Picture day always seems to be the oddest few hours of the football season.
Linemen are playing catch with a football, players are getting told what to do by someone who isn’t part of the coaching staff and players show up with a different jersey number than the previous year.
Then there is the case of Keondre Churchwell.
The Mountain Pointe senior linebacker looked great in his new Under Armour uniform. It was clean and crisp and the gold No. 15 looked great against the maroon jersey.
Until it was pointed out that the secondary numbers on the shoulder were inverted and read as No. 51.
That’s why you have a dress rehearsal — to get everything figured out and in place.
Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe got through the process mostly unscathed on Saturday and can enter this week’s action that much closer to the start of the regular season.
“It’s always good to get through this day,” said Thunder coach Dan Hinds, who has now been through the process 13 times as Desert Vista’s head coach.
Here are some other observations gleaned from the few hours spent with each team:
• Cade van Raaphorst has seemingly embraced his move to linebacker, but nothing less should have been expected. He is a leader and if playing linebacker instead of quarterback — where he started the first five games last season before an injury opened the door for Alex Farina — is best for the team, he is going to do it.
“I played linebacker as a freshman and sophomore and come back (from the injury) to play the last game there,” he said. “It’s a different mentality (than quarterback), but you can still make a lot of plays and have an impact.”
• The player most singled out as a breakout possibility for the Thunder is speedster Cole Tippit, who will be one of the candidates to run the fly in the Thunder’s offense.
• The Johnny Johnson question has been answered. The former starting cornerback is staying at Maricopa. Johnson open-enrolled at Desert Vista and started every game at corner as a sophomore. After the season, he began attending the closer-to-home Maricopa, but there were rumblings he was going to come to Desert Vista for the season. Apparently he is going to play for the Rams in 2014.
• Most of the Pride’s known commodities are on the offensive side of the ball. The defense has three starters returning, so there was some concern on whether the unit would have a major step back. Apparently in Friday’s mini scrimmage of first teams facing off, the defense more than held its own.
“We were really physical,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “It was fun to watch. You could hear it and you could feel it, especially if you were the one getting hit. I think we will again be really physical on both sides of the ball.”
• The player most singled out as the player to break out this year was sophomore safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, who could also see time at wide receiver.
• Move-in Luis Ascencio definitely looks the part in a uniform. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior looks to be another thumper (a YouTube video shows him benching 135 pounds 20 times) that will fit well into the Pride’s system once he gets a feel for everything after he starts putting the pads on this week.
Ascencio, who enrolled the first day of practice, but wasn’t cleared until recently, played for Kokomo High School in Indiana last year, getting 24 carries for 60 yards and one score over five games as a sophomore. He had one game of 11 carries for 51 yards with a score. He will provide some good depth at linebacker if he plays as good as he looks in a uniform.
• The team is going without a scrimmage again this year due to the Sollenberger Classic, so the team will have an intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday this week.
• Mountain Pointe will be leaving for the Sollenberger Classic on Thursday, Aug. 21, for the trip to Las Vegas.
The players will practice at a Bishop Gorman practice field from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. when they arrive and then hope to do a walk-through at Bishop Gorman’s Fertitta Field on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s game against Reed, which is from Sparks, Nev., but logistics are still being figured out since there is a game — Gorman vs. Brophy — that day.
Last year, the Pride practiced at Faith Lutheran High because they were playing Gorman and they didn’t want to practice at the facility in case there happened to be some prying eyes on campus at the time.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.