It’s the last chance several of them get to play against those they grew up with. It’s the last chance to claim bragging rights they can carry with them for the rest of their life.
The Ahwatukee Bowl is more than just a game for seniors of Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista on a yearly basis, it’s a game that commemorates their respective careers, regardless of how they finished the season against the rest of the teams on their schedule.
“Growing up in Ahwatukee, you know what this game is all about,” Desert Vista senior wideout Colton Grover said. “We talk to them a lot and we know they’re ready for this game. They’ve been looking forward to it just as much as we have.”
For seniors such as Grover, the game has a little more meaning than others.
Grover’s older brother, Noah, was a star quarterback in the 2016 Ahwatukee Bowl, but he played for Mountain Pointe. The younger Grover thought he would follow in his brother’s footsteps at a young age, as he always looked up to him and dreamt of helping his team to victory.
Only he didn’t imagine it would be for Desert Vista. In fact, until the end of his freshman season, he thought it would be for Mountain Pointe.
“Especially with my brother playing there, I was so engulfed in that program,” Grover said. “But coming over here and being a part of this brotherhood means so much to me. I can’t wait to play them.”
He’s not the only one, however. Desert Vista senior quarterback Parker Navarro was right there with Grover as a freshman, imagining that one day he would lead the Pride to a win over Desert Vista.
Last year, however, it was Navarro who led the Thunder on a game-winning drive to beat the Pride.
“Going there my freshman year, I really got to know everyone and then coming to Desert Vista, I want to show them how much work I put into this,” Navarro said. “The thing we were preaching right after the D-Ridge game is we want to just out-prepare them.”
Stories such as this encompass the rivalry on both sides. They think of themselves as family. On every other night Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista root for one another, hoping they can both represent the Ahwatukee community in a strong way.
But when they meet on the field once a year, all of that goes out the window.
“This determines who runs Tukee,” Mountain Pointe senior linebacker Rashion “Chunka” Hodge said. “Last year it was close. This is the game we come together as a team and take a step forward as one.”
Hodge came through the ranks of Mountain Pointe’s football program behind his brother, Rashie, who is now a linebacker at New Mexico State. The older Hodge was part of the 2015 and 2016 Mountain Pointe teams that made it to the semifinals and championship game under former coach Norris Vaughan.
Not much needed to be said about this game, as the two had a deep understanding for what it meant. But they often talked about what it was like to have bragging rights.
“There’s a different type of click with this game,” Hodge said. “We always try to have a dog mentality, but this game there’s that plus more. The Tukee Bowl brings more out of you.”
Like Hodge, Desert Vista senior athlete Colby Humphrey also experienced the Ahwatukee Bowl through the eyes of his older brother, Caleb, who now plays for the Air Force Academy.
“The game is self-explanatory,” Humphrey said. “This is my first time playing them at home so it’s definitely special to me for that. I’m just looking forward to another great game.”
Like the bond the Grover, Hodge and Humphrey brothers have, a similar one is felt among players from Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe.
They often talk smack to one another in playful ways. Pride senior offensive and defensive lineman Steven “Big Steve” Williams compares the smack talk to that of his relationship with his younger brother, Jared.
Despite being only a year apart, the Williams brothers attend different schools. While Big Steve attends Mountain Pointe, Jared attends Chaparral. The two often bicker about who will win between the two schools when they meet, just like Big Steve does with his friends at Desert Vista.
“Parker Navarro, Colton Grover, they’re good friends of mine but this comes down to bragging rights,” Williams said. “Winning this game is something you can bring up forever.”
The playful banter gives way to a heated battle on the field.
That’s how it’s been since the inception of the rivalry in 1997, when Mountain Pointe famously tore down one of the goal posts at Desert Vista when the Pride won.
“Everyone takes this game in their own way,” Mountain Pointe senior wideout Dominique Davis said. “We all know people who have played in this game and it’s an honor to be able to do it.
“This is our last year to put Mountain Pointe on top.”
Mountain Pointe has struggled this season, losing five straight games since defeating Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas, Nev.) in the first game of the season. They’ve faced adversity that reached new heights even beyond a losing streak.
But the Pride turn a new leaf every week. Day-by-day they try to improve on their mistakes from the previous day, a sentiment echoed by Desert Vista.
Both enter the Ahwatukee Bowl after a loss for the first time since 2014, when Mountain Pointe lost to Hamilton and Desert Vista to Cienega.
It won’t, however, be the first time one team is favored over another, that’s been the case several times before. But like any other intense rivalry at any level of football, anything can happen.
“Everyone gets involved, our whole school wants us to win and their whole school wants them to win,” Mountain Pointe senior running back Resi Shank said. “We are going to go out and put it all out there for this game.”