Jalen Brown

Mountain Pointe is garnering national attention because of the recruiting status of players like Jalen Brown, left, who attempts to get open against teammate Timmy Hernandez.

By Jason P. Skoda, AFN

While Desert Vista had the national focus earlier this week because of a visit from the big guy, the Mountain Pointe football program garnered some national attention as well.

So it wasn’t POTUS giving a speech inside the Storm Center, but starting the year as Rivals.com’s 19th best team in the nation is a pretty good honor as well.

“I don’t know what it really means because it is just one set of people and their opinion,” Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan said. “What it is, really, is a sign of how far we’ve come. We’ve gone from winning two games (in 2008 before Vaughan took over) to a top 20 national ranking.

“It’s the culmination of the work done by the players who started this and are no longer here.”

A national ranking usually starts with recent success and high-profile recruits. Mountain Pointe is coming off its first state title berth and has two other state semifinal berths along with having two of Rival.com’s top 100 recruits in the nation regardless of position.

Jalen Brown is ranked No. 50 overall, while offensive lineman Natrell Curtis is No. 93.

The other national news nugget that came the Pride’s way this week is the fact that Mountain Pointe’s first game of the season was moved from the regional FoxSports Arizona and will be aired nationally on the newly created Fox Sports 1, which will make its debut Aug. 17 with the idea of competing with ESPN as the nation’s top sports channel.

One of its first live broadcasts will be the Sollenberger Classic when Mountain Pointe travels to Las Vegas to play Bishop Gorman, which is ranked No. 18 by rivals.com, on Aug. 23.

All of it means more exposure for the players and that can only be a good thing, while the No. 19 ranking provides some inspiration as well.

“It’s pretty cool, man, and shows what people outside of Arizona think of us,” senior guard Natrell Curtis said. “We’re not satisfied with 19. It’s just a starting point. When we go out and win a state title we are going to make a run at No. 1.”

Vaughan said practice has gone well this week as they ramped up hitting with the move to full pads.

“We’ve been getting after it,” he said. “The pace we practice at is a lot different than a lot of people. We like to make it physical as possible because I need to know who is ready to get the job done.”

The write-up on Mountain Pointe on the Rivals.com website questioned the Pride’s physicalness, which is the opposite of what Vaughan-coached teams are known for.

“It’s taped up and highlighted in the locker room,” one of the Pride assistant coaches said.

The team hasn’t really been at 100 percent healthy all camp, but wide receiver/defensive back Jalen Brown (ankle) and cornerback Dominique Fenstermacher (hip) were cleared to go live early in the week.

Others, like Curtis (elbow) and offensive lineman Kyle Spight (concussion), are working their way back into the fold.

The game is just two weeks away so getting everyone on the field and ready for the Gaels is becoming essential.

The team has seven more practices at Lovett Field before it heads to Las Vegas on Aug. 21 where they will practice at Faith Lutheran High before a walk through at Gorman’s Fertitta Field in preparation for its national debut.

“We are getting there. We still have some work to do,” Vaughan said. “We can’t let (the ranking) be anything more than what it is — a number. We still have to go out and perform and Gorman is going to be tough.”

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

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