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Pride players in 247 Sports top Arizona recruits.

2018 Top Arizona Football Recruits

The list below ranks players by 247Sports Composite Rating

Last updated on 10/27/17 at 11:29 AM CST

Three Pride players in 247 top 50 in Arizona.

Kenny Churchwell – Ranked #8

Shomari Hayes – Ranked #36

Gary Bragg – Ranked #40

Mason Honne – #53

 

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

Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Photographer

Pride, Thunder look for comebacks this week

By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  

For the first time since 2014, both Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools are coming off losses in the same week after the Pride was stunned by Desert Ridge and the Thunder fell in double overtime to Highland.

The Thunder (5-3) will carry a two-game losing streak into Mesa, but will be met by a Desert Ridge (7-1) squad that is coming off arguably its biggest win of the season after beating Mountain Pointe 31-20.

Against Mountain Pointe, the Jaguars ran a two-quarterback system with sophomore Matthew Purnell and junior Cooper Schmidt that seemed to give the Pride defense fits all night long.

The two quarterbacks combined for 108 yards on the ground, including a 17-yard Cooper Schmidt touchdown run that gave the Jaguars the lead late in the game.

Schmidt has been more effective on the ground this season, rushing for 406 yards and six touchdowns compared to Purnell’s 99 rushing yards and one touchdown. But, Purnell has been more effective through the air, completing 70 percent of his passes compared to Schmidt’s 57 percent.

While the Thunder defense will have to keep an eye on both quarterbacks, it’ll also have to watch out for the Jaguars’ trio of running backs.

Lucas Wright, Tyrese Allen, and Deonce Elliot all have been strong out of the backfield, as each one has rushed for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Tyrese Allen leads the way with 567 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Thunder seniors Larry Davis and Caleb Humphrey will play a major role on Friday in stopping their running game.

How the Desert Vista offense handles the Jaguars defense will be another key to this 6A Central Region matchup. The Desert Ridge defense picked off two passes late in the game and held their running to a minimum.

The Jaguars stacked the box and tried to hold Mountain Pointe’s run game to a minimum, but look for the Thunder to rely on senior quarterback Derek Kline.

The 6-foot-5 Nevada transplant has been huge for Desert Vista all season long, throwing for 1,377 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also been great using his legs to escape pressure and run when no one is open, tallying 305 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Friday night will be a battle at the line of scrimmage between two teams looking to solidify themselves in the playoff picture. And after two straight losses, Desert Vista will be looking to come out strong and catch the Jaguars off guard.

The two teams kick off at 7 p.m. at Desert Ridge High School.

Mountain Pointe vs Corona del Sol

The Pride (6-2) will look to bounce back from their first home loss since 2011 when it takes on the Corona del Sol Aztecs (1-7) on Friday.

Mountain Pointe should be able to bounce back as the Aztecs won’t provide much resistance on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve allowed 285 points this season and haven’t won since their matchup with La Joya Community on Aug. 25.

While the Aztecs don’t provide much of a defensive resistance, they do have a high-powered offense behind junior quarterback Ryan Helt, who has thrown for 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.

He’s also thrown 13 interceptions in the process. The 6-foot-1 quarterback has thrown for at least 150 yards in each game and recently threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns against Gilbert.

His favorite target this year has been junior receiver Ricky Pearsall, a 6-foot-1 junior who has caught 61 passes for 1,030 yards and was a big part of Helt’s success against Gilbert, catching 14 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.

Unfortunately for the pair of Aztecs, they will run into one of the best secondaries in the state.

The Pride secondary hasn’t allowed over 100 yards passing since their matchup with Desert Vista in the Ahwatukee Bowl.

It also has picked off 14 passes this season and deflected 55 more. Helt will run into one of the best all-around defenses he has faced this season, as the Pride boast a big defensive line led by senior Shomari Hayes along with their strong secondary.

After being somewhat silenced against Desert Ridge, look for the Mountain Pointe backfield to break out quickly against a defense that has allowed over 100 yards rushing in every game this season.

With two games left in the season, look for the Mountain Pointe Pride to get back on track before its final game of the season against Gilbert High on Oct. 27. Mountain Pointe and Corona del Sol kick off at 7 p.m. at Corona del Sol high school.

-Reach Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com. 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.

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.

Jakim McKinney breaks a run to the outside Thursday night against Desert Vista. [Photo by Cheryl Haselhorst]

Mountain Pointe High defeats Desert Vista in Tukee Bowl

By Greg Macafee AFN Sports Editor  |  9/29/17

    Led by another stellar running performance from running backs Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney, the Mountain Pointe Pride took the overall lead in the annual Ahwatukee Bowl with a 21-16 lead over Desert Vista Thursday night at Desert Vista High School.

    Just like they have all season long, the Pride pounded the football on the ground throughout the night. Although the Thunder defense kept Bragg and McKinney contained for most of the night, both broke off long touchdown runs. 

    Bragg’s lone touchdown of the night came on a 34-yard scamper at the 7:11 mark of the 1st quarter. The 5-10, 175 pound running back broke to the outside and sprinted up the sideline for Mountain Pointe’s first score of the ball game.

    McKinney’s score with 7:53 left in the 4th quarter put the game away for the Pride. Like he had done multiple times throughout the ball game, he broke it to the outside, avoided a tackle or two and streaked down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown run.

    “Coach Vaughan likes to keep pounding it and keep on doing it,” junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt said of the consistency of Mountain Pointe’s running game. “Because one play they are just going to give up and it’s going to be a big play.”

    Wallerstedt was a big part of Mountain Pointe’s success Thursday night as well, scampering for a rushing touchdown of his own from 14-yards out to put the Pride up 14-3 in the 1st half. In the end, Wallerstedt he was just trying to pick up a few yards when he did not see anyone open downfield.

    The only blemish for the junior quarterback came in the 2nd quarter, just 12 seconds before half. Their seemed to be a miscommunication between him and his wide receiver, and senior defensive back Austin Werbelow was all alone to come down with the ball.

    Although the Pride got the last laugh, it was the Thunder who started off on the right foot. After the Thunder won the toss and deferred to the second half, the Pride chose to receive. Delano Salgado received the kickoff and took off up the left side of the field. But when he reached an open section of the field, the ball suddenly popped out and the Thunder recovered.

    The Thunder ended the ensuing offensive drive with a 42-yard field goal from junior kicker Matt Lewis. But it would be the only points of the first half for the Thunder as a hyped-up Mountain Pointe defensive line, led by senior Shomari Hayes, found their way into the backfield plenty of times throughout the night. 

    “We came in here energized man, it’s fun playing them, the Tukee Bowl it’s always fun,” Hayes said. “I came in here energized up and anything I can do for the team I’ll do it, whether that means getting in the backfield every play or sitting on the bench, whatever it takes to help this team win. 

    Even after multiple three-and-outs throughout the first half, the Thunder offense never gave up. Coming out of the locker room to start the second half they put together their longest drive of the game.

    Starting on the 15-yard line, the Thunder drove 85 yards for a score. The drive was led by Derek Kline, who completed a pass to Werbelow on 4th down to keep it alive. But, it was finished off by running back Travon Offut. The 5-foot- junior carried the ball the final three plays of the drive, before punching it into the end zone from four yards out.

    “He ran hard tonight and these kids are getting better every week,” Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds said of Offut.

    The Thunder added a touchdown as time expired when Derek Kline found a receiver from 60-yards out for the 21-16 final score of the 21st annual Ahwatukee Bowl.

    The Pride improve to 5-1 on the season and will face Highland (5-1) on October 6. Desert Vista falls to 4-2 on the season, with both losses coming to teams in top three of the AZPreps365 power rankings, will host Purdue commit Jack Plummer and the No. 12-ranked Gilbert Tigers.

    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 Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  Sep 27, 2017

    Tukee Bowl: Some of the players to watch

    Both the Pride and Thunder are loaded with talent. Here are a few to watch on the field Thursday.

    Mountain Pointe

    • Nick Wallerstedt, quarterback

    Everyone knows about Mountain Pointe’s running backs. Once the running game gets established, look for the junior QB to affect the game in a big way. He’s already run for 303 yards and three touchdowns this season and he has been effective through the air in 2017 as well, throwing for 520 yards and three touchdowns.

    • Jakim McKinney, running back

    Heading into this season, the back to watch in the Mountain Pointe backfield was Gary Bragg, who started off last year as one of the top backs in the state before tearing his ACL. Although he is still one of the top backs in the state, McKinney has put his mark on the Pride backfield. While Bragg has rushed for 445 yards and four touchdowns, McKinney has 518 yards and nine touchdowns, complementing Bragg perfectly.

    • Shomari Hayes, defensive lineman

    After the injury to Matthew Pola-Mao, fellow defensive lineman Shomari Hayes has emerged as a major weapon for the Pride. He leads the team in tackles and has recorded three sacks in five games this season. If Hayes can wreak havoc in the backfield Thursday, Kline and the Thunder run game could be in for a long night.

    Desert Vista

    • Larry Davis, linebacker

    Davis is the anchor for the Desert Vista defense. He led the Thunder in tackles as a junior and continued that success this season for a strong DV defense.  With the strength of the Pride’s running game, Davis will be a big factor if the Thunder look to come out on top, and he will need to lead the charge at the line of scrimmage.

    • Derek Kline, quarterback

    Kline is a newcomer to the Tukee Bowl, but he could arguably be the biggest factor of whether the Thunder will come out on top. Since starting the season throwing two interceptions against Perry, he’s been exceptional. But, he’ll be going up against one of the best secondarys in the state, led by Delano Salgado and Kenny Churchwell.

    • James Stagg, tight end

    One of the more intriguing matchups of this year’s Tukee Bowl will be Kline vs. a strong Mountain Pointe secondary. This is where Stagg could play a big role for the Thunder. As a big-bodied tight end, the Naval Academy commit could must go up against a fast and strong secondary for Mountain Pointe.

    Photo: Cheryl Hasehorst/AFN Contributor

    Tukee Bowl teams at the top of their game

    By Greg Macafee, AFN Sports Editor  |  Sep 27, 2017

    It’s an annual event that draws close to 10,000 people, pits two of the best high school football teams in Arizona against each other and showcases some of the best talent in the state.

    It’s the Ahwatukee Bowl.

    This year’s game may be more difficult to predict than any in the past as both teams will take the field at Desert Vista high school Thursday night with records of 4-1. They both bring strong defenses and an ability to score the football in more ways than one.

    Mountain Pointe has had a strong start to the season while it battled with crucial injuries early in the season.

    Gary Bragg and Jakim McKinney have become one of the best running back duos in the state, racking up 963 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Nick Wallerstedt has proved to be just as dangerous running the ball, rushing for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

    The Pride scored 20-plus points in all five of their games and has allowed their defense to shine early this season. A strong secondary consisting of Kenny Churchwell, Delano Salgado, Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson and Marshawn Gibson have been lights out, picking off six passes and deflecting 24 more.

    The defensive line has been just as strong. Shomari Hayes and Tyre Johnson have combined for 61 tackles and four sacks and junior Kenneth Lofton has also broken into the backfield for five sacks this season.

    Altogether, the defense has allowed opposing teams to score a total of only 100 points this season, with 70 of those points coming in two games.

    The Thunder has attacked its opponents in a different way from the Pride, but it has a strong approach on the defensive side of the ball that has kept most of their opponents quiet.

    The team has only allowed their opponents to score 95 points, with 49 of them coming in their season-opening loss to a strong Perry squad that has since taken the 6A scene by storm.

    Since that game, Desert Vista has been as strong as ever, recently pitching a shutout against Dobson High.

    The defense has been led by senior linebacker Larry Davis, who has racked up a total of 47 tackles this season and has sacked the opposing quarterback four times this season.

    Offensively, the Thunder has relied on new quarterback Derek Kline, who had thrown for 849 yards and nine touchdowns leading into a 42-0 win over Dobson last Friday.

    Kline has shown his ability to spread the ball around to several of his weapons as four different receivers have 100-plus yards and five have found the end zone in 2017.

    Heading into their matchup with Dobson, Kline had also led the Thunder in rushing with 150 yards and sophomore Tyson Grubbs has added 142 yards on the ground as well.

    While the Thunder has been somewhat pass heavy, it has still been able to find the end zone on the ground as senior Keishaud White has scored three touchdowns on the ground.

    The Thunder established an ability to adapt to whatever opposing defenses throw at them so far through 2017 and come Thursday its ability to do that will be more important than ever.

    As both teams have established where their strengths lie, the 2017 Tukee Bowl will come down to a couple of different things.

    How Kline fares against a strong Mountain Pointe secondary will be huge. If the 6-foot-5 gunslinger, who will experience his first Ahwatukee Bowl experience, can be affective and avoid turnovers, the Thunder could establish an early lead. Look for White and Navy commit James Stagg to play a big role in the passing game.

    The Thunder may also try to establish a run game with a stable of backs in Grubbs, White, and Travon Offut, who is coming off a 15 carry 92-yard performance against Dobson. With the strong defensive play of the Mountain Pointe lineman, this may prove difficult for the Thunder.

    Another key piece will be Mountain Pointe’s ability to establish the run game.

    It hasn’t had a problem accomplishing that this year, which in turn has opened a lot of possibilities for the rest of the Pride offense. The main benefactor of that has been Wallerstedt, who has taken advantage of defenses keying on Bragg and McKinney with option runs and play action passes.

    Keying in on the run game and forcing Mountain Pointe to beat them through the air could be a major factor for the Desert Vista defenders.

    This is where Davis and Humphrey will be crucial for the home team as the Mountain Pointe run game has been devastating teams all season long.

    Both teams are filled with loads of talent and many different players could emerge to fill a major role in one of the most highly anticipated rivalry games in Arizona.

    Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe will kick off at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School.

    -Do you have a human-interest or feature story idea? Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at gmacafee@timespublications.com or 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee

       

      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.