There’s a certain level of confidence that could be felt at every practice the Mountain Pointe High School football team has had leading up to the start of the regular season.
The Pride aren’t concerned with the questions outside entities may have about their program. They aren’t concerned with being overlooked and the “underdog” in most of their games this season.
They are only concerned with themselves and the first task at hand in the 2019 season. They want to make a statement against Nevada power Faith Lutheran.
“We’re ready,” senior linebacker Rashion “Chunka” Hodge said. “We’ve all put in a good amount of work. We don’t want to just go out there and compete, we want to try and dominate.”
There’s no question Mountain Pointe lost several talented seniors to graduation from last season’s 7-5 team that made it to the 6A quarterfinals. But where holes needed to be filled, other players have stepped up.
Resi Shank, who started the entire 2018 season at linebacker for Mountain Pointe, will now shift most of his focus to offense, as he becomes the lead running back. In his place is two-year Hodge, who played middle linebacker last season and led the team in tackles with 109, 19.5 of which for a loss.
Zach Hay, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior now takes over in the middle of the defense. Hay missed most of last season with a broken collarbone but is now ready to step into a leadership role for the incoming players from last year’s junior varsity roster.
“I know them, so it’s easy to talk to them,” Hay said. “It’s more of a lead by example type of thing. I know I have to step up this season and I’m not afraid of the challenge.”
Hay and Hodge will lead a defense that features several new faces, but all of whom have a unique skillset to maintain Mountain Pointe’s reputation of being physical.
Dominque Davis, Mountain Pointe’s top wideout last season, will see time in the secondary along with junior Diamante Landrum, who had 52 tackles and 3 interceptions last season.
Anthony Raynor figures to be a force at defensive end this season with his 6-foot-5, 207-pound frame along with junior Christian McKinnon. Mountain Pointe will rotate several defensive tackles this season to stay fresh, including senior Steven “Big Steve” Williams III and Will Haire, both of whom will also start on the offensive line for the second consecutive year.
“We’ve got the basics down,” Haire said. “Now it comes down to execution. We have to do that against Faith and throughout the rest of the year. We just need to play our game and not let anything get to us.”
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Pride program, and one coach Rich Wellbrock and the rest of the coaching staff have remained under wraps about, is at quarterback.
Sophomore Landen Powell will take over under center for the Pride against Faith Lutheran in Vegas on Friday. Powell succeeds former Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt, who started three years for the Pride and went on to play baseball at Arizona State University.
Wallerstedt was a game-changer, as he was able to make plays with his legs and big arm. But Wellbrock isn’t expecting Powell to change the course of the game right away like Wallerstedt did.
“He doesn’t have to win the game he just has to facilitate the game,” Wellbrock said. “As a sophomore, that’s all we can ask for. We will rely on our backs and receivers to be the playmakers. Once he can facilitate, he will look pretty darn smart.”
Powell will benefit from Davis, Landrum and 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior tight end Kevin Sawitzke to throw to.
Shank will join Powell in the backfield along with junior running back Chivis “Q” Benson, who Wellbrock describes as the team’s ground-and-pound style back that isn’t afraid to make contact with a defender. And for good measure, Hodge will also appear at running back at times this season for the Pride.
Wellbrock has seen constant improvement in each of his players throughout the spring and summer. Powell has appeared more confident in the pocket, while those around him have stepped up to make plays in big situations during 7-on-7 passing tournaments.
But even then, Mountain Pointe hasn’t gotten the attention the program has become accustomed to in recent years.
But that’s what this team and coaching staff prefers.
“We want to lay low and I think we’ve done a good job with that,” Wellbrock said. “We had a successful summer on both sides of the ball. We always talk about executing with relentless effort.
“That’s what we plan to do when we head up to Vegas to open the season.”