A couple of lasting impressions from Ridge Nielsen’s football career at Mesa Mountain View took place the final two weeks of 2006.
In a 5A Division I semifinal win over Chandler, Nielsen closed out the Wolves by tracking down quarterback Kyle Hess, ripping the ball loose on a sack and recovering the fumble as they both fell to the turf.
A week later in the title game loss to Chandler Hamilton, Nielsen tried to breathe life into the Toros with a 50-yard touchdown run around left end in which he shed three tackles and outraced the pursuit the final 20 yards to the end zone. It pulled Mountain View within 20-7 in the third quarter and brought a glimmer of hope for half a quarter that the Toros might make the Huskies sweat their eventual victory.
Those were the kind of plays Nielsen made in two full varsity seasons and part of another as a defensive end and fullback. His dominance as a two-way performer this season made him a force on the Toros squad.
“What I’ll remember most is getting to play with my brother Riley and I getting the chance to be part of the Mountain View tradition,” Nielsen said.
On defense this season, Nielsen led his team and the area in sacks with 20. He was the third-leading tackler for Mountain View. On offense he rushed for 1,216 yards and averaged 9.1 yards a carry. He scored 16 touchdowns (14 rushing) and is Mountain View’s all-time rushing leader with 2,962 yards.
His career rushing average per carry is 9.7 yards.
“No doubt when we played against Mountain View Ridge was a double threat,” Red Mountain coach Jim Jones said. “On offense he was a power runner, but if he got to the secondary or to an opening he was also an elusive runner. With him on defense and their other end you couldn’t get outside of them. He caused problems on both sides all game.”
There was never a question with Mountain View coach Tom Joseph limiting Nielsen to one side of the ball.
“It would have been a waste not to use him both ways,” Joseph said. “His technique on defense was better this year and he really improved his pass rush. “He’s a complete player.”
Nielsen enjoyed two of his best games against Gilbert. In 2005 he set a single-game school rushing record with 292 yards in a win over the Tigers.
This year, he rushed for 142 on nine carries and added four sacks and seven tackles in victory.
“I don’t know what it was about playing them,” Nielsen said.
“They just were good games. Those are two I’ll always remember.”
Nielsen won’t be going on to the next level soon.
He plans to serve a two-year Mormon mission for his church this summer and will check his options for college ball when he returns.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2006 SEASON
Chandler rules: It had all the makings of the year of Chandler football. All three of Chandler’s 5A schools, Chandler, Hamilton and Basha, qualified for the playoffs. They were also among the top four seeds. All three advanced to the semifinals where Hamilton eliminated Basha and Chandler was upended by Mountain View. In the finals Hamilton prevailed for the third time in four years with a dominating opening half paving the way to a 34-15 win with coach Steve Belles at the helm for his first season after replacing the school’s only coach — John Wrenn — earlier this spring.
Prime time Huskies: Hamilton got its share of face time on television. The Huskies were on cable broadcasts by Cox 7 and/or ESPNU five times defeating Red Mountain, Highland, Chandler and Mountain View. Their only loss took place in Ohio where Washington Massillon knocked them off in the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge on Sept. 16.
Record setters: Cactus Shadows receiver Kyle Watkins and Coolidge quarterback Jesse Wheeler etched their names into the state record books with their performances this year. Watkins broke the 4A single-game receptions record and tied the all-class mark by catching 21 passes in the 4A Division II state championship game against Higley. Wheeler broke the 3A singlegame touchdown mark by throwing seven touchdown passes in a regular season game against Eloy Santa Cruz.
Three out of four champs: East Valley schools dominated the 4A and 3A ranks, with Saguaro (4A-I), Cactus Shadows (4A-II) and Coolidge (3A) all winning state championships. For Coolidge, it was a repeat performance as champion, while Valley Christian fell short in its repeat bid in 2A, losing to Thatcher in the championship game.
Breakthrough: Higley had not had a winning record before this season, but the Knights climbed up a few notches on the respectability scale by going 11-3, including three wins by one point, and making it all the way to the 4A-II title game.
Class 5A All-Tribune first team offense
Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Riley Nielsen Mtn. View Sr. QB 1,764 yds passing, 1,167 yds rushing, 31 TDs
Ray Polk Brophy Jr. RB Came from nowhere to rush for 1,400 yds and 21 total TDs
Covaughn Deboskie Hamilton Jr. RB 107 yds/g in final 10 games, plus 148 in title game
Harrison Evans Marcos Jr. RB Carried the Padres offense all season (1,960 total yards)
Kerry Taylor Hamilton Sr. WR ASU-bound go-to-guy had 83 catches for 1,121 yards
David Sepulveda Gilbert Sr. WR 1,000+ yds receiving; averaged 132 yards in only 8 games
Blake Behrens Brophy Sr. OL Dominant tackle will play for Colorado next fall
Kyland Resor Hamilton Jr. OL Paved way for Deboskie and Tony Sims; kept QB Gruner safe
Victor Atteh P.V. Sr. OL Big reason Paradise Valley had two 1,000-yard rushers
Mark McAllister Highland Sr. OL 6-2, 240 pounder is bigger, more physical than most OL
Cameron Jordan Chandler Sr. OL Div. I colleges are licking their chops
Harold Bernard Chandler Jr. RS Averaged 32 yards on kickoff returns with two TDs
Gavin Rodriguez Corona Sr. K 22-22 on XP, 10-12 field goals
Class 5A All-Tribune first team defense
Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Ridge Nielsen Mtn. View Sr. DL 20 sacks, 68 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble rec., 1 blocked kick
Andy Centner Mtn. View Sr. DL Led Toros in tackles (75) and had 16 sacks
Cameron Jordan Chandler Sr. DL Dominant at tackle or end (80 tackles, 17.5 sacks)
Joe Frias Basha Sr. DL Kingpin of quickness up front (90 tackles, 15 sacks)
Matt Sanford Hamilton Sr. LB 121 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries
Kyle Flannery Basha Sr. LB Did it all in the middle; No-brainer for Central Region POY
Andrew Serrano Brophy Sr. LB Desert Valley POY; 127 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Glenn Love Hamilton Sr. DB Eight INT, four fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks
Brandon Trowbridge Chandler Sr. DB 5 INT and 60 tackles despite missing nearly two games
Micah Yetter Mtn. View Sr. DB Six interceptions and more than 60 tackles
Logan Myers Basha Sr. DB 84 tackles, 2 INT, 8 pass breakups, 3 sacks, 2 blocked kicks
Spencer Thompson Mtn. Pointe Sr. P Candidate for Naval Academy averaged 43 yards per punt
Player of the Year: Ridge Nielsen, Mountain View
Coach of the Year: Jeremy Hathcock, Desert Ridge (Made Jaguars football matter in 5A-II in first season as coach).
Class 5A All-Tribune second team
OFFENSE — QB: Kyle Hess, Chandler, Sr.; RB: Michael Williams, Paradise Valley, Sr.; Keelan Johnson, Mesa, Jr.; WR: Justin Murray, Desert Ridge, Sr.; Dion Jordan, Chandler, Jr.; TE: Greg Heap, Mtn. View, Sr.; OL: Cole Parker, Marcos de Niza, Sr.; Joe Riccio, Horizon, Jr.; Steven Lambe, Desert Vista, Sr.; Patrick Jamison, Hamilton, Sr.; Cody Lewers, Mtn. View., Sr.; K: Patrick Markis, Marcos de Niza, Sr.; Return Specialist: Eroll Tucker, Basha, Sr.
DEFENSE — DL: Chris Schaan, Hamilton, Sr.; Jimmy Klingensmith, Marcos de Niza, Sr.; Anthony Smith, Red Mtn., Jr.; Jordan Bingham, Westwood, Sr.; LB: Michael Owings, Brophy, Sr.; Tony Pawlak, Chandler, Sr.; Shaun Deisler, Marcos de Niza, Sr.; Jacob Igono, Paradise Valley, Sr.; Kyle Enders, Red Mountain, Sr.; DB: Michael Malone, Basha, Sr.; Drew Maggi, Brophy, Jr.; Logan Sullivan, Horizon, Jr.; Andy Workman, Hamilton, Sr.; P: Eric Henkel, Dobson, Sr.
Class 5A honorable mention
BASHA: Adam Benjamin, OL, Sr.; J.D. Blake, WR, Sr.; Nick Hartung, DL, Sr.; Michael Malone, DB, Sr.; Rudy Perez, DL, Sr.;
BROPHY: Nat Barlow, DL, Sr.; Bryan Berens, QB, Jr.;
CASA GRANDE: Harnish Ayora, RB, Jr.; Jamie Cobb, DL, Sr.; Mike Subia, DL, Jr.; G.T. Tipton, WR, Sr.; Joe Youcupicio, QB, Sr.;
CHANDLER: Kyle Benjamin, DL, Sr.; Joey Gomez, OL, Sr.;
CORONA DEL SOL: Corey Benson, LB, Sr.; Elijah Chaing, DB, Jr.; J.R. Hamm, RB, Jr.; Justin Kelly, TE, Sr.; Scott Orr, DL, Sr.; Drew VanderWerf, DL, Sr.;
DESERT MOUNTAIN: Ryan Frazier, DB, Sr.; Steve Haley, DL, Sr.; Jason Kramer, WR, Sr.; Brett Patrick, K, Jr.;
DESERT RIDGE: Clay Busch, QB, Sr.; Brad Prescher, OL, Sr.;
DESERT VISTA: Allante Battle, WR, Jr.; Mark Lund, QB, Sr.; Tyler McClellan, DL, Sr.; Jeff Melrick, OL, Sr.; John Trujillo, RB, Sr.;
DOBSON: Craig Wiessel, OL, Sr.;
GILBERT: Chase Beatty, LB, Sr.; Ben Hulse, OL, Sr.; Kyle Newhall-Caballero, QB, Sr.;
HAMILTON: Justin Artis, DL, Sr.; Brad Gruner, QB, Sr.; Elliott Harper, LB, Sr.
HIGHLAND: Matt Brenner, DL, Sr.;
HORIZON: Ryan Berg, WR, Sr.; Jaron Clinton, DL, Sr.; Greg Djinis, QB, Sr.; Steven Parker, LB, Sr.; Dan Pela, DL, Sr.;
MARCOS DE NIZA: Quinton Balser, DB, Jr.; Michael Greer, OL, Jr.; Ben Matuz, OL, Sr.; David Oros, LB, Sr.;
MESA: David Garcia, K, Sr.; Kris Gutierrez, LB, Sr.; A.J. Hill, WR, Sr.;
MESQUITE: Luckas Scott, RB, Sr.; Fabrice Nolen, DB, Jr.; Spencer Clevenger, DL, Sr.;
MOUNTAIN POINTE: Kyle Drake, LB, Sr.; Marquese Wheaton, RB, Jr.;
MOUNTAIN VIEW: Aaron Rhodes, DB, Sr.; Josh Shill, LB, Sr.; David Hakes, OL, Jr.; Jay Willis, DB, Sr.;
PARADISE VALLEY: Charles Hubbard, RB, Sr.; Chris McFaul, WR, Jr.; Alex Miller, OL, Sr.;
RED MOUNTAIN: Landon Weeks, OL, Sr.; Bryan Wightman, OL, Sr.; Jarison Johnson, RB, Jr.; Bryant Williams, DB, Sr.;
ST. MARY’S: DeMarice Green, LB, Sr.; Roman Lunsford, RB, Sr.; James Morrison, DB, Jr.; Jason Owens, WR, Sr.;
SKYLINE: Ted Kook, LB, Sr.;
WESTWOOD: Nathan Palmer, WR, Sr.; Wayne Mullins, LB, Sr.
Class 4A-2A All-Tribune first team offense
Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Phillip Aholt Cactus Shadows Sr. QB 3,592 yards and 46 touchdowns; ‘nuff said
Shane McCullen Apache Junction So. RB Piled up 1,903 yards, 20 TDs
T.J. White Coolidge Sr. RB Capped stellar career with 1,923 yards of offense, 23 TDs
Eric Gorraiz Cactus Shadows Sr. RB Had 1,651 yards with a 6.71 average
Mike Greco Notre Dame Sr. WR Big target (6-3, 205) made big plays for Saints (15 TDs)
Vince Coleman Chaparral Sr. WR Led Firebirds with 12 receiving TDs
Kyle Watkins Cactus Shadows Sr. TE Missed 3 games, still had 88 rec. for 1,559 yds
Gannon Conway Higley Sr. OL 1st-team East Sky anchored Knights up front
Erik Smith Pinnacle Sr. OL Gave Pioneers a physical presence on line
Matt Streich Chaparral Sr. OL Firebird stalwart was first-team Desert Sky selection
Chris Merrill Saguaro Jr. OL Big (6-1, 260) and still learning, should dominate next year
Chris Sclafani Cactus Shadows Sr. OL Was key cog in prolific Falcons offense
Eric Keilty Seton Sr K Was near perfect on PATs and chipped in with 5 FGs.
Rob Brown Valley Christian Sr. RS Scored six touchdowns on returns for Trojans
Class 4A-2A All-Tribune first team defense
Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Isaac Remington Valley Christian Sr. DL Metro Region Player of the Year
John Sobczuk Saguaro Sr. DL 75 tackles with 10 sacks for 4A-I champs
Cameron Estes Fountain Hills Sr. DL 3A West co-defensive player of the year
John McDonald Seton Jr. LB 3A South defensive player of the year
Sean January Cactus Shadows Sr. LB Mr. Everything for Falcons’ ‘D’ had 108 stops
Matt Phelan Chaparral Sr. LB Had whopping 114 tackles, 78 solo stops
Tommy Demichele Arcadia Sr. LB Imposing presence (6-2, 210) was 1st-team all-East Sky
Max Tabach Saguaro Sr. DB Set state record with 16 interceptions
Jesse Wheeler Coolidge Sr. DB Lock-down corner, started 52 games in career
Mike Cummings Chaparral Jr. DB Two-way starter had eight interceptions
Jake Gaylord Higley Sr. DB Playmaker on both sides of the ball for Knights
Justin Higuera Apache Junction Sr. P 38.3 yard average, had five punts inside 20
Player of the Year: Max Tabach, Saguaro. Triple threat player for the state champs, scored as a receiver, punt and kickoff returner and as a defensive back. Set new standard in the state for interceptions with 16.
Coach of the year: Chad Degrenier, Cactus Shadows. Two years ago, Falcons were 0-10 and with largely the same group of players, Degrenier’s team won state record 15 games and the 4A-II title.
Class 4A-2A All-Tribune second team
OFFENSE — QB: Casey Lytle, Chaparral, Sr. RB: Mack Martin, McClintock, Sr.; Nick Samuels, Seton Catholic, Sr.; Chip Sivak, Arcadia, Sr. WR: Steven Boyce, Scottsdale Christian, Sr.; Joe Mlachak, Notre Dame, Sr.; Andy Martinez, Florence, Jr. OL: Morgan Uribe, Notre Dame, Sr.; Zack Tourangeau, Apache Junction, Sr.; Ian Spencer, Queen Creek, Jr.; Ben Erickson, McClintock, Sr.; Ian Gillespie, Coolidge, Sr.; K: Nick Longanecker, Valley Christian, Sr. Return Specialist: John Taylor, Apache Junction, Sr.
DEFENSE — DL: James Vancel, Fountain Hills, Sr.; Alex Lopez, Arcadia, Sr.; Alex Shih, Chaparral, Sr.; Chris Manship, Cactus Shadows, Jr. LB: Kevin Caughlin, Pinnacle, Sr.; David Blair, McClintock, Jr.; Demar White, Coolidge, Sr.; Tito Gonzalez, Higley, Sr. DB: Gerard DelaCruz, Coronado, Sr., Kyle Royer, Cactus Shadows, Sr., Shane Anderson, Saguaro, Sr. P: Joe Koestner, Seton Catholic, Sr.
Class 4A-2A honorable mention
APACHE JUNCTION: Daniel Ambrosio, QB, Jr.; Cody Morrow, K, Sr, Arcadia: Alec McDuffie, RB, Sr.; Chris Phalen, DL, Sr.;
CACTUS SHADOWS: Ryan Patchak, OL, Sr.; Kyle Foley, DB, Sr.; Trace Stephens, DL, Sr.;
CHAPARRAL: Derek Oesterblad, DB, Jr.; Rodney Shaw, DL, Sr.;
COOLIDGE: Josh Thorton, OL, Sr.; Wyn Henderson, DL, Jr.;
CORONADO: Eddie Trujillo, DL, Sr.;
FLORENCE: Larry Anderson, RB, Jr.;
FOUNTAIN HILLS: Jason Fairfield, QB, Jr.; Kail Brinton, LB, Sr.; Adam Fenimore, DB, Sr.;
HIGLEY: Derek Villegas, DL, Sr.;
MARICOPA: Matt Fierros, RB, Sr.; Justin Zabawa, DB, Jr.;
MCCLINTOCK: Malcolm Martin, WR, Jr.;
NOTRE DAME: Andy Wilder, K, So.; Patrick Foley, RB, So.;
PINNACLE: Erik Smith, OL, Sr.; Alex Licano, DL, Sr.;
QUEEN CREEK: Dayton Jones, QB, Jr.; David Hollis, LB, Sr.; Casey Lincoln, DE, Sr.;
SAGUARO: Derek Bisgard, OL, Jr.; Tim Ruben, QB, Jr.; Alex Ruben, DL, Sr.;
SCOTTSDALE CHRISTIAN: Ryan Tully, RB, Jr.; Zach Glennie, OL, Sr.; Taylor West, DL, Sr.;
SETON CATHOLIC: Patrick Sullivan, DL, Sr.; Matt Polowski, DL, Sr.; Nick Gleisner, DB, Jr.;
TEMPE: Brandon Ford, RS, Sr.; Darrel Johnson, TE, Sr.;
VALLEY CHRISTIAN: Justin Lett, WR, Sr.; Trevor Zane, OL, Sr.; Mark Timpani, LB, Sr.