Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds and Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock have different experiences with the Ahwatukee Bowl.
One has been involved in every installment of the rivalry, while another is only entering his second season. No matter the tenure of each coach, they both recognize the importance of the game to players and the surrounding community.
“This game means a lot,” Hinds said. “These kids all grew up together. It’s become a really cool thing for Ahwatukee.”
Hinds has coached in every Ahwatukee Bowl dating back to when the rivalry first started in 1997. He was an assistant coach back then under legendary coach Jim Rattay and watched the first handful of meetings between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe from the coaches’ box.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Hinds took over the Thunder program as head coach. He coached against legendary Mountain Pointe coach Karl Kiefer, who Hinds played for at McClintock High School.
Some of his fondest memories from the game come from when he went up against his former coach, but one in particular came when he was an assistant.
“We only had juniors on the team,” Hinds said. “(Mountain Pointe) was so excited they beat us that the kids rushed the field and it turned into one of these things where they got up on one of our goal posts and tore it down. It was out of pure excitement, but it was just like what you saw on TV.
“I remember thinking how huge the game was going to be. I think that’s what got it going.”
No goal posts have been ripped down since that night in 1997, but other memorable moments have impacted the rivalry over the years.
From a five-overtime thriller in 2000, to a weather-delayed game resulting in a forfeit for Mountain Pointe in 2011 and student who streaked in 2012, the rivalry has had its fair share of good, bad and downright ugly moments.
But all of that, to a certain extent, is to be expected when teams separated by just three miles in a secluded community meet on the gridiron.
“The kids are excited about it and the staff is excited about it,” Wellbrock said. “When you know the history behind it, you want to have your kids ready to go.”
The players for each team often grow up together, playing youth football on the same team until going their separate ways in high school.
When they meet on the field, it resembles what one might see in a small town in northern or southern Arizona, as most of the community comes to either support one of the teams or just to be involved.
Even for coaches who have never experienced the Ahwatukee Bowl, they recognize the importance and overall impact of the game. That was the case for Wellbrock, who coached at Desert Edge and Basha before he was hired to take over the Pride program in 2018.
“The biggest one that this game reminds me of is Cactus-Peoria just because the schools are so close,” Wellbrock said. “There were packed houses. That’s the one that I think is the most similar to this game.”
The game has a different meaning than other contests on each team’s schedule. No matter what, the Ahwatukee Bowl is always circled.
Both teams could be undefeated or winless, everything else going on in the season is put on hold for one week.
This is the game that seniors often base their legacy on, along with whether or not they won a state title. Each player wants those bragging rights for the rest of their lives, and of course to say they run Ahwatukee.
“We talked about the it after the Mountain View game, we talked about how we want our picture painted,” Wellbrock said. “We want them to give everything they have in terms of effort and they’re doing that. This is a game between two very good programs that like to get after it.”
Hinds and Wellbrock know what this game means to their players, regardless of how long each has been involved in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
It’s a staple in the community, and one that will not fade in the foreseeable future, regardless of how each team performs throughout the season.
“We did something a little different this week,” Hinds said. “We normally bring the boys in and watch film from the night before. But this week, I just talked to them.
“We put everything behind us and now we are focused on getting ready for Mountain Pointe.”
The 23rd annual Ahwatukee Bowl between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe will kickoff on Friday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. from Thunder Stadium.