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Wednesday 10/12/2016
Pola-Mao nears Brown's school record

Mountain Pointe has been pretty secure at safety the last seven years as the careers of Jalen Brown and Isaiah Pola-Mao overlapped.

The Pride have had the one of the top, if not the best, safety in the state roaming the back half of their defense for seven years seasons.

Brown is getting the most playing time of his career as a wide receiver at Oregon while Pola-Mao attempts to lead the Pride to a state title in his senior just like the man before him.

“He was the man, and I looked up to him, but at the same time I wanted to be better than him,” Pola-Mao said.

They are both tall, lanky and had had a great ability to track balls in the air and it is no coincidence that they rank No. 1 and No. 2 in school history in interceptions.

Brown left after the 2013 season with 16 interceptions in his four years on varsity, and after last week’s interception against Highland Pola-Mao now has four on the year and 15 in his three-year career.

“I was looking at the record books when I first got here and I saw that one and I wanted to break it,” said Pola-Mao, who looks to be heading to a Pac-12 school just like Brown after this season.

Pola-Mao said one of the reasons he is able to track the ball so well is because of his time at wide receiver.

“I was always a receiver first,” he said. “So I just flipped sides on defense. In my mind set I am still a receiver and it’s my job to go and get the ball.”

Despite being a frontrunner for player of the East Valley and being one of the state’s top recruits, Pola-Mao has not received an invitation to one of the major All-American showcase games around the country.

He has seemed to brush it off after accepting an invite to play in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii in January. This will be the first year for the game, which will be held Jan. 21.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m proud of my heritage and this is a great honor.”

– 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 @AhwatukeeFN on Twitter.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 5:08 pm. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Football , Jalen Brown , Isaiah Pola-mao , Polynesian Bowl

Tuesday 10/11/2016
Strolling through Tukee: Pride girls hoops, Horizon volleyball, DV swim, XC doing good things

A little of this and little of that…..

* The first practice of the season isn’t until Oct. 31 but the Mountain Pointe girls basketball team is in mid-season form.

At least when it comes to packing meals at Feed My Starving Children in Mesa.

Over fall break the Pride spent two hours at Feed my Starving Children and packed 35,856 meals packed in that filled 166 boxes. That amount feeds 98 kids for a year.

Not sure how the season will go in Justin Hager’s first year with the Pride but they are off to a great start.

* Desert Vista junior distance runner Habtamu Cheney had a great performance at the Woodbridge Classic in California.

He ran clocked a time of 14 minutes and 32 seconds on the 3 mile course, which translates into a 15:01 on the normal cross country course of 3.1 miles. The 14:32 is the fastest time ever from a Thunder runner on a 3.0 mile course.

Cheney dropped 2 full minutes off of his time since he ran the same course in 16:35 as a freshman for the Thunder in 2014.

Then last year he finished the Woodbridge course in 15:26.

His progress has been pretty dramatic on is way to becoming the Thunder’s No. 1 runner.

If he continues the trend of essentially cutting a minute off of his times each year, Cheney should challenge for the state title in November if he cuts close 60 seconds off last year’s state meet time of 16:15.

* The Horizon Honors girls volleyball team is looking a return trip to the to the state semifinals.

The Eagles are 14-2 overall and 10-1 in power rankings games including 4-0 in the 2A Metro East Region as the regular season enters the final two weeks.

Horizon Honors is ranked No. 1 in the 2A power rankings despite having the second-hardest schedule in the conference.

Senior Alexa Smythe leads the way with 154 kills, 36 aces, 28 blocks, 87 digs and 187 assists.

* The Desert Vista girls team swim team is performing at a championship level.

The Thunder beat Xavier in a dual meet at the end of September and then followed it up by winning the Wolves Classic at Chandler.

Desert Vista finished with 287 points with Chaparral second at 285, Hamilton third at 213 and Xavier fourth at 208.

Shae Nicolaisen set the meet record with a time of 56.78 seconds besting the old mark of 56.93 set by Pinnacle’s Kendra Griffin in 2012.

The girls won the 200 free with a time of 1:38.56 with Alisha Vandererf, Breanna Larchick, Noelle Lavigne and Nicolaisen in the lineup.

The Thunder boys finished second with 203.5 points to the dominating Brophy squad, which finished with 367.5.

Thunder senior Josh Vedder won the 100 freestyle in with a time of 46.99.

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 2:56 pm. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Girls Basketball , Desert Vista Boys Cross Country , Horizon Honors Girls Volleyball , Desert Vista Swimming

Thursday 09/29/2016
Desert Vista girls XC move to No. 3 in nation heading into Desert Twilight

The Desert Vista girls cross country team continues to rebound in a big way.

The Thunder won the Woodbridge Classic in Great Oaks, Calif., last week to garner some national attention.

The meet is one of the biggest and best in west, if not the nation, and Desert Vista dominated, finishing with 43 points as four girls finished under 17 minutes and all seven finished under 18. Great Oak of California was second with 65 points.

It has pushed the Thunder, who finished a disappointing third at state last year, to No. 3 in the nation according to the DyeStat rankings heading into this week’s premier Arizona event.

Desert Vista will be the heavy favorites in the sweepstakes race on Friday at the Desert Twilight meet in Casa Grande.

The Thunder had four runners in the top 11 at Woodbridge and a similar showing will probably happen again this week in a lesser field.

Haley Wolf won it all at in California to lead the way as she finished the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes and 40.9 seconds.

She was backed by Emily Crall (fifth, 16:48.0), Brooklyn Christofis (ninth, 16:51.0), Baylee Jones (11th 16:54.9) and Amanda Davis (22nd 17:13.2).

The race in Casa Grande has become a fun, yet challenging event as the cool temps of a Friday night race gives it a completely different feel than anything else in Arizona.

It brings in the top programs in and out of state.

The race includes a middle school race, a community race, several high school races and the sweepstakes race.

The races start at Grande Sports Complex begin at 4 p.m. with the final gun going off at 9:25 p.m.

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Thursday, September 29, 2016 4:57 pm. | Tags: Desert Vista Cross Country , Woodbrindge Classic , Desert Twilight , Haley Wolf , Emily Crall , Brooklyn Christofis , Baylee Jones , Amanda Davis

Monday 09/26/2016
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 Friday’s game, but still makes for an interesting read.

The series – Desert Vista leads 10-9 dating to 1997.

Longest winning streak – The Thunder won six in a row from 1998 to 2003. The Pride’s longest winning streak is current at four games (2012-15).

Since the six-game DV streak ended, Mountain Pointe has won eight of the 12 meetings starting in 2004.

Desert Vista has scored a total of 508 points (26.7) compared to Mountain Pointe’s 446 (23.5).

The largest margin of victory was 50 (DV 63-13 in 2002) and the average margin of victory is 22.0 each season when using the 24-0 score in the storm-shortened 2011 game. The slimmest margin of victory is two points when the Pride won 23-21 in 2004 and 2012.

Of the 19 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 a 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) 6-8. Mountain Pointe – Karl Kiefer (1997-2005) 3-6; Phil Abbadessa (2006-08) 0-3; Norris Vaughan (2009-current) 6-1.

So there’s that.

How will these numbers change after the 20th edition? Guess we will find out on Friday.

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Monday, September 26, 2016 9:45 am. Updated: 12:11 pm. | Tags: Tukee Bowl , Ahwatukee Bowl

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


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