Ryan Wooden, AFN Contributing Writer
Nov 26, 2022 Updated 2 hrs ago
Casteel junior JJ Newcombe runs the ball during the Colts win over Mountain Pointe in the 6A quarterfinals Friday night.
Quinton Kendall/AFN Contributor
Two 8-3 teams went head-to-head in the Class 6A quarterfinals on Friday night when the No. 8 Mountain Pointe Pride visited the No. 1 Casteel Colts. And after a brief sparring session in the first quarter where the teams battled for field possession, Casteel proved why it was the No. 1 seed authoritatively with a 43-6 win.
It wasn't the ending that Mountain Pointe head coach Eric Lauer envisioned from a team that had averaged 39.4 points per game entering Friday's action. However, it was clear that the outgoing senior class made a lasting mark on the program after beginning their careers going 1-9 as a freshman and ending with an 8-4 season.
"Last year the group did a good job but this year, this group, they really excelled and pushed even further with the level of discipline and commitment to the program," Lauer said. "I just really appreciate that from those guys because they just set the bar even higher."
Casteel broke into the scoring column late in the first quarter with a 10-play, 86-yard drive that was capped by a 5-yard touchdown run from Austin Young and a 2-point conversion from Isaac Garcia. Then the Colts struck again on the very next drive with a 13-yard touchdown run from quarterback Landon Jury.
It was the first of three touchdown runs on the day for Jury and he wound up finishing with a huge stat line. He completed 8-of-15 through the air for 135 yards and a touchdown while also running 10 times for 97 yards and the three rushing touchdowns.
"Hats off to Landon Jury. He's playing at a high level right now. He's making some good decisions at the quarterback spot and playing with a lot of confidence. We're reaping the benefits of that," Casteel head coach Dr. Robert Newcombe said.
With a 15-0 lead in the second quarter, the Casteel special teams unit saw an opportunity and made the adjustment to send speed off the edge with Gerayas Grimes (who also added an interception late in the game). He timed his get off well and arrived at punter Matty Braun just before the snap, blocking it and setting up Casteel with first-and-goal at the 9-yard line.
Jury punched in another rushing touchdown just three plays later to give Casteel a 22-0 lead. Then the Colts added another score just before the end of the half when Jury led a four-play, 42-yard drive that took only 45 seconds and ended with a 25-yard touchdown catch by Merrik Kubacki.
The Colts received the ball to start the second half and promptly marched 65 yards in eight plays with Jury scoring again to take a 36-0 lead. Zeke Rodriguez would also get in on the scoring party with a 4-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive to make it 43-0. Rodriguez finished with 80 yards on 13 carries.
"We just keep trying to develop our players in every phase of the game. They're learning really well and they're listening to the coaching. Then they implement it and you can tell they really believe in themselves," Newcombe said.
However, living up to the nickname, the season ended with the Pride showing incredible fight in an effort to get onto the scoreboard. And Mountain Pointe did so in highlight-reel fashion late in the fourth quarter.
Senior quarterback Christopher Arviso II dropped back to pass with just over a minute left to play and found nothing to his liking as he rolled to his left. Arviso then reversed field and came all the way outside the right hash and uncorked a bomb down the right sideline. At the other end, Senior receiver Jaylen Johnson was able to go up and over a defender to make the catch and then contorted his body to reach into the end zone with 51.4 seconds left for Mountain Pointe's lone score.
"We wanted to get some kind of points on the board and I know they had some subs in and everything but we didn't want to go out like that," Lauer said. "It's hard because sometimes you feel like your last game kind of unfairly defines you a little bit. But these guys have put in a lot of hard work and time this year and I'll take them still."
Arviso finished with 130 yards passing and the touchdown in the game while Johnson had two receptions for 44 yards and the score. Junior running back/wide receiver Christian Clark also had a solid day offensively as he finished with 92 yards from scrimmage.
Casteel will now move on to host No. 4 Pinnacle next Friday night at 7 p.m. Pinnacle defeated No. 5 Queen Creek 24-14 on Friday night.
Zach Alvira, AFN Sports Editor | Nov 19, 2022 Updated Nov 19, 2022
Mountain Pointe junior linebacker Christian Clark (6) celebrates after he and junior linebacker Demetrice "DJ" Johnson (18) after tackling Mountain Ridge senior quarterback Brendan Anderson (9) to stop a two-point conversion, in an AIA Conference 6A playoff football game, Friday, November 18, 2022, in Ahwatukee Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)
The Pride led Mountain Ridge 42-35 with less than a minute on the clock. The visiting Mountain Lions faced a third down from the Mountain Pointe 32. Then the one thing Mountain Pointe couldn’t afford to happen, happened.
Mountain Ridge senior quarterback Brendan Anderson connected with senior wideout Terrance Hall for a 32-yard score. The Mountain Lions then lined up for the go-ahead 2-point conversion that likely would’ve been to win the game. But linebacker DJ Johnson and athlete Christian Clark made the stop.
It sent Mountain Pointe’s sideline into a frenzy. After recovering the onside kick, the real celebration ensued. The Pride’s 42-41 win over Mountain Ridge in the first round of the 6A playoffs was the first postseason victory for the program since 2018.
A major steppingstone for the program and momentum booster as the Pride advance to the quarterfinals.
“What was going through my mind is I’m trying to have practice tomorrow and not be at home watching college football,” Clark said. “I just, that was the biggest play of the season me and No. 18, DJ Johnson, had to make.
“It feels great. We’re trying to add many more though. We’re trying to win state.”
Mountain Pointe’s ability to hold off Mountain Ridge came after a tumultuous first half for the Pride.
They were penalized six times, most of which killed offensive drives or extended those for Mountain Ridge. While few, a costly turnover in the first half on a fourth-down try gave Mountain Ridge Momentum to take an early lead.
But even with things not going their way, the Pride still kept it close.
Anderson connected Hall for the first time on a 15-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. Mountain Pointe responded with a long drive of its own, which was capped off by a 13-yard pass from quarterback Chris Arviso to wideout Matty Braun.
The fumble on the fourth down try turned into points thanks to Anderson again, this time to tight end Conrad Curley. Anderson connected with Parker Halpine for his third touchdown of the first half the next series.
“They all stayed with it,” Lauer said. “Our goal was to eat. We’re Lions, we needed to eat this week.”
Mountain Pointe answered in the second quarter to trim Mountain Ridge’s lead. Arviso threw his second touchdown pass of the night to Clark in the back of the end zone.
The Pride knew they had to come out in the second half and set the tone. And that’s exactly what they did.
Clark immediately found daylight and scored on an 85-yard run. After a Mountain Ridge punt, Arviso connected with wideout Jayden Burnley for a 74-yard score. A fumble on the kick return by Mountain Ridge allowed Mountain Pointe to score again behind the legs of Jay’len Rushing.
In just 5 minutes, 18 seconds, the Pride went from down six points to up 15. It set the stage for a wild finish.
“That was our goal, we wanted to close things out,” Lauer said. “We feel we can slam the door with our run game. That was the goal.”
Anderson and the Mountain Lions fought back as he found Ryland Sands to trim Mountain Pointe’s lead. A fumble by the Pride gave Mountain Ridge life to tie the game at 35 on a Chris Ramos run.
Driving down the field, Mountain Pointe needed an answer and got it from Randle Parker in the form of a 35-yard run. Anderson then led Mountain Ridge down the field for the pass to Hall and failed 2-point conversion that followed.
Anderson finished 34-of-43 for 376 yards and five touchdowns to four different wideouts. Hall was his top target with 163 yards and two touchdowns.
Mountain Pointe had big showings from several players. Arviso was 23-of-32 for 282 yards and three touchdowns while Clark (118), Rushing (126) and Parker (48) combined for 292 yards on the ground.
But the biggest performance came from Burnley. The Senior had just four receptions and 72 receiving yards entering Friday’s playoff game. He finished with seven catches for 174 yards and a touchdown.
It was the best performance of his high school career.
“It was in my heart to stay out here. I didn’t want to go home, I didn’t feel like it was time,” Burnley said. “God gave me the opportunity to come out here mid-season, or even after mid-season, to come and get some work. He gave me the opportunity and I took it and wanted to run with it.
“Especially in playoffs where it really pays off.”
Mountain Pointe now prepares to face Casteel in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The last time the Pride played this deep into November, they faced Chandler in the 2018 postseason.
The Pride lost that game to the Wolves, who went on to win the championship. They know Casteel presents a tough challenge. The Colts are led by star senior quarterback Landon Jury and have athletes all over the field, including Jeremiah Newcombe.
But the energy from the win over Mountain Ridge is something Lauer hopes will carry over. The players wanted a chance to practice Saturday instead of cleaning out their lockers.
They got that chance. Now, they must make the most of it come next Friday.
“Sometimes you don’t always get payback for what you put in,” Lauer said. “This helps validate the program a little bit. There’s still so many things we want to do an accomplish within the program.
“We can’t be what we used to be but we’re nowhere near where we’re going to be … this just put another layer of foundation on the ground with what we’re doing.”
Lance Hartzler, AFN Contributing Writer
Nov 4, 2022 Updated 19 min ago
Mountain Pointe coach Eric Lauer addresses his team after a dominating 49-6 win over Sunrise Mountain on Senior Night.
Lance Hartzler/AFN Contributor
The Mountain Pointe Pride couldn’t have played much better Friday night at home against the Sunrise Mountain Mustangs.
It mirrored the type of dominating performances Mountain Pointe had during its prime, when it won a state title in 2013 and was dominant up until the 2017-18 season. This year’s edition of the Pride are trying to resurrect that magic, and looked well on their way with a dominant, 49-6 Senior Night win over the 5A Mustangs from the West Valley.
And that’s exactly the goal for the prideful Pride.
“It feels good,” senior quarterback Chris Arviso II said. “It’s a step on the stepping stone of bringing back the Mountain Pointe powerhouse. It feels good that I am a part of this and all my friends are a part of this to try and bring Mountain Pointe to what it used to be.”
The Pride improve to 6-3 overall following the non-conference win, and remain solidly in the playoff picture with one game left. Sunrise Mountain continues to struggle, and falls to 3-6 overall.
Arviso played calm and collected all night, throwing two touchdowns and, at one point in the first half, was an efficient 10-for-11 through the air with a few dimes sprinkled in there. His two touchdowns came in the first half, one to Jaylen Johnson and one to Christian Clark.
Clark also scored the exclamation point late in the fourth, while Randle Parker scored twice (45-yard run and a five yard run) and Jay’len Rushing (one-yard run and a 50-yard run).
“I feel like our offense is elite,” Arviso said. “It’s very hard to stop because we have three running backs who are amazing. Our line blocks. Then we have athletes everywhere.”
The emotions of senior night weren’t a distraction, and the Pride didn’t overlook the team on the other side of the line of scrimmage. They played their game, and played it dang near perfect. It was well on its way to a shutout, but the Mustangs scored off a Micah Johnson run from eight yards out with 1:33 left in the third off the only clean offensive drive of the night.
Elsewhere, the Pride defense was key with a number of pass break ups, some leading directly to third and fourth down drops and turnovers.
Senior Amir Little even blocked a punt, and the Pride defense secured a strip-sack fumble before Clark’s exclamation point TD in the fourth, and earlier in the game Joseph Washington picked off a pass. Aside from a blocked field goal or a safety, the Pride did just about everything.
“We limited our penalties this week and we executed pretty well,” Pride head coach Eric Lauer said. “ … Our level of play needs to get raised at some spots, but I agree I think we executed pretty well.”
Since a Week 3 home loss to Chaparral (now 3-6 overall) the Pride have gone 5-1 with the only loss coming at hands of No. 8 Corona Del Sol. That 31-13 loss to Chaparral stings in hindsight, but the Pride have responded with a flurry and have played their best football since then.
“The Chaparral game is one we felt we left on the table a bit,” Lauer said. “They beat us, but we didn’t play up to our full potential. A lot of that was my fault and what I thought we could do to win the game, and I was wrong. … It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and we definitely had some stuff to clean up and we are trying to build off one week to the next.”
Mountain Pointe is firmly in the 6A playoff conversation, as it entered the week at No. 8 excluding Open Division teams. Next week, the Pride travel to Cesar Chavez (5-4, 1-2 6A Central) for a rivalry game to cap off the regular season.
With that in mind, the Pride coaches and Arviso had a message to the team to keep level heads all week and avoid the potential emotions that might come.
“Our energy is high for this game,” Arviso said. “I’m going to say it’s a rivalry game … it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere and a lot of people there but we can’t let that get to us and we need to just to play our game.”
Congratulations to our 2021 All-Region selections!
WEEK 1 | W 34-33
WEEK 2 | W 26-23
Mountain Pointe Varsity Football
Find out by reading this great story written by by Jason Skoda, Ahwatukee Foothills News, in October 2012:
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Mountain Pointe Football 2019-2020