Every year a new group of players suit up in their respective school colors and go to battle for the coveted Ahwatukee Bowl Trophy and bragging rights in the community.
The 24th installment of the ‘Tukee Bowl will be no different, even with the changes that have been implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s game will feature its fair share of veterans on both teams, players who know what this game means to all of those involved.
But for many other players, it will be their first time experiencing the rivalry. But the lust that surrounds it remains.
“It’s a big game, the community usually comes together in other times,” Mountain Pointe senior offensive lineman Anthony Ortiz said. “Records don’t matter. It’s bragging rights for the whole year.
“We don’t associate with blue or gold.”
Ortiz has been involved in the rivalry at the varsity level since his sophomore season. It was that same year Desert Vista reclaimed the trophy at Karl Kiefer Stadium by scoring a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That memory still burns to this day.
Like Ortiz, Kekamalei Huakau, a senior lineman at Desert Vista, has experienced the rivalry from early on in his career. He was on the varsity roster when former Thunder quarterback Parker Navarro connected with Dominic Shepardson to give Desert Vista the 28-27 win in 2018.
He was also a starter last season when the Thunder won it again, going back-to-back for the first time since 2007-08.
Now preparing to play in his final installment of the rivalry, Huakau has become one of Desert Vista’s leaders who have explained the meaning of the rivalry to the new varsity players this season.
“The intensity level is always up,” Huakau said. “We know there will be some yapping during the game and after, but that’s how this game is. I just try to explain to them that its natural for that to happen.
“We don’t like them and I know they don’t like us.”
Two of those new varsity players include sophomores Jackson Akins and Michael Allison, who made the jump from freshman to the highest level of prep football in Arizona. Akins was named Desert Vista’s starting quarterback this season while Allison has become a do-it-all player for the Thunder in all facets of the game.
The two acknowledged how different the ‘Tukee Bowl is compared to the freshman level and varsity. In a normal season, fans of both teams and community members would pack both sets of stands. Student sections would wear opposite colors, often times black and white.
“Even though this is a big rivalry in the state, we are going to approach it the same way we have all season,” Akins said. “We don’t let the lack of a crowd bother us anymore. At the end of the day we know what we have to do when we step on the field.”
Neither Akins nor Allison figured they would play as big of a role as they do as sophomore at the varsity level. And they definitely figured they wouldn’t be among those who the Desert Vista coaching staff will look to as players who can make a significant outcome on the game.
With this being their first experience at the varsity level in the heated rivalry, they know they have an opportunity to not only help Desert Vista claim the trophy for a third straight year, but to make a statement going forward.
“We want to show them what we have,” Allison said. “Even though we are young, we want to show them who is the better team. We’re going to bring it.”
Mountain Pointe also has its fair share of players competing in the ‘Tukee Bowl for the first time. While many are young and moved up in the program, several others came by way of transfer from other schools.
Senior defensive back Jaden Crockett transferred from Alhambra to Mountain Pointe when the Phoenix Union High School District initially announced the postponement of fall sports. Crockett’s natural leadership lead his new Mountain Pointe teammates to vote him as a captain this season.
Despite the matchup with Desert Vista being held at the end of the season, Crockett said many players – including Ortiz – already groomed him on what the rivalry between the two Ahwatukee schools meant to the community. He experienced it first-hand when he watched the game in person last year. He quickly adopted the same mindset as Ortiz and several other veterans of the game.
“This is my first year playing with these guys but they’re my brothers,” Crockett said. “If my brothers don’t like these guys, then I don’t like these guys.”
Mountain Pointe junior quarterback Amier Boyd became accustomed to an annual rivalry while at South Mountain against Betty H. Fairfax in Laveen. But based on the history of the ‘Tukee Bowl and the overall change in energy in the weeks leading up to the matchup, he knows this rivalry is on a different level.
Boyd said one of the first things he learned when he arrived to Mountain Pointe was about the rivalry. Now, he hopes to make an impact in his first appearance and bring the trophy back across Chandler Boulevard.
“I’m excited to be a part of this rivalry,” Boyd said. “I’ve heard about it from other schools and all the hype that surrounds it. I never thought I would be playing in it. It’s exciting.”