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New faces at QB, defense lead Pride into battle

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2007 11:00 pm

It's time to step into the unknown. When Mountain Pointe High School opens the football season at home tonight against Phoenix Cesar Chavez the two teams will be meeting for the first time on a gridiron, but that doesn't mean that they don't know anything about each other. There are times that you play the system, not the individual players, and Chavez coach Dan Widmeir is familiar with Pride coach Phil Abbadessa. "When I was at Tolleson we played against Karl Kiefer and coach Abbadessa was with him," Widmeir explained, "so we have an idea of what Mountain Pointe likes to do." Kiefer retired two years ago and although Abbadessa, who took over the program, has incorporated some of his own schemes, the basic game plan in similar. "We're a running team so we hope to control the ball and keep Mountain Pointe's offense off the field as long as we can," Widmeir said. "We know we have to slow down their big guys up front and we have to stop those Wheaton kids," Widmeir added. Mountain Pointe senior running back Marquese Wheaton scored 13 touchdowns and ran for 712 yards as a junior last season. His brother Markus scored three touchdowns as a sophomore and caught 12 passes for 286 yards. The Champions' quarterback P.J. Neal ran for 550 yards as a junior last season and running back Jeremy Vinson averaged more than 15 yards a carry while seeing limited playing time as a junior for the Class 5A-Division I Metro Region team. "We know we're going to have to stop the run." Abbadessa said. "We have a fast defense and some pretty good running backs too, but this is the first game of the season and it usually takes two or three games before you see where you're going to be strong and what you have to work on." Widmeir is also cautious about the Pride's special teams. "Mountain Pointe always has good special teams," Widmeir added. "We saw them play three Metro teams last year and Mountain Pointe's special teams just killed them. We know the special teams will be a big part of this game." Abbadessa acknowledges that the Pride spend time on the special team. "It's really is a big part of the game so we do a lot of work there," Abbadessa said. The Pride should have an added incentive in their home opener. Their football stadium will be named for Kiefer in a ceremony before the kickoff. Larry Ward can be reached at (480) 898-7915 or lward@aztrib.com.

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