Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe knew heading into the 23rd annual Ahwatukee Bowl that both teams would be in for a dog fight.
After what transpired in the first half of the annual rivalry game, that may be looked at by some as an understatement. It was defensive battle through and through, but it was the Thunder who ultimately prevailed as Desert Vista defeated Mountain Pointe 24-3 on Friday night to claim the Tukee Bowl trophy.
“This is a really big game for us, the Ahwatukee Bowl is a big one,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “I’m honored to be part of this for all these years and I’m proud of our boys.
“It felt good hoisting that thing up.”
The win for Desert Vista marks the first time since the 2007-08 seasons the Thunder managed to win back-to-back ‘Tukee Bowl trophies. But it didn’t come easy.
Desert Vista’s high-powered offense came to a halt in the first half, as Mountain Pointe’s stout defense limited the Thunder to just three points and 63 total yards from scrimmage. It was an all-around effort by Mountain Pointe’s defense, as the defensive line managed to pressure Desert Vista quarterback Parker Navarro, while linebackers stepped up to stop the run and defensive backs allowed little to no room for wideouts to work.
Mountain Pointe senior Rashion “Chunka” Hodge led the charge for the Pride defensive unit, batting down passes in coverage while also coming up with several solo tackles, some of which for a loss.
Hodge’s passion, especially in the first half, radiated throughout the rest of the defensive unit and especially the linebacking group, as senior Jaylous Horton and junior Zach Hay proved to make a difference in limiting the Thunder’s offensive production.
“They’re giving us everything they got,” Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock said. “I can’t question the effort of any of our guys. We are just missing some plays in some key moments and we have to get out of our own way a little bit.”
While Mountain Pointe’s defense got it done on the field, so did Desert Vista’s.
The Thunder defense allowed only three points to Mountain Pointe in the first half despite the Pride finding success both on the ground and through the air.
Even when the Pride started deep in Desert Vista territory late in the first half, the Thunder forced them to miss a 36-yard field goal attempt that would have given Mountain Pointe the lead heading into the half.
“We knew this game wouldn’t be handed to us,” Grubbs said. “We got hit in the mouth, but we bounced back from it. I knew we needed a big play to spark things and that’s what we were able to do.”
It wasn’t until the second half that Desert Vista’s offense began to click.
With starting running back Tyson Grubbs playing in limited amounts due to an injury he suffered against Desert Ridge last week, sophomore Devon Grubbs stepped up to fill the lead back role along with senior athlete Colby Humphrey.
The two were quiet in the first half, as Grubbs had only three rushing yards and Humphrey to that point had none. But running lanes started to open in the second half as Desert Vista came out of the locker room with a different mindset.
“We made a few adjustments but ultimately we told our boys they just needed to play harder,” Hinds said. “Basically, we said they had a decision when they walked out that door. Their destiny was in their own hands.
“I think they decided they wanted to take this thing and they did.”
Grubbs broke free in the third quarter for 46-yard run to set up Desert Vista deep in Mountain Pointe territory. A few plays later, he capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown, the first of the game for either team.
Desert Vista’s defense continued to force Mountain Pointe into punting situations, even with the Pride running wildcat formations with some of their best playmakers in the backfield.
The two teams traded punts throughout most of the third quarter and halfway through the fourth before Desert Vista managed to find a whole in Mountain Pointe’s secondary. Navarro managed to find Humphrey for a 29-yard touchdown, which put the game out of reach for the Pride.
The Thunder would score again with just over two minutes to play as Navarro took it himself from 20 yards out.
“It really comes down to my O-line and my receivers who make plays,” Navarro said. “I can’t do anything without those guys around me.”
Navarro has consistently managed to do damage against opposing defenses through the air and on the ground this season. And while Mountain Pointe challenged him in the first half, the ‘Tukee Bowl was no different.
The senior finished 7-of-17 for 80 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 14 times for 78 yards and another score. He led the team in rushing yards, finishing just ahead of Grubbs who had 73 on 18 carries for a touchdown.
“We found some power in the team,” Navarro said. “First half wasn’t what we wanted but the second half we just came out and trusted each other. I think that really helped us change the momentum.”
Despite only scoring three points, Mountain Pointe managed 233 yards of total offense, led by senior running back Resi Shank with 94 yards on the ground and sophomore quarterback Landen Powell, who finished 14-of-25 for 128 yards. He also had two interceptions.
The loss drops Mountain Pointe to 1-6 (0-3) on the season. It’s the first time since 2008 the Pride have lost six games in a season. Despite the way things have played out this season, they continue to fight every week, an aspect Wellbrock admires the most about his group.
“With our schedule being so difficult, every game is a playoff elimination game for us,” Wellbrock said. “Coaches will get back to work tomorrow morning and get after it against Chaparral.”
Mountain Pointe will look to bounce back next Friday when they host Chaparral (5-2, 3-0).
Meanwhile, the win puts Desert Vista (5-2, 2-1) back on track after the Thunder fell to Desert Ridge entering Tukee Bowl week. They hope to carry the momentum from the win over their rival with them as they travel to Anthem next week to take on Boulder Creek (3-4, 1-2).
“This win is good for us tonight but tomorrow it’s in the past,” Grubbs said. “We’ve got to look forward to Boulder Creek and not take it easy on anyone anymore.”
MP – 0 3 0 0 -- 3
DV – 3 0 7 14 – 24
DV – Hauck 24 field goal, 8:19
MP – Rasmussen 36 field goal, :48
DV – D. Grubbs 5 run (Hauck kick), 5:28
DV – Navarro 29 pass to Humphrey (Hauck kick), 6:13
DV – Navarro 20 run (Hauck kick), 2:06