It’s never too early to talk about the Ahwatukee Bowl.
And with the Desert Vista without a game this past week and most of Mountain Pointe’s starters sitting out the second half of Friday’s 56-7 win, the attention turned toward the 16th edition of the game pretty early this year.
For good reason.
There have been seasons were both programs were riding some momentum but never like this as they prepare to kickoff at 7 p.m. at Desert Vista.
The Thunder are 2-0 and playing with extreme confidence forged by a talented senior class that wants to leave the program with the same high standard their predecessors set with last season’s state title.
Mountain Pointe is 2-0 as well with an impressive season-opening victory over Hamilton and this week’s thrashing of Mesa.
Fans and media alike have the two programs in the top three in Division I with Brophy somewhere in that mix.
It leaves the Ahwatukee Bowl, along with the Brophy and Mesa Red Mountain matchup, as one of the premier games of the week.
The game might be bigger in the community than it is within the two football teams if the early pregame talk can be taken at face value.
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said, “I don’t look at it any different. Some girls are prettier than others, that’s all.”
Desert Vista senior Kaleb Germinaro said in an email, “It’s another game for us. We are trying to win a state championship. It’s a chance for the whole community to come together for one time in a competitive spirit. It’s a big week but no bigger than week 14 in (University of Phoenix Stadium).”
For those who have played or coached in it and left, however, can express themselves a little more without the ramifications of retaliation.
“The Mountain Pointe game is the one people look forward to and the one people look back to,” said Mike Arredondo, who is a freshman at New Mexico. “You play any other game – aside for the state title game – and people forget by the next Friday.
“People talk about the winner of the Ahwatukee Bowl until the next one. You know some of the guys. You hear more rumors of trash talking. It’s an angry, emotional game on the schedule.”
That’s more like it.
Mountain Pointe defensive coordinator Jeff Decker knows all about the significance of the game after coaching for the Thunder from 1995 to 2001 before serving as the Pride's defensive coordinator the last four years.
“Both programs approach it the same way,” he said Friday night. “It’s about the same. It’s intense, it’s fun. It’s equally important.”
The importance started in the first year of the rivalry when Desert Vista didn’t have a senior class yet and the Pride student body rushed the field after winning and tore down the goal post at Thunder Stadium.
“Something like that will get it started,” Decker said. “(Desert Vista) only had juniors and (Mountain Pointe) stormed the field.”
It has been brewing ever since with Desert Vista owning a 10-5 recording, including last year’s 24-0 weather-shortened win at Mountain Pointe.
“It’s still the rivalry it was and it’s not going to change,” former Pride coach Karl Kiefer said. “You got the two top teams this year. I love what it has become. It’s going to be a great game.”
The coaches might not admit it publicly but this week of practice is a little more intense and leads to a bigger payoff within the community.
It is the Ahwatukee Bowl after all.
“It’s almost like preparing for a championship game,” said former Pride linebacker Izzy Marshall, who is going to miss his redshirt freshman year at Arizona State because of a back injury. “You don’t settle for less this week. There is a prize. If you win that one you feel like you can’t be beaten at all.
“The ‘Tukee Bowl is that game you have to win in your career.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.