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Monday 09/12/2016
Thunder golf teams fare well at Antigua National Invite

As far as early season statements go, the Desert Visa boys golf team signed some impressive golf scorecards over the weekend to show the Thunder will be among the top contenders this season.

Desert Vista finished third at the Antigua National Invitational as the Thunder had a great second day to be the highest Arizona team in a tough 23-team field which included some of the top programs around the country and Canada.

I am extremely proud of these young men and the way they compete in every round,” Thunder coach Matt Russo said. “They executed with precision and accuracy especially while under adversity.”

The King’s Academy (Fla.) was first at even par for the two rounds, while Lone Peak was second at 11-overall and the Thunder finished at 15-over/

The other Arizona finishers among the top 10 were Brophy at No. 6 at plus 29, Hamilton at seventh at plus 29 and Catalina Foothills at No. 9 at 44 over par.

The highest individual from the area was Campo Verde’s Branden Meyer, who tied for third at 1-under to finish six strokes behind medalist Andrew Kozan of The King’s Academy.

The Thunder’s Tyler Svendson and Brian Seon were tied for seventh at 1-over for the tournament.

On the girls side of the event, the Hamilton girls won the event they hosted.

The Huskies finished at 15-over par with Coronado out of Nevada second at plus 37.

The Thunder girls were sixth 90-over and Corona del Sol were ninth at plus 116.

The top individuals were the Hamilton duo of Jenny Bae and Hannah Lie finished tied for third at plus 5, while teammate Alyzzah Vakasiola at 7 over.

The Thunder’s Anaya Ross was highest non-Hamilton finisher at 22nd place at 13-over, while Corona’s Emma Lower finished No. 25 at 16 over.

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Monday, September 12, 2016 8:51 pm. Updated: 10:06 am. | Tags: Antigua National Invitaitonal , Desert Vista Boys Golf , Desert Vista Girls Golf , Anaya Ross , Tyler Svendson , Brian Seon

Wednesday 08/31/2016
Annual golf tournament at local courses canceled

One of the events that signaled the start of the high school boys golf season missed its tee time.

The Ahwatukee Cup was canceled this year after only five teams showed interest in returning when the field is usually at least 10 strong.

One of the teams to drop out was a local one in Desert Vista, which has won it numerous times over the 20-plus years the event has been held.

The golf courses in Ahwatukee have been struggling with water issues and the condition of the course have been significantly downgraded over the last couple of years.

It is a unique event played at three different courses.

In year’s past the first day the teams play in a scramble format at The Duke in Maricopa (Ahwatukee Lakes before it closed down), the second day the tournament is a normal state qualifying event at Foothills and the final day was always at Club West where the Chapman alternate shot format is the rule.

Mountain Pointe coach and tournament director Tony Ramseyer said he hopes is to bring it back next year if there is enough interest.

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 9:48 pm. | Tags: Ahwatukee Cup , Mountain Pointe Boys Golf , Desert Vista Boys Golf

Wednesday 08/24/2016
AIA applauded for securing concussion insurance for athletes, cheerleaders

For years the Arizona Interscholastic Association has been at the forefront of concussion protocol and baseline testing.

Now the organization that oversees high school sports is taken another step regarding one of the biggest concerns in athletics these days.

The AIA announced at its boarding on August 16, it will provide concussion insurance for every athletes in Arizona during the 2016-17 school year.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association purchased a policy on all 99,000 of its athletes providing them with zero out-of-pocket costs should they suffer a head injury.

"When I shared the news with board, they were very excited about it," Executive Director Dr. Harold Slemmer told reporters. "It seemed like a deal that was too good to be true. It's a really a good deal for our athletes, covers any need -- no deductible and no out-of-pocket costs."

The policy costs each AIA member school $1.50 per athlete. It covers every athlete, cheerleader, member of the spirit line and student coach.

It’s a great initiative by the organization that is assured to be copied by other state associations going forward.

Say what you will about some of the by-laws and decisions the AIA has made over the years, but when it comes to concussions the members are focused and clear on making a difference when it comes to head injuries.

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 6:29 pm. | Tags: Aia , Concussion Insurance

Saturday 08/06/2016
Camp visits: New offense, players have DV looking gold in the early going

Everyone wants to look extra nice on picture day.

It can put football players in an odd place because there also has to be a certain toughness factor to be upheld at the same time.

Smile with furled eyebrow in not always a good look.

Quarterbacks are different, though. They can get away with a big old smile. It just goes with the position somehow.

Desert Vista senior quarterback Nick Thomas was definitely smiling and showing off a good look.

Thomas was able to secure a pair of gold Under Armour high-top cleats this year after not having it in his size last year.

“I’m probably faster and can jump higher now,” he said with a laugh. “They go with our uniform and I like them a lot. I had to order them early.”

It’s not the only thing getting rave reviews two weeks into the Thunder’s camp as the new spread offense being implemented to compliment Thomas’ abilities along with the skill players like senior running back Lelon Dillard, sophomore Keishaud White and Valley Christian transfer Alijah Gammage, who was a wide receiver a freshman and a quarterback as a sophomore, and others.

“Loving it,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “Coach (Brent) Miller has done a great job with directing the offense, and Nick Thomas has done a nice job in the offense. We have some talent coming back so we need to take advantage.”

Thomas’ development and one of the reasons the coaching staff feels good about changing up is the fact he had eight starts, while sharing time with Alex Farina, last year as a junior.

“The offense might be new but starting, and taking over the huddle is something I did on Friday nights last year,” said Thomas, who was 35 for 70 for 370 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. “The Friday night lights can be bright at first, but I know what to expect going into the year.”

The Thunder had an intrasquad game Friday night and found some things certain things to work on including the impact that 6-foot-3, 192-pound Alabama move-in Caleb Humphrey at safety could have for the defense.

“He comes up on the running game really well,” Hinds said. “He lays a hit. We really like him.”

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Saturday, August 6, 2016 1:33 pm. Updated: 1:50 pm. | Tags: Desert Vista Football , Dan Hinds , Nick Thomas , Lelon Dillard , Keishaud White , Alijiah Gammage , Caleb Humphrey

Thursday 08/04/2016
Camp visits: DeGrenier finding Mesquite to his liking

Ten seasons after taking Cactus Shadows to a Class 4A state title, Chad DeGrenier is starting over at a new program for the second time.

He is conducting preseason camp at Mesquite after DeGrenier’s five year-run at Mountain View ended after last season.

The Wildcats have had just three winning seasons over the last 12 with the last coming in 2013 when they made the semifinals in Division II.

The school’s population has been drained after the opening of other Gilbert schools, but DeGrenier has seen enough to know there is some talent to work with while laying the foundation for years to come.

“We are young, but we have some good solid seniors,” he said. “The seniors are doing a good job of setting a good example of what a good practice should look like.”

The senior class has more than 25 seniors listed on the roster with including top returners in quarterback/safety Preston Smith, wide receiver Robert Ortiz and linebacker Joe Eubanks.

“It’s going good; kids are working hard,” said DeGrenier, who has a career record of 67-65. “You just have to keep grinding.”

The team headed up to Williams before camp to get some isolated time away from everything in order to build a rapport and trust.

“We had nothing but each other for five days,” he said. “We were getting on the same page, putting in our system and enjoyed being outside in beautiful weather.”

The Wildcats will need to be quick learners with a tough schedule as Mesa, Gilbert, Apollo and Desert Edge make up the non-region schedule.

Then Queen Creek, Campo Verde, and Williams Field will be tough matchups in the Northeast Valley Region.

DeGrenier is known for his fast-paced offensive scheme from his days as an Arena League quarterback, but the personnel has to match for it to be completely effective.

“We have some good linemen so we could be more power than usual,” he said. “We have a little bit of talent outside. There are so many guys we are still looking at. It will be similar to what we ran the last couple years at Mountain View.”

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

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, August 4, 2016 4:06 pm. Updated: 4:34 pm.

Camp visits: MP's defense will feed off front four

The collision was so loud and violent that someone who wasn’t watching the play develop might have thought there was a car accident at 44th St. and Knox Rd.

Instead it was just the Mountain Pointe defensive line feeding off each other in practice.

It’s been a common occurrence thus far in camp.

The Pride No. 1 defense is expected to be one of the best units in the state in 2016 and a lot of that comes from D-Line.

No one has a better view of the havoc than all-state safety Isaiah Pola-Mao as the play develops and he makes his read.

“They are going to make my job so much easier,” Pola-Mao said. “The quarterback is going to have to make quick decisions and those are not always good ones.”

The Pride has always deployed three- and four-man fronts defending on the opponent and/or situation.

No matter what the defense steps on the field the group of Shomari Hayes, Khalif Ravenell, Matthew Pola-Mao and Daniel Pena are going to be hard to handle.

All are big

The group up front this year could be one of the best under Vaughan, and there is a different look to it.

In the past the Pride has been on the smaller side up front with the likes of Charlie Trevino, Mitchell Fraboni and Dillon Goulet, but now Hayes, Pola-Mao and Pena average 6-2 ¼ and 282.7 pounds.

Hayes and Pola-Mao set the tempo of the group. They evoke a ton of energy and in the today’s vernacular are always “looking to eat.” There were times in practice – whether it was the Pride’s ones on the line or the backups that the duo were just unstoppable.

It’s just training camp, and Friday’s nights are a different level, but in the handful times we’ve witnessed spring and training camp this group has been devastating.

Don’t be surprised if there are quite a few collisions once the season kicks off.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, August 4, 2016 3:58 pm. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Football , Shomari Hayes , Matthew Pola-mao , Khalif Ravenell , Daniel Pena

Monday 08/01/2016
Desert Vista cancels football game in California

The Desert Vista football team is no longer headed to California on August 26 to be part of the Brothers in Arms event.

The game at El Capitan (Calif.) on August 27 gave the team an 11-game schedule. It was one of several games being held that weekend in the annual Brothers in Arms Event.

"We had our 10 games," Thunder athletic director T.J. Snyder said.

The players were told before they left for the annual team camp in Show Low on July 18.

Arizona Interscholastic Association David Hines said Arizona schools can only schedule out of state games if the the team has less than 10 to begin with in order to fill it out.

"DV was scheduled for 10 games before the discussion of a California team to play," Hines said. "Arizona schools cannot schedule schedule an 11th game with an out of school state."

The Brothers in Arms website still has the game on the schedule.

El Capitan coach Ron Burner said the late notice made it too hard to do anything about it so now his squad has a bye Week 1.

"We found out July 21 and as you can imagine has put us in a very bad situation," he said. "Nobody has games available at this late stage of the year with Game 1, four weeks away."

Desert Vista, which played in the inaugural Brothers in Arms event in 2013, opens the year August 19 at Perry, and will now have a bye week before Basha on Sept. 2.

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Monday, August 1, 2016 2:27 pm. Updated: 9:16 pm. | Tags: Desert Vista Football , Brothers In Arms , Tj Snyder

Thursday 07/07/2016
Ahwatukee Little League sends three teams to semifinals

The Ahwatukee Little League had a heck of a run in the District 13 tournament.

And now the real work begins.

The A.L.L. had the best overall record for the three age groups compared to the six other leagues in the district.

The teams went 13-2 with the Majors (5-1) and Minors (4-0) earning the top seed in the semifinals, while the 10s (4-1) will be the second seed.

The semis are Friday at Tempe Sports Complex with winners advancing to Saturday's championship game.

The Majors topped Chandler National North on Wednesday to grab the top seed. The team faces Chandler American at 8 p.m. on Friday.

The Minors, which has a lot of the same players that won the title in the 10s division last year, will take on Tempe Guadalupe at 8 p.m.

The 10s face Tempe South at 6 p.m.

The district winners head on to the state tournament, starting around mid to late July, with Majors keeping the dream of playing in the Little League World Series alive.

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

– Check us out and like the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Facebook and follow @AhawtukeeFN on Twitter.

District 13 finals records

Ahwatukee Little League      13-2

Chandler National South       11-4

Chandler National North        9-6

Chandler American                5-6

Tempe Guadalupe                 4-6

Tempe South                         4-11

Tempe Rio Salado                0-11

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, July 7, 2016 1:19 pm. Updated: 2:15 pm. | Tags: Ahwatukee Little League

Wednesday 05/25/2016
Denny looks to be right fit for Mountain Pointe

Clearly it was not going to be easy to find a high-level coach that would  be in the same mold as Brandon Buck to be the next guy to run the Mountain Pointe baseball program.

The search committee had a tough task, reached out to some of the state’s top coaches and eventually settled on Matt Denny.

The same guy who could be found at Tempe Diablo last week as he helped Greenway to its second Division II title in three years last week.

Walking away from a program that he clearly has playing at a very high level had Denny torn through the whole process, and much like his predecessor he told his players as soon as he made a decision so the news came directly from him.

“It was not a unanimous decision by any means,” Denny told reporters after the DII title game. “Ultimately, I just didn’t want (the players) to hear it from a friend, from a coach or a dad. I wanted them to hear it straight from my mouth so I could explain why and just give them a heartfelt talk. Yes, I was very worried it was going to distract them. I saw some definite disappointment in some eyes.”

While it could have led to a distraction or a burden the players finished it with a championship.

“How much did I want it? Through the roof,” he said. “I wanted everything for these guys.”

As the end of the season came nearer, Denny kept thinking about all of the last things he’d ever do as Greenway’s coach. At least the final bus ride came with a big old trophy in hand.

“When I told the players I was leaving it definitely shocked them,” he said. “I was worried it would be a distraction. But it went really well, obviously. It’s a great ending.”

While he is now part of the Pride family, he will always be grateful for his time at Greenway, which started in 2002 before becoming head coach in 2007.

“Greenway is where I grew up as a coach, as a parent, as a dad, as everything,” Denny said. “My professional career is here. Making the switch over next year was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

“Honestly it’s just been consuming me and I’ve just been trying to fight it and get these guys ready for playoff baseball and not think about the next journey I’m going to be on.”

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 5:58 pm. Updated: 8:11 pm. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Baseball , Matt Denny , Brandon Buck

Thursday 05/05/2016
Crump hopes to build a Desert Vista brand

Club basketball coaches have players come in and filter through the program pretty quickly.

Coaches do their best to put their imprint on each one, but most of the players are already highly developed before moving on to the next age group or level of play.

Gino Crump found himself wanting more time.

It led to him reaching out to high school programs in order to leave a more lasting imprint on players and now he will get a chance to do it with the players of Desert Vista.

“Club players are the best or one of the best players on their high school team, but you have a shorter window to interact,” Crump said. “With high school players you get them five or six days a week, can work on developing players at every level and have a real impact as a mentor or coach.”

Crump has had plenty of success since coming to Arizona from Washington, D.C., as head coach of the Arizona Magic, an AAU club team now known as The Factory has produced five NBA players, according to the website. The Magic went 34-8 in 2014 and have averaged 30 wins per season in his three years at the helm, according to a story in Casa Grande Dispatch.

He had similar success in his one year at Casa Grande as the Cougars went 25-6, won the Division III, Section III title, went undefeated at home and made the second of the playoffs.

Now he takes over a Desert Vista program that most thought underachieved at 14-13 a year after making the Division I state finals before losing to Corona de Sol.

Crump has a clear vision for the program moving forward that shows he was the right man for the job from the start.

"We take pride in developing certain type of kids and building a brand," Crump said. "When college coaches come to me I want to be able to say this is a DV kid. That comes with a certain brand - they have character, they have a toughness about them, play the game the right way and have a high basketball IQ.

"When we get there then the program will be doing good things."

* Contact reporter Jason P. Skoda at (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, May 5, 2016 11:08 am. | Tags: Desert Vista Boys Basketball , Gino Crump

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Ahwatukee Little League 11s win district title

Ahwatukee Little League Minors topped Chandler National North to win the District 13 title.

Despite excessive heat, some residents still active outside

By Jiahui Jia | Cronkite NewsFriday, June 24, 2016PHOENIX — It was 9 a.m. and the temperature had...

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