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Wednesday 10/29/2014
Farina, Lucas get selected for national events after the season

Make what you will of the season Alex Farina has had, but it got a little better on Tuesday.

The Desert Vista quarterback has fully admitted he struggled early on and he was eventually benched. It led to a loss of confidence, but he has clearly found his way back in recent weeks.

And far as confidence goes it may have never been higher.

Just a few days after the junior visited Northern Arizona, he received an invitation to the 2015 was invited to the U.S. Army National Combine in January.

It is held New Year’s Day to Jan. 3 at the Alamodome in San Antonio and features the nation’s top 500 juniors.

The Combine allows juniors to see how they match up against the nation’s best, and how much they must improve. Many have stand-out performances that set them on the path to play their senior year at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Modeled after the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, all combine tests and competitive drills take place in the Alamodome. Athletes receive apparel and gear at the event. In addition, athletes will receive lunch, bus transportation, and a ticket to attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Around the same time Mountain Pointe’s Paul Lucas will headed to Florida for the Under Armour All-America Bowl.

Lucas, who was given his jersey in a ceremony at the school on Oct. 2, is the first player from Mountain Pointe to be invited to the game and he will be joined by Pride coach Norris Vaughan, who will be on the coaching staff

The eighth-annual Under Armour All-America Game is Friday, January 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised live on ESPN2.

* Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 1:37 pm. Updated: 10:49 pm. | Tags: Alex Farina , Paul Lucas , Desert Vista Football , Mountain Pointe Football , U.s. Army All-american Bowl Combine , Under Armour All-american Bowl

Sunday 10/26/2014
Seeing the game from a different angle

I gotta say it was a first for me.

I tuned in to Arizona State-Washington football game on Saturday and I paid particular attention to every field goal and punt like each one was the biggest play of the game.

I didn’t really care if the Sun Devils used two quarterbacks or if they were going to need another Hail Mary to pull out a road win.

I was focused on the two long snappers both from rival schools in Ahwatukee.

Washington junior and Desert Vista product Ryan Masel is in his third year as the Huskies’ linchpin to special teams success while Arizona State walk-on freshman Mitchell Fraboni was handling the duties for Sun Devils.

It was a windy – read as an unnerving day for longsnappers – and brisk day in Seattle so it could have been dicey.

But from an untrained eye it appeared both players did their jobs quite well once again.

The Washington punter had his struggles but not sure how much of that fell on Masel, who is now under scholarship after heading there as a preferred walk-on.

Masel was given a chance at DV thanks to assistant Rich Camarillo, a former five-time NFL Pro Bowl punter, and he has taken full advantage of it.

“It was definitely something I never thought was going to happen,” Masel told gohuskies.com before the season, “having coaches come to my school and saying, ‘You’re the long snapper, right? We’re going to give you a call later.”

Fraboni was given a chance a handful of games into the season and has been performing well since.

In other words’ he is doing his job without anyone noticing which is what all longsnappers aspire to happen.

“If no one is saying my name, I know I’m doing something right,” Masel said.

* Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Sunday, October 26, 2014 12:30 pm. Updated: 12:55 pm. | Tags: Ryan Masel , Mitchell Fraboni , Mountain Pointe Football , Desert Vista Football

Thursday 10/23/2014
TUSD announces Gray as DV girls basketball coach

After having being dealt a short window to hire a girls basketball coach, Desert Vista has finally officially announced the hiring of Willie Gray as the Thunder's girls basketball coach.

It was reported by the AFN two weeks ago, but it wasn't official until Gray was approved Wednesday night by the member of the the Tempe Union school board.

Because of the timing of J'ontar Coleman's resignation in July to spend more time with this family, it was difficult to find quality applicants who were available so it was a drawn out process even though the program has the talent to repeat at Division I champions.

The first practice of the season is Monday.

Here is the official release by the school district:

The Tempe Union High School District Governing Board has approved the hiring of Willie Gray as the Varsity Girls Basketball Head Coach at Desert Vista. Coach Gray brings extensive leadership skills and more than 20 years of experience in training basketball players from the youth to collegiate levels, and even the military.

Gray, a retired Marine, came to Arizona from Fairfax, Virginia, where, as a coach, he won five state championships. Here in the Valley, he coached at Scottsdale’s Notre Dame Prep, Paradise Valley and at camps and clinics in Mesa and Chandler. During his career, Gray has coached and developed hundreds of female student-athletes who went on to compete at the collegiate level.

Desert Vista Principal Christine Barela said, “We are thrilled to welcome an enthusiastic leader like Willie Gray to the Thunder Family. We’re excited for Coach Gray to lead the girls’ team to a potential state championship repeat, continuing Desert Vista’s tradition of excellence on and off the court.”

Look for an profile on Gray in Wednesday's edition of the AFN.

* Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 OR jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, October 23, 2014 3:05 pm. | Tags: Willie Gray , Desert Vista Girls Basketball

Monday 10/20/2014
MP hosting Give Back basketball game

A cool basketball event is happening at Mountain Pointe on Tuesday that includes the Gorilla, the Suns’ famous mascot.

The 101.5 FM Give Back Game features the on-air talent vs. the Mountain Pointe faculty in a basketball game that help supports DECA, which prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the game scheduled for 6.

The teams will be coached by Sun alumni Alvan Adams and Steven Hunter and many of the Suns in-game entertainment teams will be involved as well.

Suns Street Team will be present pre-game outside the school gym with their interactive vehicle (pop-a-shot, Xbox & prizes).

The Gorilla entrance (introduction) will be on court to high five players during introductions and work the game.

Suns Solar Squad will perform at halftime .

The Gorilla and Solar Squad will toss T-shirts at end of halftime and the end of the game.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Monday, October 20, 2014 5:22 pm. | Tags: Give Back Game , Mountain Pointe , Phoenix Suns

Wednesday 10/15/2014
Farina takes step forward after being benched

For the first time in a few weeks Desert Vista junior Alex Farina played full game behind center.

Of course he wished it never got the point where coaches had to turn to senior Brandon Grossnickle, but it turns out sharing quarterback duties for a few weeks might have been exactly what Farina needed.

“It helped me relax more and see things from the outside,” he said as the Thunder prepare to host Dobson this week. “Seeing Brandon play, and some of the things he did, helped my see some things differently and helped my performance.”

Farina has improved with his decision making, his completion percentage and his confidence has increased with it.

“He’s our guy,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. “He’s a junior and needs to play. We’ve seen a difference and he’s playing better.”

Through the first four games Farina completed 33 percent (23 of 69) of his passes with one touchdown and six interceptions. Since he came off the bench against Cienega, he has improved to 49.9 (31 of 63) with one touchdown and two interceptions over the last three games.

While those numbers are still not as efficient as anyone would like, it is clear that Farina has settled in and taken a step forward.

It’s a big step after Farina had several social media posts that clearly showed he was down on himself.

“I like to be level headed,” he said. “It didn’t appear that way for awhile. It got in my head. I forgot about it and went back to having fun and playing football for the right reason.”

He has three more games to make some improvements leading into 2015.

“The biggest difference compared to the start of the season is I wasn’t so antsy and now I am more relaxed,” he said. “I am reading things better and I am more confident in my abilities. I’m not pressing and forcing things in there and I’m starting to play the way I knew I could.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports, Game day, Prep sports on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 4:06 pm. Updated: 8:37 pm. | Tags: Alex Farina , Dan Hinds , Desert Vista Football , Brandon Grossnickle

Some athletes learn importance of GPA way too late

De’Shaun Felder sees everyone around him garnering attention from college coaches.

Mountain Pointe’s Nick Carman has already committed to Utah, Davis Perrott might be the hottest recruit in Arizona and plenty of others from the Pride’s senior class will be signing with Division I programs in February.

And chances are Felder, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound guard, will end up at a junior college.

The talent drop off isn’t that drastic so Felder knows exactly what the difference is as his high school career winds down.

It’s an old story that has plagued many before him. And unfortunately, there will be many after him.

“What’s holding me back is my GPA,” he said. “I screwed up my freshman and sophomore year. I’ve been trying to get it up. I should have listened to my dad. Sometimes when I was young I ignored him.

“I’ve learned that grades count and I’m trying to pick it up.”

It’s a story I am familiar with as I too struggled in school. I didn’t have much parental guidance when I was in high school and took the easy way out more often than not.

In the late 80s you were allowed to miss 30 days of school and still move on to the next grade.

I missed 29, leaving two days to spare in case I had a legitimate reason to miss instead of because the NFL Draft (it used to be aired weekdays) was on TV.

I had no incentive to do well in school as no one in my family had ever gone to college and my Dad said the only way I was going was if I earned a scholarship in wrestling knowing full well I barely made the lineup let alone get recruited.

So it led to me barely getting by each school year and having to work in a factory after graduation.

Here I was all of 18 years of age, and I was already faced the frightening realization that I was on track to live a hard life of factory worker if I didn't do anything to change it.

All because I took the easy out and did just enough to get by.

Luckily, somewhere inside of me - not the guy who skipped class - was a desire to want more out of life.

I quickly had enough of working a dead end job and eventually got into college under probation thanks to my girlfriend at the time essentially filling out all of the necessary application paperwork.

When I got to college I didn’t even know how to study, but eventually got it figured out and finished with a grade-point average that doubled my high school GPA.

So I know exactly where Felder is coming from in trying to turn things around. All of my friends went off to college and I was left back to figured out was next.

Eventually I did, but it would have been a heck of a lot easier if it never got to that point.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 2:13 pm. Updated: 9:34 am. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Football , De'shaun Felder

Thursday 10/09/2014
No clear cut favorite in Division I football

The votes are in and it still doesn’t clear anything up in Division I football.

The pseudo round-robin tournament between Mountain Pointe, Chandler and Hamilton saw each team go 1-1 with MP beating Chandler and Chandler defeating Hamilton and Hamilton knocking off the Pride in three straight weeks of action.

So where does it leave the Division I race when it comes to having a favorite? Nowhere really, but in the two polls I vote in (Arizona Comparison System (ACS) Media / Computer Prep Football Rankings and AZHSfootball.com) it came out with Chandler No. 1, Mountain Pointe second and Hamilton third.

The power rankings, the one that actually matters, has Hamilton No. 1, Chandler second, undefeated Boulder Creek thrird and Mountain Pointe fourth.

Here is how the top 10 in Division I looks in the three polls.

ACS Media poll

Division I

1 Chandler

2 Mountain Pointe

3 Hamilton

4 Pinnacle

5 Boulder Creek

6 Desert Ridge

7 Horizon

8 Skyline

9 Brophy Prep

10 Highland

Others receiving votes: Basha, Sandra Day O'Connor, Valley Vista, Westview

AZHSfootball.com

1 Chandler

2 Mountain Pointe

3 Hamilton

4 Pinnacle

5 Boulder Creek

6 Desert Ridge

7 Skyline

8 Horizon

9 Highland

10 Brophy

MaxPreps/AIA power rankings

1 Hamilton Huskies

2 Chandler Wolves

3 Boulder Creek Jaguars

4 Mountain Pointe Pride

5 Skyline Coyote

6 Pinnacle Pioneers

7 Desert Ridge Jaguars

8 Highland Hawks

9 Brophy Prep Broncos

10 Horizon Huskies

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, October 9, 2014 6:41 am. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Football , Hamilton Football , Desert Vista Football

Tuesday 10/07/2014
Caayon fills in nicely in his debut

Raymond Caayon has already earned a nickname.

Lava.

As far as nicknames go, it is a good one regardless of its origin. Considering he came from Hawaii in recent weeks, it isn’t hard to figure out.

Being accepting by the Mountain Pointe football program hasn’t been hard either after he relocated to the states to be with his father.

“It’s a new energy and vibe,” he said. “They accepted me right away and made me part of the family. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

After transferring, getting acclimated and getting cleared by the AIA, Caayon made his debut last week against Desert Vista last week.

It came just in time with top recruit Paul Lucas, who said before the game to keep an eye on No. 13, out as Caayon, who is 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, provided a speed factor and some relief for Brandyn Leonard.

Caayon finished with 10 carries for 53 yards in his debut after missing four weeks since last playing for St. Louis.

“I can do anything and I’m willing to do whatever they need me to do,” he said.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role he falls into considering Lucas’ health issues so far this season. A quick internet search showed that Caayon has always had had a big-play capabilities.

The stats I found, and I believe to be in totality, from last year as a junior showed Caayon had 15 carries for 176 yards with three touchdowns and in the first three games this season for Saint Louis he had 23 carries for 119 yards.

“My Dad has a job and he said he could support me now,” he said. “I wasn’t getting any (college) looks. It makes more sense to come to Arizona to see what happens.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 8:26 pm. Updated: 9:26 pm. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Football , Raymond Caayon , Saint Louis Football

Wednesday 10/01/2014
Tukee Bowl by the numbers

Some people are stats guys. I happen to be one of them.

Love me some numbers.

It goes back my days when I followed baseball like my life depended on it. So when it comes to a big rivalry game like the Ahwatukee Bowl I love to crunch the numbers.

Here is some info that means absolutely nothing when it comes to the outcome of Thursday’s game, but still makes for an interesting read.

The series – Desert Vista leads 10-7 dating to 1997.

Longest winning streak – The Thunder won six in a row from 1998 to 2003. The Pride’s longest winning streak is two games (2004 and 2005, 2009 and 2010, and 2012 and 2013).

Since the six-game DV streak ended, Mountain Pointe has won six of the 10 meetings starting in 2004.

Desert Vista has scored a total of 480 points (28.2) compared to Mountain Pointe’s 369 (21.7).

The largest margin of victory was 50 (DV 63-13 in 2002) and the average margin of victory is 23.4 each season. The slimmest margin of victory is 2 points when the Pride won 23-21 in 2004 and 2012.

Of the 17 games, only five were a one-score game where the margin of victory was seven points or less. All five of those games were decided by four points or less.

The only shutout was not a full-length game and it came in 2011 when thunderstorms (and some safety concerns) led to stoppage of the game. The Thunder led 24-0 with 2 minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter when it was called.

Coach’s records: Desert Vista - Jim Rattay (1997-2001) 4-1; Dan Hinds (2002-current) 6-6. Mountain Pointe – Karl Kiefer (1997-2005) 3-6; Phil Abbadessa (2006-08) 0-3; Norris Vaughan (2009-current) 4-1.

So there’s that.

How will these numbers change after the 18th edition? Guess we will find out on Thursday.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 9:45 am. Updated: 12:56 am. | Tags: Tukee Bowl , Ahwatukee Bowl

Tukee Bowl Rewind: Turnovers spur Pride to big win over Thunder

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is a re-posting of last year's Tukee Bowl game story)

The cliché was playing out true to form at Thunder Stadium on Friday night as the 17th edition of the Ahwatukee Bowl reached its halfway point.

The old ‘records are thrown out the window in a rivalry’ phrase was probably uttered by many of the 10,000 or so fans in attendance.

Then reality set in.

Nationally-ranked Mountain Pointe scored the final six touchdowns to break open a close game as the Pride went on to a 49-6 win over Desert Vista.

“We came out and pounded the ball in the second half, like we should have in the first, but dog gone penalties killed us,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “They played some good defense and we weren’t ourselves, but it ended up about what we expected.”

The Thunder (3-3) had to be at its best to win this game and that would require having their No. 1 quarterback and emotional leader play a big role.

They had neither.

Desert Vista was without junior quarterback Cade van Raaphorst (knee) as he was lost for the season in practice on Monday while making a cut without being hit and senior captain cornerback/wide receiver Will Barfield (thumb) is out after getting his hand smashed between two helmets.

Yet, it was just 7-6 Mountain Pointe – in large part because of the Pride’s seven penalties for 62 yards - late in the second quarter before Mountain Pointe went 80 yards in 10 plays for a score when Timmy Hernandez adjusted his route to catch a pass on an out route and then dove for the pylon with 9.9 seconds left.

It could have been the momentum spike that Pride (7-0) needed to dispatch of a lesser opponent, but Thunder forced a three-and-out to start the third quarter and were driving with a chance to tie it before the Pride’s Markell Simmons started an avalanche of turnovers with an interception.

“We came out and got the stop on defense,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “That interception hurt. If we finish that drive we have a shot.”

The Thunder alternated between senior Brendon Smith and sophomore Alex Farina at quarterback in place of van Raaphorst.

It didn’t matter who was in there after the Pride learned Wednesday of the quarterback change. Mountain Pointe stacked the box and forced the Thunder to throw. Desert Vista had only about 56 yards rushing – 2 in the second half – on 25 attempts.

“We were going to make them throw it,” Pride linebacker Trey Lauer said. “We stopped the run and once they started going to the air we started making big plays.”

Starting with the Simmons interception the Pride forced four straight turnovers that led to touchdowns, including pick 6s by Dominique Fenstermacher and Jalen Brown, to finish with 42 straight points.

“The score doesn’t show what we were able to do early in the game,” Thunder senior Anthony Reaves said. “It got away from us. It’s so hard to finish my career having never (freshman, JV and varsity) won this game in my time at this school.”

The Pride got away with a terrible start before Paul Lucas (15 for 110) and Brandyn Leonard (14 for 119) and the offensive line seized control of the line of scrimmage and the defense got all of the takeaways (5 total) for the right to say: ‘We run Tukee.’

“As a senior it means everything to get this win on their field,” Lauer said. “We have bigger goals, but this is one is pretty special.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on the Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

Box score

Mountain Pointe 49, Desert Vista 6

MP 7 7 7 28 - 49

DV 0 6 0 0 – 6

First

MP – Townsend 16 run (Sheehan kick), :35

Second

DV – Schwartz 36 FG, 7:37

DV – Schwartz 37 FG, 4:34

MP – Hernandez 9 pass from Hinojosa (Sheehan kick), :9.9

Third

MP – Leonard 5 run (Sheehan kick), 2:41

Fourth

MP – Lucas 2 run (Sheehan kick), 10:02

MP – Fenstermacher 41 INT return (Sheehan kick), 5:59

MP – Brown 35 INT return (Sheehan kick), 4:23

MP – Ellis 6 run (Sheehan kick), 1:48

Team stats

                                MP                   DV

First downs              19                    8

Rushing                 36-249            25-56

Passing              6-10-1-91          5-13-3-58

Fumbles-lost           1-1                  2-2

Penalties               11-121            7-77

Individual

Rushing

MP – Lucas 15-110, Leonard 14-119, Hinojosa 2-(-7), Townsend 2-17, Ellis 3-10. DV – Roberts 6-16, Haywood 2-2, Smith 6-28, Johnson 2-(-1), Van Gosen 5-20, Delgado 1-7, Farina 3-(-3).

Passing

MP – Hinojosa 5-9-1-70, Alston 1-1-0-21. DV – Smith 2-3-0-17, Farina 3-10-3-41.

Receiving

MP – Brown 2-31, Hernandez 2-18, Butler 2-42.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 9:26 am. | Tags: Ahwatukee Bowl

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