Rivalries often develop between two teams or two individuals, but when two high school teams share the same community, it adds even more meaning to a game.
That’s how it has always been in Ahwatukee when Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools take to the field for the annual Tukee Bowl. The stands are full and you can feel the fans’ energy.
“It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s a big-game atmosphere, every year,” said Desert Vista head coach Daniel Hinds. “It’s a lot of people and there’s a lot of energy. You can feel it. I think the players, naturally get excited about that game.
“There aren’t too many rivalries around the state that are quite like this one and the reason I say that is because you have two high schools that are nestled back here in the Ahwatukee Foothills in a real tight-knit community and the kids all know each other, so it makes it really cool.”
Phoenix City Councilman and Ahwatukee representative Sal DiCiccio said he has attended most of the contests, including the first, and added that “it’s huge for the community.”
Even though the scores present a different story, the last two contests have been close, with Mountain Pointe coming out on top both times to even the overall bowl record to 10 apiece.
The Pride went on to finish with records of 12-1 and 13-1 and appeared in the state semi-finals and the state championship. The Thunder finished the 2014 and 2015 seasons with identical 7-5 records, falling to Chandler High in the state playoffs both years.
Hinds has been on the sidelines every year for the matchup between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe.
He remembers when the rivalry started. While the Thunder staff has stayed consistent, Mountain Pointe has gone through a couple of changes over the years. In the beginning, Hinds even had the opportunity to coach against an old friend.
“A rivalry is a rivalry, but when it first started for me, the guy I played for in high school, Karl Kiefer, was the head coach at Mountain Pointe,” Hinds said. “So, it made it real special, real neat and pretty fun.”
Players on both sides have personal connections with each other as well. Two of the best defensive players in this year’s matchup, Kenny Churchwell of Mountain Pointe, and Desert Vista’s Larry Davis, have been best friends for quite some time.
“Seeing them again for the last time on the same field together, that is going to be something special,” Davis said.
The competition between the two schools doesn’t just take place on the field, but off it as well.
For the past two years, both schools have used the week leading up to the game to fundraise for the Make-a-Wish foundation in a weeklong competition. They call it “Wish Week.”
“We know many are excited and looking forward to the game, so our student body started raising money for Make-a-Wish during the week of this game,” Mountain Pointe Principal Bruce Kipper said. “I am proud of our students for wanting to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Added Desert Vista Principal Christine Barela: “Everyone enjoys winning, but the overall spirit and positive atmosphere it brings to the school the week of the game and game night is positively electrifying! It is so much fun.”
Outside of fundraising, the game also is a social event for both student bodies that is a must-see event.
Brandon Schmoll, a Desert Vista alumnus and a member of the Tempe Union High School Governing Board, said that if there was one football game you went to, it was the Tukee Bowl.
“Even if you’re not a student or a parent, but you like the feel of being close to the field watching a high-energy game and at the same time support your local school, it’s perfect,” Schmoll said.
The game equals some of the best rivalries in Arizona, like the “Battle for Arizona Avenue” between Chandler High and Hamilton. Hinds added that the rivalry reminded him of the old matchups between McClintock and Tempe high schools.
“This is very rare to have a rivalry like this. People think it happens all over but it’s not true,” DiCiccio said. “It’s been interesting to watch the power shift over the years. First, Desert Vista was strong, then Mountain Pointe and now they’re kind of even. That’s the great thing about this game – anything can happen.”
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe meet at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Desert Vista High School as they look to add another memorable game into the long history of the Ahwatukee Bowl.
-Contact Sports Editor Greg Macafee at email@example.com or 585-610-2344. Follow Greg on Twitter @greg_macafee.