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Ahwatukee Sports

Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News
Wednesday 11/16/2016
Pride coaches, AD help driver in need after accident

It was supposed to be a quick jaunt up the road to McClintock High to figure out some of the logistics of Mountain Pointe’s semifinal game against Red Mountain.

All went well so Pride associate head coaches Eric Lauer and Aaron Frana and athletic director Mike Griffith headed back to Mountain Pointe.

The trip became so much more shortly after leaving the school parking lot as they came upon a truck upside down on the sidewalk near the intersection of McClintock Dr. and Southern Ave. just after an accident.

“Coach Lauer saw the truck first and said we had to help,” Frana said. “We got out and ran over to see what we could do.”

They stopped in the middle of McClintock. Frana and Lauer came up to the vehicle along with two other adults who were nearby while Griffith made the 911 call.

The driver was still in the vehicle, but was pinned in the vehicle, which was leaking gas. The two coaches and the other men pushed the pick up truck so it was upright and the man was OK.

“We didn’t do anything you wouldn’t do,” Lauer said. “The guy was OK. He had a prosthetic leg, and couldn’t get out the way it was. He had his seatbelt on so he was stable when we flipped it back to the right side.

“He was kind of in shock. The other guy really clipped him and flipped him over. He was pretty lucky.”

So many others just drive by slowly figuring someone else would help or make the 911 call, but they had the gumption to do something.

“It was a flashback to another time when I stopped and the driver was ejected, and didn’t make it” Lauer said. “It’s reminder of how quickly things like this can happen. Car accidents like this make you feel so violated because you are supposed to be safe in your own little bubble. When you see something like that you just want to help anyway you can.

“It’s the principal of paying it forward. Someone does something good for you and in return you do something good for someone else.”

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 12:41 pm. | Tags: Mountain Pointe Football , Eric Lauer , Aaron Frana , Mike Griffith

Monday 11/07/2016
Wallerstedt developing, Grover healing

Arizona doesn’t adhere to the Daylight Savings time change like the rest of the country, but don’t tell Nick Wallerstedt there isn’t something going with the clocks around here.

He went from the new player in the program, to being unable to play for five games, to being backup quarterback to becoming the starting signal caller for an undefeated and top 10 team in the nation.

The hands on the clock were spinning just as fast as he head.

“It felt like it took two seconds,” Wallerstedt said.

Everything certainly happened quickly for the Mountain Pointe sophomore but he said he is starting to feel a comfort level this week against No. 8 Desert Ridge that wasn’t there in his first career start, which happened to come against the Jaguars on Oct. 14.

“It was a little overwhelming, but I was ready to play,” Wallerstedt said of the first game against Desert Ridge, a 27-13 win. “When you have all of these guys around you, you don’t have to do a lot.”

It was clear that the play calling for Wallerstedt, who played mostly in the shotgun at Corona but is now under center at Mountain Pointe, was more conservative and why not with the offensive line and stable of running backs the Pride have to tote the ball.

“They just wanted me to manage the game,” he said. “We have a lot of great players.”

The last few weeks the passing game has opened up a little bit as the 6-foot-3, 180 pounder got more comfortable.

He has increased his passing attempts each week – from four against Desert Ridge to 14 in the season finale against Gilbert to 15 last week against Cesar Chavez – and the results have been solid.

On the year, Wallerstedt has 30 of 51 passes for 548 yards with four touchdowns with five interceptions. He also has rushed for 160 yards with two touchdowns.

“He has really come along,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “At first we wanted him to manage the game, and that’s all was needed, but now he getting more chances to throw the ball.”

Wallerstedt’s time at starting quarterback might come to end soon if the smile on Noah Grover’s face Monday was any indication.

He was put through a battery of tests last week and didn’t have any setbacks. His availability this week at this point is unknown, but should the Pride advance Grover, who broke his leg on Oct. 7, could very well take back the reigns of the offense.

“If I am ready to go and if I’m cleared, you better believe I will be ready play,” Grover said.

Until then Wallerstedt will continue to develop as quickly as he can.

“I’ve developed a lot,” he said. “I know the system better. I had to get used to it with a lot of snaps.”

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Monday, November 7, 2016 9:51 pm. | Tags: Nick Wallerstedt , Noah Grover , Mountain Pointe Football

Saturday 11/05/2016
Thatcher breathing easy after surgery

Nick Thatcher hit a plateau early in his running career that infuriated him.

Competitors he used to beat in middle school were passing him in high school cross country meets.

“It really sucked working extremely hard and not improving,” he said. “I had been pretty successful. I won the (1,600 meter race for Altadena at the Kyrene) Conference meet. After that I started to plateau and people were beating me.”

As frustrating as it was the Desert Vista junior also knew it was going to take drastic measures to get through it no matter how much he trained and followed the Thunder regimen.

He was born with pectus excavatum, which is a congenital disorder which causes the chest to have a sunken or “caved in” appearance.

It made it hard for his lungs to expand fully, pushed on heart valves, made breathing on runs more difficult and depleted oxygen uptake.

He couldn’t just outwork everyone to stay ahead of the pack. It didn’t matter if he trained constantly. There was certain limitations he’d never overcome.

The Thatcher family decided to have the corrective Nuss procedure surgery, which involves placing metal bars in the chest cavity, done on June 1.

“We honestly didn’t know if we’d get him back for the season,” Thunder coach Chris Hanson said. “He was a great runner when he was younger, but as it turned out he was running about 80 percent of what he could be. Not only did we get him back for the season, he became one of our top competitors.”

There was a time during his recovery just a short five months ago Thatcher had difficulty walking 400 meters without being winded after having two metal bars inserted in his chest cavity to expand his lung capacity.

That seemed to be ages ago, and not just a handful of months, on Saturday when he helped the Thunder to their third straight state cross country title.

“I was really surprised I was on the state championship team,” he said. “I was really out of it for awhile. Running at a 10-minute pace was exhausting.”

After continuous progression from “sitting in his house doing nothing” while continuing to being “awful when everyone else was getting better,” Thatcher was good enough to finish 14th in the Division I meet with a time of 16:30 which was good enough to be the Desert Vista’s fourth best runner on the day.

“It is so relieving,” he said. “To make it here has been amazing. Everyone has been so encouraging and I am so thankful for my teammates.

“For awhile I was like why did I ever have the surgery? Plateauing was better than what I am now (when he was on the comeback trail). I was sad and pretty much depressed for awhile.

"Now looking back I am thankful for it because it has made me a better runner. I am more resistant to pain and I can push through it knowing everything I’ve been through.”

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

Posted in Ahwatukee sports on Saturday, November 5, 2016 2:23 pm. | Tags: Nick Thatcher , Desert Vista Cross Country

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

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