy, but we don’t want to wear him down too much.”

With the way the offensive line is playing, and the versatility it has shown in recent weeks, whoever lines up in the backfield is going to find holes to their liking.

“We are going to hold this position down,” Woodberry said on Friday. “We will pick (Bragg) up. He was going off, and now we have to step up.”

Senior Eddie Rivas has played every position depending on the opponent, Mason Honne moved from tackle to center,

Justice Hudson went from center to left guard and only right guard Rudy Rauls has played the same position, Sophomore Alex Vogel has found his way into the lineup at left tackle as Matthew Pola-Mao and Shomari Hayes started to concentrate on defense only.

“If we do our job it doesn’t matter who is back there,” Honne said. “They’re all good, and we have been creating some holes. We’ve made some changes and we’ve all adjusted to it.”

It’s been a winning combination, but Vaughan said the passing game may be counted on more without Bragg, whom he called the best running back in the state.

“It’s not going to change much,” he said. “It hurts you, but these guys are going to get better. Going forward though we are probably going to throw the ball more.”

However it shakes out the rest of the season, Stephens, who is the second leading rusher with 43 carries for 316 yards and three touchdowns, is ready to make the most of his opportunity.


“If I see it I’ll take it, but sometimes you have to wait it out,” he said. “You have let things develop and then turn it up. A good back can do both and I think we all have it covered.”

– 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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Mesa Mountain View junior WR Dean Yamada (21) is brought down by Phoenix Mountain Pointe senior LB Michael Washington (24) in the first half at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix on Friday, September 16, 2016.   [Ben Moffit/azcentral sports]

Mountain Pointe makes statement in rout over Mesa Mountain View

Nick Snow, Special for azcentral sports11:29 p.m. MST September 16, 2016


Memo to all the teams looking to win the 6A Conference title this season: The road to the championship will likely go through Ahwatukee and Phoenix Mountain Pointe, so be ready.

A week after clobbering then-No. 1 Chandler, top-ranked Mountain Pointe delivered that message loud and clear Friday with a 56-0 thumping of No. 10 Mesa Mountain View.

“We never want that but I saw the same thing happen last week to the No. 1 team,” Mountain View coach Mike Fell said. “We knew what we were getting into. They are an outstanding football team.”

Mountain Pointe (4-0) wasn’t perfect by any means. It racked up 50 yards in penalties in the first half, and senior quarterback Noah Grover had two interceptions in the red zone in the first half. But things like that seem minor when the defense doesn’t let the opposing team past the 50-yard line until midway through the third quarter.

FIND A GAME: Football scores and schedule

“We were kind of flat, I thought,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “We didn’t get the push we normally get up front. I was disappointed in that. We had a couple of turnovers that were uncharacteristic, but we played great defense.”

It also didn’t hurt that Mountain Pointe had Jaydon Brooks on its side, either.

Brooks opened the scoring with 76-yard punt return for a touchdown before the Mountain Pointe offense even touched the ball. Brooks also caught an 18-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter to give Mountain Pointe a 35-0 lead at halftime and tallied a third touchdown on a 32-yard scamper from the quarterback position in the fourth quarter.

“My favorite of the three was the punt return,” Brooks said. “It’s so fun watching my teammates as I come around the corner. They’re all looking at me and looking out for whoever is going to get me. I just feel safe.”

MORE: High school football coverage from azcentral sports

About the only time Brooks and Mountain Pointe didn’t feel safe was during warm-ups. Even with a running clock starting with five minutes left in the third quarter, Mountain View (3-1) still struggled to stop Mountain Pointe’s high-octane offense, forcing fourth down once – and that was late in the fourth quarter.

“The big thing we preached all week was try to play 48 minutes,” Fell said. “I felt that we were not at their level. They won every battle – offense, defense, special teams – I think they beat us in warm-ups. It was real simple. We got beat by a better football team.”

Along with the three touchdowns by Brooks, Grover was 13 of 19 through the air for 172 yards and three touchdowns, while Gary Bragg had 19 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns to lead Mountain Pointe’s rushing attack.

“Tonight, we kind of worked on a lot of things,” Vaughan said. “Our defense was pretty good.”

Orion Baker led the way for Mountain View, carrying the ball nine times for 36 yards, while Wheeler Harris struggled to find open receivers against that strong defense. Wheeler completed just 7 of 19 passes – six of those completions coming in the first half – for 57 yards.

“It’s a long season,” Fell said. “We’ve only played four games. We still have every Mesa game. Our goal is to get after it in the city of Mesa. We’ve got Brophy next week. We’ve got a tough schedule. … Our pride was hurt, but we’ll be back next week.”

Football: MP vs Chandler

Mountain Pointe wide receiver Isaiah Pola-Mao (9) catches a pass for a touchdown during the DI semifinals football game between Mountain Pointe and Chandler at Hamilton High School on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.

Stand up to the challenge: Pride, Wolves ready for No. 1 vs. No. 2 clash

Posted: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 1:57 pm | Updated: 2:08 pm, Wed Sep 7, 2016.

Since Mountain Pointe played its last football game, Chandler has played twice, including about a half hour on the same field after the Pride won in California Aug. 27.

It meant the Mountain Pointe players and coaches had a chance to sit in the stands and watch the Wolves before making the trek back to Arizona.

Chandler went toe-to-toe with California power Corona Centennial before falling 56-49.

The way the Wolves played left an impression on the Pride as the two teams prepare for Thursday’s televised game (Cox 7) at Karl Kiefer Stadium.

“It’s going to be a dog fight,” said Mountain Pointe senior two-way lineman Shomari Hayes.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the recent history between the two programs: No. 1 Mountain Pointe (2-0) and No. 2 Chandler (2-1) have played in some of the Pride’s more memorable and competitive games.

The two teams have met five times since 2011 with the Pride holding a 3-2 advantage. The most memorable game was the 45-42 win by Mountain Pointe during the 2014 regular season.

Both offenses seemingly did whatever they wanted throughout the game as Mountain Pointe ran the ball 61 times for 543 yards.

The Wolves, however, came back to win in the semifinals when the Pride nearly had to forfeit before appealing a paperwork mishap involving out-of-state move-in Tyrek Cross.

Another memorable contest was the Pride’s 28-27 overtime win despite Mountain Pointe’s miss on two late chip-shot field goals. The Pride got another chance on a roughing-the-kicker call, then won in overtime when Chandler’s kick missed the point after touchdown.

“There have been some really good, competitive games,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “I expect the same thing. We are two really good teams. They are going to be best team we have faced so far and maybe all year.”

The Wolves have been good offensively with sophomore quarterback Jacob Conover playing with maturity and efficiency. Running backs TJ Green and Ryan Johnson (who missed last week’s game) and wide receivers Johnny Johnson and Gunner Romney have done damage from spots all on the field.

In its two wins over Arizona teams – Red Mountain (34-10) and Pinnacle (31-16) – Chandler outscored opponents 41-0 in the second half. The defense was beat up against Centennial, but the unit has come together to pitch a couple of second-half shutouts.

“Our defense will be good,” Chandler coach Shaun Aguano said after the loss to Centennial. “We had mistakes, we were outmatched, but never once did I ever question their effort.”

“I don’t know what to make of their defense,” Vaughan said. “Centennial scores against everyone, and Pinnacle is a good offense with arguably the best quarterback in Arizona and they shut them down.

“They’re probably better than they look because of who they’ve faced.”

Now the Chandler defense faces a Pride offense that has been pretty dynamic in the first two wins with running backs Gary Bragg and Rashie Hodge and wide receivers Isaiah Pola-Mao and Jaydon Brooks at senior quarterback Noah Grover’s disposal.

“We’ve been pretty efficient,” Vaughan said. “Our quarterback is making good decisions, and the line has been good, but this is a game where I am not sure if we have and advantage on the line. (Chandler) is big up front.”

Hayes and his buddies up front, including Matthew Pola-Mao, are seeing it as a challenge.

“They are really good,” said Hayes, who plays defensive end when the Pride uses a 3-4 front and platoons with Matthew Pola-Mao on the offensive line. “This is going to be like a playoff game. We treat every game the same because you can’t let up or you could lose to anyone. We know we have to be at our best.”

Vaughan tends to down play any game being bigger than any other, and despises the idea of rivalry games.

He insists the outcome of this particular game isn’t going to make or break the season for either team.

“We don’t prepare any different for this game than we do any other game,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to win it, but it’s early and a lot can happen. Centennial lost early last year and won a state championship.

“It will give us an idea as to where we stand, and show us some things we need to work on so it will be important to come out of it better than were before the game.”

– 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.

Mountain Pointe’s running attack is expected to go through several running backs this year including Gary Bragg.

Moving the chains: MP running game continues to flourish

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2016 2:30 pm

Over the last seven seasons, Mountain Pointe High School’s football team has rushed for more than 13 miles — just over a half-marathon.

If the season opener is any indication of what to expect in 2016, the Pride looks to be keeping up with that pace.

Mountain Pointe ran for an estimated 315 yards in just 33 offensive plays in a 51-6 win over Sandra Day O’Connor on Friday.

The schedule will get tougher, including this week’s game in California as the Pride faces Upland at Norco High.

But history suggests that by the end of its 2016 campaign, Mountain Pointe will average about 257.2 yards a game and 3,343.71 for the season.

“We like to win so we run the ball,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “We commit to running the ball. We like to be balanced, but in my mind that means 350 yards rushing and 250 passing.”

It doesn’t matter how much personnel changes or stays the same; Mountain Pointe finds a way to churn out the yardage.

Last year the team depended on running back Macarius Blount nearly every running play while quarterback Jack Smith did plenty of damage as well.

The plan to start the year is to share most of the carries largely among between senior Anthony Stephens, junior Gary Bragg, senior Rashie Hodge.

Stephens is out for one more game for disciplinary reasons, which gives others like Bragg — who ran for 210 yards in the opening game on nine carries — to make a bigger impression.

“I’m on varsity now, and you have to wait sometimes for your shot,” said Bragg, who had two long touchdowns 80 and 73 yards. “Right now I have to make the most of the chance.”

His second touchdown, with the second and third team players in the game on the offensive line, saw him brake through the line and stick a spin move around the defender for a clear path to the end zone.

“It was a great move,” Vaughan said. “He can be a special player. He’s small, a little ball of muscle, and is quick as anybody on the field.”

With the bigger and stronger Hodge, who has been compared to former Pride player Wesley Payne, and Stephen, another speedster, Mountain Pointe will have plenty of options.

It means the offensive line must identify who is in the backfield and possibly hold their blocks a little longer when Hodge and not Bragg has the ball.

“You know who’s back there, so you might block a little different, or the scheme might be different depending on who it is,” senior tackle Eddie Rivas said.

Mountain Pointe’s continuous success is based on scheme, commitment and some superior athletes up front and in the backfield.

“I remember coming up and watching Nick Carmen, Clayton Dry and Davis Perrot just mauling people,” Rivas said. “It’s what you are expected to do here as a lineman. We expect to dominate.”

The Pride will get a test Friday at the Brothers in Arms game in California as they take on fast and physical defense against Upland at Norco High (5:30 p.m. kickoff).

The Highlanders have won at least 10 games five times since 2008 and their expectations are similar to the Pride’s annually.

“It’s a good team, a very good team actually,” Vaughan said. “It’s going to take a good effort to beat them.”

That will start with ball control, running the ball and spreading the ball around while the line (with three new starters in Rudy Rauls, Justice Hudson and Shomari Hayes) breaks the huddle, expecting to impose its will.

“It’s about playing with an attitude, digging in and moving the guy in front of you,” Rivas said. “Mountain Pointe runs the ball and Coach Vaughan and the coaches expect it of every team every year.”

So 2016 shouldn’t be any different. It’s their time to pile up the mileage.

“Running the ball is about attitude,” Hodge said. “You line up and run hard until the play is over. It usually works out good for us.”

– 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.

Off and running

Mountain Pointe’s Jaydon Brooks returns a punt for a touchdown.


GameNight: Mountain Pointe cruises to win over SDO

Posted: Friday, August 19, 2016 11:14 pm | Updated: 12:14 am, Sat Aug 20, 2016.

High school football made its return to the East Valley Friday night, as the Pride of Mountain Pointe opened up their season with a 51-6 rout of the Sandra Day O’Connor Eagles.

The Pride came into the matchup as one of, if not the top team in the state and ranked in the top 25 nationally.

However, regardless of rankings, SDO came out ready to go as quarterback Chris Aguilar fooled the Pride defense and rushed around the edge for a 54-yard score, putting the Eagles up 6-0 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt.

Senior signal caller for the Pride, Noah Grover, took the field for the first time as a varsity starter, shaking off the pre-game jitters as he led the Pride offense down the field, settling for a field goal to make it 6-3.

“Everybody has the jitters, especially in their first game coming out cause when I came out I was like ‘Oh my gosh that’s a big crowd,’” Grover said. “Once I hit the field it all goes away, it all drains out and it is all about the play.”

With an arsenal of athletes in the backfield that can make a big play at any given time, it was easy for Grover to settle down. After the defense forced an Eagles punt, junior wide receiver Delano Salgado took the handoff from Grover on an end-around and found a hole, leading to a 40-yard touchdown to put the Pride up 10-6 after the end of the first.

The special teams for the Pride got in on the action early when senior returner Jayden Brooks took the punt from the Eagles and found a lane up the sideline, extending the lead to 17-6 before the half.

In the second half the Pride showed why they were deserving of the national ranking. On the first play of the second half junior running back Gary Bragg ran for an 80-yard touchdown to extend the lead.

He wasn’t done.

Bragg would find the end zone two more times on the night, scoring from 20-yards out in the third quarter, and a monstrous 73 in the fourth.

“I couldn’t do any of that without the blocking ahead of me,” Bragg said. “I give it all to my team.”

The defense for the Pride flexed its muscle after allowing an early touchdown. Not only did they not allow any more points for O’Connor, the defense had two pick-sixes before the night was over. The first by junior Kenny Churchwell and the second by senior Rashie Hodge Jr.

A scary moment for the Pride defense as sophomore stand-out defensive tackle Matthew Pola-Mao was assisted off the field with a right leg injury. He was taken to the locker room and was later seen on crutches back on the Pride sideline for the remainder of the game.

The extent of the injury is not known.

With the Pride now aware of what they are capable of as a team, they look to carry the momentum to next week as they travel to California to take on Upland (Ca.) in the Brothers in Arms Classic.

“It spikes up what we need to work on of course but it really gives our confidence a boost,” Grover said. “We come out here and play like this in the second half it really shows us that we can come out next week feeling confident.”

* Alvira is an intern with Times Publications and senior at Arizona State’s journalism school.

Box Score

Mountain Pointe 51, Sandra Day O’Connor 6

SDO 6  0   0 0 –   6

MP   10 7 27 7 – 51



SDO – Aguilar 54 run

MP – Abercrombie 20 field goal

MP – Salgado 40 run (Abercrombie)


MP – Brooks 58 punt return (Abercrombie)


MP – Bragg 80 run (Abercrombie

MP – Bragg 20 run (Abercrombie)

MP – Churchwell INT (Abercrombie)

MP – Hodge Jr. INT


MP – Bragg 73 run (Abercrombie)

Team Stats

                        MP           SDO

Rush-yards        24-315    32-114

Comp-Att-Int     5-8-0      10-19-2

Pass Yards          63             85

Total Yards         378           199

Fumbles/lost       1-0            1-0

Individual Stats


MP – Bragg 9-202, Brooks 3-29, Hodge 5-33, Salgado 2-41, Olsen 1-16, Grover 3-(-8), Woodberry 1-2. SDO – Galbreath 1-(-1), Barnes 3-(-1), #28 (not listed) 10-16, Aguilar 7-71, King 6-7, Willis 3-18, Craddock 2-4


MP – Grover 5-8-0-63. SDO – Aguilar 6-8-0-54, King 4-10-2-31


MP – Hinojosa 1-10, Hodge 2-19, Pola-Mao 1-14, Brooks 1-20. SDO – Johnson 4-38, Smith 1-12, Unverferth 2-14, Evans 1-0, Langford 1-10, Galbreath 1-11.


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