Competitors and rivals off the field, Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe students are taking the annual Ahwatukee Bowl tradition to the next level to benefit struggling families in the community.
With the help of student councils from both schools and Bea Williams, Mountain Pointe’s academic interventionist, the two football programs have come together to form the Superfood Bowl, a food drive for canned and non-perishable Thanksgiving-themed goods.
The food drive, which will support the Pride Pantry at Mountain Pointe High School and help to families in the community, started Nov. 1 and will end Friday, Nov. 12 – the same day as the annual rivalry game between the two football programs.
At halftime during the Tukee Bowl, the school with the most donations will be announced and receive a traveling trophy, much like the Ahwatukee Foothills News Ahwatukee Bowl Trophy given to the winning team each year.
The food drive is the second effort to aid families in the Tempe Union High School District.
The Arizona Cardinals and State Farm have told the district they want to provide meals for a week to 500 families, according to an agenda item for the Governing Board’s Nov. 3 meeting. Details are still being worked out, the agenda states.
Meanwhile, Mountain Pointe nurse Sarah Portle said, “We are really lucky we have Bea Williams.
“It’s basically a food drive that is spear-headed by football competition. She got in touch with Student Community Outreach and this is what they came up with. She came up with the idea and brought me along with the student council.”
Portle has been one of the lead organizers of the event alongside Williams and the Tempe Union High School District. Together, they came up with the idea for boxes, the fliers and the design of the trophy.
The district also recently shot a commercial for the event with members of both student councils and football teams.
They all gathered around a table with some examples of food they would like to be donated – including pre-made dressing, canned yams, soup and corn.
Josh Cole, a junior student council representative at Desert Vista, took the lead on the project and coordinated with the Student Community Outreach, an organization comprising five students who try to provide the best possible learning experiences for their peers by donating resources. Cole has been a part of SCO since his freshman year.
“I’m just super glad that the football team is receptive,” Cole said. “They want to see this happen. Which is great because I want to see it happen, too. No matter who wins, we all win. We are taking a rivalry and making it bigger than just winning.”
Each school will have five collection boxes placed around the campus and at Ahwatukee businesses. The Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce joined the drive to encourage businesses to have boxes in front of their establishments.
It didn’t take long for many to be accepting of the idea.
Zzeeks Pizza and WhereUBean Coffee have boxes set up outside of their establishments for donations. Other businesses were to be announced ahead of the start of the competition.
Shantell Trotter, one of the lead organizers from Mountain Pointe with Owen Klanke said it was encouraging to see not only businesses support their efforts, but all players in the football programs, too.
“It feels amazing knowing that we are able to work together,” Trotter said. “Even though the rivalry is still there we can come together to help and build the community. For me, it’s special. My family used to work at Mountain Pointe, so I’ve been a part of the Tukee Bowl for a while. So, to just be able to be in it and do something like this is impactful for me.”
The donation boxes are being counted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the game, giving players the opportunity to become more involved.
Mountain Pointe coach Eric Lauer had all his senior players volunteer to count donations on the first day. Going forward, other players will be asked to step in at various times from both teams.
Mountain Pointe junior running back Jay’len Rushing said the Superfood Bowl is a great opportunity for the team to give back to a community that supports them on the field Friday nights.
“I never thought I would play in the Tukee Bowl and have so many fans in the community supporting me and the team,” Rushing said. “We are helping the people who come to our games and support us and call our names. It feels really good.”
Rushing appeared with his teammates, senior running back Amire Williams and senior offensive lineman Jack Plote, in the commercial. Dressed in their maroon home jerseys, they stood shoulder to shoulder with Desert Vista senior defensive back Tavian Dennis and tight end and linebacker Hayden Engle.
While aggressive rivals on the field, they all knew this was an opportunity to come together for the good of the community. Dennis, in his navy-blue home uniform, is in his first and only year with the Thunder since his transfer from Cesar Chavez High.
But even in the short amount of time with the program, he recognized how much the team means to the community and vice versa.
“The Tukee Bowl is always one of the biggest games of the year and to do something that is bigger than football, it’s something I’m happy to be a part of,” Dennis said. “We are all be thankful for what we have and help everybody else. To give back to the community is something to be thankful for.”
The spirit of competition has been a driving force for the level of commitment from both teams and students at both schools.
Portle said that along with their ability to be with one another after last year’s struggles with the pandemic, the food drive is a special activity they can look forward to as an annual event.
“Some of these kids really haven’t had a high school experience yet,” Portle said. “This is a great way to get them involved and get into it. This is a good way for them to learn and not only plan something but plan something for the community. Either way they all win because they are helping the community.”