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

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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.”


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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Mountain Pointe’s Xavier Cota blocks a punt against Desert Vista in the first quarter of the Pride’s 27-13 win over the Thunder.  [Photo By Billy Hardiman, Special to AFN]

GameNight: Late DV turnover, MP TD seals Tukee Bowl for Pride

Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 11:45 pm | Updated: 11:54 pm, Fri Sep 30, 2016.

It probably won’t go down in the annals of Ahwatukee Bowl history as a classic or one of the more memorable games in the first 20 years of the series.

Mountain Pointe’s 27-13 win at Karl Kiefer Stadium did, howver, provide the unexpected though as many thought the nation’s 10th-ranked team to have an easier game against Desert Vista than what transpired as the Pride evened the series at 10-10.

The game was undecided until early in the fourth quarter when a turnover by the Thunder on their side of the field led to Mountain Pointe’s final score and a two-possession game with less than 11 minutes left in the game.

“They were a real good team, and we probably under estimated a little bit,” senior running back/cornerback Antwaun Woodberry said. “They have to play both ways a lot. They played us tough.”

It looked to be going the way of a blowout when it was 14-0 with three minutes left in the first quarter and the Pride (6-0) blocked a but reality was it was a one-score game in the fourth quarter.

Then Thunder newcomer Alijah Gammage, playing his first game after transferring from Valley Christian, threw his first pass after a bobbled snap that was intercepted by Pride newcomer Donte Lindsey, who was in his first game after coming over from Cesar Chavez.

The pass was short, and Lindsey game up with the pick, when there was an open Desert Vista (2-4) receiver underneath.

“He’s a playmaker and we have a package for him,” Hinds said. “That was just a call we made at the time.”

Three plays later Pride running back Rashie Hodge score from scored on a 29-yard run to give Mountain Pointe a 27-13 lead with remaining.

“They played us tough,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “We didn’t take advantage of some of our opportunities, had too many penalties, but we got that turnover in the fourth quarter and got a big score there.”

Mountain Pointe won against its neighborhood rival despite losing top running back Gary Bragg to a knee injury and were without starting cornerback Delano Salgado and inside linebacker Michael Washington.

A sign of a good team is being able to overcome struggles and a loss of players without much of a drop in level of play and the end result.

“We have some depth and that showed tonight,” said senior running back Noah Grover, who was 8 of 9 for 124 yards including a 63-yard touchdown to Isaiah Pola-Mao with 1:49 left before the half for a 20-6 lead.

“We were able to overcome some things and still get the win. Most of our games have been pretty easy but we had to play this one until the end.”

The Thunder had their chances but never led, but pulled within 20-13 with 5:51 left in the third quarter when Lelon Dillard scored on a direct snap 2-yard run.

“They are a really good team,” senior two-way lineman Myles Wilson said. “We played the No. 10 team in the nation and we had a chance to tie it in the fourth quarter. We don’t have to go back to the drawing board. W just have to play a little bit better and finish the season strong.”

The Pride walked off the field with a new traveling trophy presented by the AFN and won their fifth straight win in the series.

“We lost (at the freshmen level) and then at JV level before winning last year on varsity,” Grover said. “We evened it up for our class and it means everything to know that we won the last two in our career as seniors.”

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

MP 27, DV 13

DV   0 6 7 0-27

MP 14 6 0 7-13



MP – Woodberry 70 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:50

MP – Hodge 12 run (Abercrombie kick), 3:38


DV – Erickson 27 FG, 7:53

DV – Erickson 27 FG, 5:10

MP – Pola-Mao 63 pass from Grover (kick failed), 1:49


DV – Dillard 2 run (Eickson kick), 5:51


MP – Hodge 29 run (Abercrombie kick), 10:41

Team stats

                             DV                 MP

First downs          14                  15

Rush-yards         28-113           28-271

Comp-Att-Int      20-33-1            8-9-0

Pass yards           246                  124

Total yards           359                   395

Fumble/Lost          2/0                  1/0

Penalties              4-30                 8-75

Individual stats


DV –Dillard 12-27, Thomas 5-25, K. White 6-14, Gammage 1-6, Porter 3-34, Werbelow 1-7. MP – Stephens 11-83, Hodge 8-94, Woodberry 5-84, Brooks 4-10.


DV – Thomas 20-32-0-246, Gammage 0-0-1-0. MP – Grover 8-9-0-124.


DV – J. White 4-44, K. White 6-64, Dillard 4-50, Stagg 3-78, Porter 1-(-)4, Werbelow 1-6, Garcia 1-6.

Missed FG

MP-Abercrombie (39).


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Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 8:20 pm

Playing in Tukee Bowl links individuals for years to come

The culmination of the 20th annual Ahwatukee Bowl will happen somewhere around 9:30 p.m. Friday at Karl Kiefer Stadium.

Afterward the two teams will shake hands and separate to opposite ends of the field. But no matter what happens, the two teams will be forever linked.

Rivalry games just have a way of creating signature plays that will always be remembered. Or they produce a player or two who did something that will be forever etched into the memory of that year’s game.

So the 2016 game is here, with nationally-ranked Mountain Pointe High—the consensus No. 1 team in Arizona—hosting Desert Vista High at 7 p.m. in front of what is expected to be a capacity crowd.

The 5-0 Pride come in as the heavy favorite against the 2-3 Thunder.

But, as it has been proven time and again, it means nothing once the ball is put in play. Turnovers, time of possession and touchdowns decide games, not perception.

“No one is picking us to win, but we have a good game plan and have four great days of practice to be ready as we can be,” Desert Vista senior linebacker Chad Porter said. “We’re not thinking about how they are nationally ranked. We are looking at the film and take it like they are any other team.

“We are not scared of Mountain Pointe or star struck because they are ranked,” he added. “That doesn’t faze us. We are ready to go to work.”

Desert Vista went to work in the final quarter of last week’s stirring 31-27 comeback win over previously undefeated Dobson. Otherwise, the Thunder’s season would have been close to circling the drain.

Instead, the team enters the game against its neighborhood rival energized by the fact it was able to pull out a win even though two of the previous three defeats came in overtime and in the final minute of regulation.

“We’ve been playing good until we shot ourselves in the foot at the end of games,” Desert Vista quarterback Nick Thomas said. “Now we know we can win those types of games.”

The Thunder defense has allowed several big plays, and will be without junior starting defensive back Garrett Chavez (broken leg). But it will gain Valley Christian transfer Alijah Gammage, who could see action on both sides of the ball after he sat out the mandatory 50 percent of the regular season.

No matter how the new lineup shakes out, it is clear Desert Vista cannot let the Pride run wild as it has thus far this season in averaging 52.4 points a game.

“They have some big playmakers, and a big line, with a lot of talent on offense,” Porter said. “Every team makes mistakes and we are going to go out there and do our best to force them into some (mistakes).”

The Thunder offense revolves around the big three of senior running back Lelon Dillard, slot receiver Keishaud White and Thomas. But it has additional weapons as well that have given Desert Vista a quick-scoring ability.

The Pride defense, which will be bolstered this week with the addition of cornerback Donte Lindsey after his transfer from Cesar Chavez, has been pretty stingy this year.

Mountain Pointe faced it first deficit early on against Pinnacle last week when the Pioneers scored three times in the first half.

“We expected to run over them and played down in the first half,” junior safety Kenny Churchwell said. “We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot and we can’t let that happen again.”

The Pride offense hasn’t let up at all with 30 touchdowns in five games.

Junior running back Gary Bragg, who left last week’s game on crutches, and availability is unknown, junior wide receiver Jaydon Brooks, senior wide receiver Isaiah Pola-Mao have done most of the damage behind an offensive line with interchangeable parts and steady quarterback play from Noah Grover.

“I haven’t lost to DV and I want to keep it that way,” Pola-Mao said. “In the big picture it is just another game, but it is our neighborhood rivalry and it can be emotional if you let it.”

– 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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QBs for both teams have the moxie to play the position

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 8:12 am | Updated: 10:41 am, Thu Sep 29, 2016.

The position requires intelligence, poise, solid decision-making and respect of the team.

Quarterbacking ain’t easy.

The most important trait of a quarterback probably has nothing to do with what he does on the field, but how he carries himself and the confidence he exudes regardless of the situation or the magnitude of the game.

“They have to be vocal and will go the extra mile,” said Brent Miller, a former Desert Vista High quarterback and current Thunder offensive coordinator. “They have to be able to call guys out. He’s gotta have that chip on his shoulder.”

The Ahwatukee Bowl has seen some good quarterbacks over the years and the 2016 duo certainly have some flare and brashness.

It was pretty evident Monday when Mountain Pointe quarterback Noah Grover showed up in a baby blue onesie on pajama day for the beginning of the Pride’s spirit week while Desert Vista’s Nick Thomas sported gold Under Armour high tops.

They don’t mind all eyes on them. And at the half-way point of the season, both have played at high level heading into Friday’s game.

Grover, a first-year starter, has led the Pride, which averages 52.4 points a game, to a 5-0 record while completing 65 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in a pro-style offense.

“I am making reads on the field with much more confidence,” Grover said. “Making reads in the practice compared to games is 10 times different between the level of play and the speed of the play.”

Grover, who averages 19.1 yards per completion, has been in the program all four years knowing one day he’d be the guy the other 10 guys in the huddle turn to when the game is on the line.

“You have to be able to take the pressure that is on you,” he said. “And you have to take the coaching stress level, especially from Coach (Norris) Vaughan, and let it help mold you.”

Thomas, who started eight games last season, is more of a dual threat in the Thunder’s spread-read option. He leads the team with 400 yards rushing with five touchdowns, completing 59 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Nick is playing way above what our expectations were,” Miller said. “He’s had a great first half of the year. His leadership and football IQ are way above average.”

The play on the field has only enhanced their confidence level as they prepare to play in this year’s neighborhood rivalry game, but the personality it takes to play the position has to be innate to start and developed over the years.

“It is definitely something that comes natural,” Thomas said. “I think you are born with leadership abilities, but there are things I’ve had to learn to help make me the leader I am. When you are tested is when you find out what kind of leader you really are.”

And Thomas has been tested this year.

There have been times when late-game breakdowns, some directly Thomas’ doing and others not, have caused the Thunder to lose late. It’s the kind of thing that can wear a player down, especially one as competitive as Thomas.

“There are some plays that really hurt us, but as much as you hate it and it bothers you, you know there is another chance coming,” he said. “You learn from it and move on. If you let it get to you then you start trying to hard or something like that.”

That’s why the next play call has to come with the same tone and encouragement as the first play of the game.

“I always try to say something like ‘We are about to get this right here’ and then give the play,” Thomas said. “You have to show them you are confident in whatever the play is because they pick up on that if you feel like it isn’t the right call.”

Grover said he also is always doing his best to not only to deliver the play, but the right message as well.

“You want to motivate at the same time,” Grover said. “Part of the responsibility of a quarterback is to make sure the team is on the right track and ready to perform.”

– 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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Tukee Bowl far from oldest rivalry in Arizona

Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:06 am

The Ahwatukee Bowl has had some history, long-lasting images and plenty of stars over the last two decades.

The intensity compares to that of other rivalries in Arizona, but it pales in comparison to some of the series from around the state when it comes to history.

Bisbee and Douglas high schools, which was played in week one of this season, dates back to 1906. They compete in the “Copper Pick” game, considered one of the oldest football rivalries in the country.

St. Johns and Round Valley high schools will meet up on Oct. 28 to close out the regular season.

This game is believed to be longest continuous rivalry in Arizona and has plenty of color, as in black, over the years.

In the 1980s, someone from Round Valley sent black roses to the St. Johns secretary; the latter responded by spray-painting “SJ” in black on the field.

There was a time where Mesa-Mountain View high schools clashed in a game as bitter as it could get.

“We hated each other,” said former Mesa coach Jim Rattay of the Mountain View game. “It could get ugly. When we came to Mesa (from Ohio) we got stomped by Jesse Parker at Mountain View and Jerry Loper at Westwood. I figured out very quickly that if we were going to do anything in this state, we were going to have start winning those regional rivalry games.”

Brophy versus St. Mary’s always caught the attention of the whole Valley, but Peoria-Cactus high school football ruled the West Valley

Globe and Miami high schools celebrated their 100th meeting in 2014. That game between two mining towns always had a family-vs.-family feel. It is known as the “Copper Kettle” Game.

The Tucson area has Sabino-Sahuaro, Canyon del Oro-Ironwood Ridge, Sunnyside-Tucson, Marana-Mountain View and others considered among the more passionate series.

In the White Mountains, the showdown between Blue Ridge and Show Low high schools is a tough one to get tickets for every year.

Locally, Chandler-Hamilton, Marcos de Niza-Corona del Sol, Williams Field-Queen Creek, Tempe-McClintock, Perry-Basha, and Gilbert-Highland are some of the games that are more than just part of the regular season.


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

– Check us out and like the East Valley Tribune on Facebook and follow @VarsityXtra on Twitter.


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Ahwatukee Bowl unites and separates community at the same time

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 10:11 am | Updated: 10:44 am, Thu Sep 29, 2016.

It is that time of the year when every issue in this tight-knit and passionate community fades to the background.

Freeway debates, water issues and golf course transformations will be back in the forefront soon enough, but this week it is all about what is going down on Friday night.

It is the 20th annual Ahwatukee Bowl.

The football game came soon after the birth of a second high school when the sprawling foothills community behind South Mountain kept expanding down to Pecos Road and westward beyond 17th Avenue.

In 1995, Desert Vista High opened its doors 4.3 miles from entrenched Mountain Pointe High; by 1997, their football programs were squaring off once a year.

“We were perfectly happy being the only school,” former Pride coach Karl Kiefer recalled. “When they opened up, it became us against them right away.”

That became pretty clear the week leading up to the first Ahwatukee Bowl, if legend is to be believed: It has been said the morning announcements each day at Mountain Pointe focused on firing up the student body and players.

“What happened was they made a big deal about it, and got on the PA every day yelling about beating us,” said former Desert Vista coach Jim Rattay, who is still on the sidelines at Cesar Chavez.

“They fired up the kids; they got all crazy and wild,” he recalled. “They kicked our butts and tore down our goal post.”

The years after that, however, slanted heavily toward Desert Vista as the Thunder quickly became a state power and won the state title in 1998 with an undefeated season.

“I’ve coached in some big rivalries going back to my Ohio days, and then when I got to Mesa, there was the Mountain View game. But this one was just as big as any of them,” Rattay said, adding:

“I took a page out of (the late Ohio State University coach) Woody Hayes and how he always said ‘the team up north’ instead of ‘Michigan.’ Mountain Pointe was always ‘the team up north.’

The game has had its ebbs and flows over the years. Desert Vista (2-3) leads the all-time series 10-9 heading into the 7 p.m. kickoff at Mountain Pointe’s Karl Kiefer Stadium.

It means top-ranked Mountain Pointe (5-0) has a chance to even the all-time win-loss ratio this year. A victory would give the Pride a chance to continue chanting, “We run Tukee.”

That’s become tradition with the Pride, who have won six of the last seven Ahwatukee Bowl games and who hope to keep their good streak going.

The game doesn’t quite shut down the community, as some games do across the country. But a good 10,000 fans are expected at a game that means a heck of a lot in the hallways, locker rooms and even some of the local establishments.

“Family and friends from the entire community come out with a competitive spirit but a lot of love,” said Moses Sanchez, whose three kids attended Desert Vista.

Sanchez, the Tempe Union High School Governing Board member, added:

“That’s what the Tukee Bowl brings out in us: internal struggle, battle, spirit, energy, respect for each other. I love the Tukee Bowl and everything it stands for.”

The bragging rights that come with winning the Tukee Bowl spill into the other sports.

That’s especially the case with boys’ basketball, when the two schools meet and the chants across the gym between the two student sections inevitably turn to something about winning the Tukee Bowl.

Other than participating in a state championship game, which has happened five times (three for Desert Vista, two for Mountain Pointe) in 19 years, this is the game that players will remember most from their careers.

It is the game that is recalled at reunions and chance meetings for years afterward.

“It meant everything to me,” Mountain Pointe 2016 graduate Ralph Roman said. “Going into a season looking at the schedule and you see your rivalry school, you just get that feeling. I felt that out of all the regular season, that game had the most meaning because it was for more than just adding a win to your record, but you felt as if you owed it to Ahwatukee.”

– 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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Ahwatukee Bowl

The Ahwatukee Bowl brings a little more electricity than most state rivalries.  [Photo: AFN File]

Tukee Bowl: Through the years as rivalry game reaches 20

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2016 1:29 pm | Updated: 9:48 pm, Sun Sep 25, 2016.

The Ahwatukee Bowl will reach the grand old age of 20 when the neighborhood rivalry continues on Friday as the two football programs get reacquainted.

This year’s game has a lot to live up to this time around.

There has been a game where it took five overtimes to decide a winner, one where the only points and the deciding margin of victory, in the second half was a safety and teams so powerful they went on to win a state title.

Then there are the oddities – a goal post being ripped down, a streaking student in a gorilla mask, a forfeit due a thunderstorm and an incident where a policeman’s gun allegedly ended up on the ground while trying to get the crowd to disperse that created a frenzied but ultimately safe situation.

All of it adds up to one of the best rivalries in the state.

Here is a look at every game in the series:


A crowd of about 8,000 people attended the first Ahwatukee Bowl to see Mountain Pointe’s size and experience dominate the game. The Pride won 45-7 with Marcus Jones rushing for 166 yards on 20 carries. The Thunder, with no seniors, committed five turnovers and lost their first game after a 3-0 start. Mountain Pointe entered 0-3 but its students tore down Desert Vista’s north goalpost after the win.


Top-ranked Desert Vista won 32-14 with junior quarterback John Rattay throwing for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Bobby Wade ran for 86 yards and the Thunder defense held Mountain Pointe to 25 first-half yards. The Thunder players carried coach Jim Rattay across the field after their first rivalry win.


Top-ranked Desert Vista cruised again behind John Rattay, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-6 win before 11,000 fans. Tight end Elton Johnson was his favorite target, catching eight balls for 106 yards and two of the touchdowns. Desert Vista did not make a turnover and held 1,700-yard Pride running back Nic Lovett to 67 yards (17 in the first three quarters).


In an Ahwatukee Bowl classic, Desert Vista won 38-35 after five overtimes and more than 3 ½ hours of play. Mountain Pointe had clinched the Central Region entering the game but could not down the Thunder, led by Brent (3 TD passes) and Zach Miller, despite tying the game with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.  The game went into OT when Mountain Pointe’s Ryan Cozetto connected with Brian Hernandez on a 9-yard touchdown pass. Cozetto was sent in to win it with a field goal attempt in the second OT, but he unknowingly tore his ACL earlier in the game and collapsed when he planted his foot. The teams traded TDs in the third and fourth extra periods including one time when Cozetto fumbled, and Hernandez picked up and scored. It ended when Mountain Pointe missed a FG, and Desert Vista’s Brock Rideout kicked the 25-yard game winner in the fifth OT.


Jarrett Sayas rushed for a 65-yard touchdown on the game’s third play and his Thunder dominated from there for a 34-7 victory. Sayas finished with 107 yards on 10 rushes. He added another rushing touchdown and a 101-yard interception touchdown return in the regular season finale.


In Dan Hinds’ first Ahwatukee Bowl as Desert Vista’s head coach, the Thunder scored six times in the first half and won 63-13 in the series’ largest blowout. Clinton Polk rushed nine times for 217 yards and Jarrett Sayas rushed nine times for 88 yards.


Desert Vista overcame an early 14-0 hole and won 34-30 when the Thunder had a late-game, 80-yard drive capped by Jordan Stewart’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Mike Tamez with one minute remaining in the game. Mountain Pointe entered the teams’ region opener at 4-1 while Desert Vista had been stumbling at 2-3.


Mountain Pointe ended its six-game Ahwatukee Bowl losing streak by making Karl Kiefer the first 300-win coach in Arizona prep football history with a 23-21 victory. The Thunder lost the rivalry game for the first time with seniors when a Jordan Litke 40-yard field goal came up short on Desert Vista’s final play. Jarvis Hodge led the Pride with 174 yards on 25 carries while Desert Vista’s Chris Brogdon rushed 26 times for 153 yards.


Mountain Pointe’s Michael Moore proved unstoppable with a 279-yard rushing game on 18 carries to lead Mountain Pointe to a 39-14 victory. The Pride had started the season 1-4 but beating the Thunder continued a four-game winning streak to go to 5-4. Travis Hardee added 64- and 90-yard touchdown receptions for Mountain Pointe.


Desert Vista jumped out to a 21-0 lead on a Cole Pembroke interception return touchdown and Mark Lund touchdown passes to Bryant St. Cyr and Allante Battle. The Thunder rolled to a 27-12 victory that put them at 6-3. It also ended the Pride’s playoff hopes despite kicker Spencer Thompson booting 43- and 46-yard field goals for Mountain Pointe.


Desert Vista knocked Mountain Pointe out of the playoff picture in the season’s final week, blowing out the Pride 37-13. Desert Vista’s Chris Jones rushed for 107 yards, including a touchdown, on 13 carries while Luke Matthews scored three times while gaining 97 yards on eight carries. Devon Kennard and Danny Mularkey each had two sacks.


The Thunder continued their dominance in the series, winning 42-6 to take 9-3 lead in the rivalry, to finish the season at 8-2. Andres Battle scored on runs of 53 and 4 yards, while quarterback Cody Sokol tossed two touchdowns. The Pride, whose lone score came from quarterback Austin Lahr, had one of their worst seasons as Mountain Pointe ended the year at 2-8.


The first game of the Norris Vaughan era with Mountain Pointe didn’t look like it was going to go the Pride’s way, but ended up winning easily, 34-18 on the way to an undefeated regular season. The Thunder, who lost quarterback Cody Sokol in the game, had leads of 12-0 and 18-6 before Davon Jones took over. Jones scored just before the half and on the first drive of the first half and the Pride never looked back while rushing for 385 yards.


In one of the rare games in the series that came down to the fourth quarter, Mountain Pointe sealed the 20-17 victory when Martin Moriel intercepted Hunter Rodriguez with less than two minutes left in the game. The Pride controlled the line of scrimmage and rushed for 381 yards behind Issac Kartz (218 yards) and Dillan Johnson (110), but the Thunder still had a shot after Rodriguez found Aaron Smith for a 20-yard touchdown pass with nearly five minutes.


This might have been the oddest game of them all as two weather delays and an incident that had the police get involved during one of the delays saw the Thunder get awarded a 1-0 victory as became a forfeit. Desert Vista, which would go on to win the state title, led 24-0 when play was called with 2 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game at Karl Kiefer Stadium. The Thunder scored on its opening drive, Ryan Wagner had a pick six and then recovered a fumble that stopped the Pride’s only real scoring threat.


This game saw only two points scored in the second after being all tied at 21 at halftime. Oh, and a naked student in a gorilla mask streaked across the field jumped the fence in the northwest corner of Thunder Stadium and disappeared into the night. Mountain Pointe, which would finish as state runner-ups, took the lead 23-21 on a safety when Landry Payne tackled Thunder punter Connor Dols in the end zone after a high snap. Desert Vista, which lost leading running back Jarek Hilgers when tackled with his helmet off that required 12 stitches, had two opportunities in the Pride red zone disappear because of turnovers.


Eventual state champion Mountain Pointe won this one going away 49-6 after holding just a 7-6 lead midway through the fourth quarter. After that Pride had some fun when they scored just before half on a great catch by Timmy Hernandez and then piled on with a 28-point fourth quarter including two picks sixes as Markell Simmons and Jalen Brown took advantage of the fact that Thunder played without quarterback and emotional leader Cade Van Raaphorst (knee).


There haven’t been too many ho-hum moments in the history of the Ahwatukee Bowl. This version, however, played out as expected between two programs seemingly going in opposite directions as Mountain Poite won 49-14. The key was a 28-point second quarter after the Thunder (1-5) used a 8-play drive, led by quarterback Alex Farina, who come in for the Thunder’s second series of the game, to tie it at 7. The Pride (6-1) responded on the next drive as three straight runs got them inside the Thunder 30 before Garvin Alston (5 of 9 for 108 yards, 2 TDs) connected with Zach Blohm on a 27-yard pass just inside the right pylon. By halftime it was 35-7 as Mountain Pointe finished with more than 450 yards of offense.


Mountain Pointe won its fourth in the row, the program’s longest streak in the series, with a 28-14 win as the game was competitive throughout. The game was tied at 14 heading into the fourth before the Pride found the end zone twice with their strong running game. Deon Lee had the go-ahead touchdown catch while running back Macarius Blount (165 yards, 1 TD) and quarterback Jack Smith (82 yards rushing) ate clock and picked up first downs to end the Thunder’s chances of getting back into 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.


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(Photo: Sean Logan/azcentral sports)

, azcentral sports7:57 a.m. MST October 2, 2015

Jack Smith grew up in Indiana, so he didn’t know anything about the Ahwatukee Bowl until he stepped on the field for warmups Thursday night and the stands on both sides at Phoenix Desert Vista already was mostly packed.

The senior quarterback didn’t let the emotions of the big game rattle him. He passed for two touchdowns, then put the game away at the end with a scoring run in a 28-14 victory that improved third-ranked Phoenix Mountain Pointe to 6-0.

“I didn’t grow up here,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it. It felt like any other game.”

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Fifth-ranked Desert Vista (5-2) showed it belongs with the big boys in this season of revival, but there was a long stretch in the second quarter when Mountain Pointe dominated possession, and three interceptions, two in the final quarter, proved costly.

Sophomore defensive back Kenny Churchwell intercepted Alex Farina in the one series he played in the first half. Churchwell intercepted starting quarterback Nick Thomas in the fourth quarter when Desert Vista was driving downfield to try to tie the game a couple of series after Smith’s 5-yard pass to Deon Lee gave Mountain Pointe a 21-14 lead.

Churchwell returned his second interception about 45 yards into Desert Vista territory that led to Smith faking a handoff and running bootleg around the end for a 6-yard score with 2:54 left that gave Mountain Pointe its first two-touchdown lead of the game.

“Turnovers killed us,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “We were driving and two picks. We have to clean that up.”

Desert Vista rode a five-game winning streak into the game running the ball. It was averaging close to 250 yards rushing a game.

But in the second quarter, Desert Vista was held to just 2 yards, while Mountain Pointe chipped away with long two long drives, getting only a touchdown out of it — Smith’s 8-yard pass to Ralph Roman — that broke a 7-7 tie.

Desert Vista ran only four plays in the second quarter.

Smith continually made plays out of the pocket, rolling out, finding seams, occasionally spotting a receiver to keep drives alive and keep Desert Vista from having the ball.

“They did a great job of taking away the pass,” Smith said. “Our O-line did a great job giving me space to run.”

Tailback Macarius Blount started out strong for Mountain Pointe, gaining 43 yards on seven of the first nine plays run. He scored on an 11-yard run to give his team a 7-0 lead with 5:45 left in the first quarter.

Desert Vista rarely passes the ball, but Thomas found Raymond Figueroa behind Mountain Pointe’s secondary for 58-yard score that quickly tied it at 7.

“That’s a great gut-check for us,” Smith said. “It was fight to the end.”

Mountain Pointe didn’t turn the ball, didn’t commit a penalty and never trailed.

But Desert Vista never went away until the end.

Desert Vista tied the game late in the third quarter with another long pass, this time Smith hitting Keishaud White for a 35-yard gain that set up Lelon Dillard’s 1-yard scoring run.

After that, Desert Vista managed just two first downs and Thomas was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter as Mountain Pointe’s defense took control.

“They’re a good team,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “They’re big. They’re physical. But they hurt us on two bombs. We were in man coverage and they beat us. Other than that, I thought we shut them down.”

Hinds said he was just trying to mix up the offense with the pass.

“The pass was overthrown so I had to get to the ball,” Churchwell said. “It was wide open, so I had to catch it.”

Mountain Pointe receives the Ahwatukee Bowl trophy after winning on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015.

GameNight: Mountain Pointe brings home Tukee Bowl trophy

Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015 11:24 pm | Updated: 2:18 am, Fri Oct 2, 2015.

A traveling trophy was introduced in the 19th year of the Ahwatukee Bowl.

Mountain Pointe was the victor, and hoisted it above a proud team huddle on Thursday night at Desert Vista, but not before the bar was raised in one of the state’s top rivalry games.

The Pride won 28-14 before a capacity crowd at Thunder Stadium and a television broadcast in what was a well played and evenly competitive ball game that was tied headed into the fourth quarter.

“It was a great game, well played on both sides,” said Pride coach Norris Vaughan, who improved 6-1 in the series. “They are a good team. They hurt us on two balls. They are well coached and live in our neighborhood.”

It was the fourth win in a row for the Pride (6-0) in the series, to extend their longest streak in the rivalry, but still trail overall 10-9.

“To go out undefeated, and win on their turf my senior year… It don’t get better than that,” said senior wide receiver Ralph Roman, who had a vital 20-yard catch on a drag route along the sideline to extend the game-winning drive. “It’s a blessing. You can’t say nothing more about that.”

Mountain Pointe’s offense responded each time Desert Vista (5-2) scored to keep control of the game.

The Thunder did most of its big damage offensively through the pass play, including a 36-yard strike from Nick Thomas to Keishaud White down to the Pride 1-yard line before Leon Dillard tied at 14 with 1 minute and 36 seconds left in the third quarter.

Mountain Pointe responded with an 80-yard drive ignited by Roman’s catch, an 11-yard run by quarterback Jack Smith and two more first down runs by Macarius Blount to get inside the Desert Vista red zone before the third quarter ended.

Smith hit Deon Lee on a 5-yard flat pass to give the Pride a 21-14 lead with 10:50 left.

After Kenny Churchwell’s second interception, this one returned 48 yards to the Thunder 31, Mountain Pointe put the game away when Smith went 6 yards untouched on a quarterback sweep for a 28-14 lead with 2:54 remaining.

“DV did a great job of stopping our passing,” said Smith, who… “I was fortunate enough to find a seam or two. The O-Line did a great job. I was able to makes some plays that were broken down or I had nowhere to go with it.”

The Thunder took a big step forward despite the loss.

“This is not an end all for us,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. “We got the rest of the season and the playoffs. We are pretty excited right now. I don’t like losing, but this is just something we are going to learn from.”

Desert Vista, which came into the game ranked No. 5 in power rankings, has made a dramatic rise this season after winning a total of seven games the last two years, and showed it can play with Mountain Pointe.

That’s doesn’t mean the Thunder are happy with moral victories. They walked off the field disappointed, but not because they were overwhelmed by the situation or the opponent.

But because they expected to win and didn’t.

“We were beat at halftime and started going opposite ways by halftime the last few years,” senior two-way lineman Adrian Perez. “We stuck together. We made mistakes, we practiced and prepared hard. We did everything we could, but didn’t win.”

The Pride played one of their cleanest games during Vaughan’s tenure. They didn’t have a turnover and had two just penalties.

It was quite the display of discipline considering Mountain Pointe averaged more than 11 per game coming in this week.

“We hardly any,” Vaughan said. “I don’t know if it was discipline or focus or what. We are growing up. We start four sophomores and a freshman. It will take some time for them to learn what not to do, but at the same time we played six games.”

Both teams played a high level and restored some juice to an already intense neighborhood rivalry.

“It was a great game between two great teams,” Pride senior defensive end Dillon Goulet. “Now we can take that trophy and go home 6-0.”

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

Mountain Pointe 28, Desert Vista 14

MP   7   7   0  14 –28

DV   7   0  7    0—14



MP-Blount 11 run (Johnson kick), 5:45


DV- Figueroa 57 pass from Young (Culp kick), 4:11

MP – Roman 6 pass from Smith (Johnson kick), 2:32


DV-Dillard 1 run (Culp kick), 1:36


MP – Lee 5 pass from Smith (Johnson kick), 10:50

DV – Smith 6 run (Johnson kick), 2:54

Team stats

                     MP                  DV

First downs    20                   11

Rush-yards   49-267            23-89

Com-Att-I     8-11-0           6-12-3

Pass yards       83                 122

Fumbles/lost   0/0                 0/0

Penalties          2-15              3-15

Individual stats


MP – Blount 28-163, Smith 12-82, Ascencio 2-17, Brooks 3-10, Roman 2-(-)7, Ke’S. Churchwell 2-2. DV – Dillard 11-20, White 5-25, Thomas 2-10, McIntyre 3-18, Ford 1-11, Woodis 2-5.


MP – Smith 8-11-0-83. DV – Thomas 6-11-2-122, Farina 0-1-1-0.


MP- Roman 4-51, I. Pola-Mao 1-24, Brooks 2-13, 1-5.