By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The Tempe Union High School District decided in the late 1980s to build a fifth high school. (School-district boundaries in Arizona can cross city boundaries. The far-flung Tempe district encompasses Ahwatukee and other Phoenix and Tempe neighborhoods.) The district chose a site in Ahwatukee at 42nd Street and Knox Road, a few miles south of the Warner Road exit of I-10.
The powers that be decided to call the new school Mountain Pointe, thinking it clever to add the "e" to Pointe as a nod to the nearby resort.
Some Ahwatukee residents--mostly retirees--complained about the proposed school before crews began work on the $27 million facility. They feared the obvious: increased crime and traffic.
Mountain Pointe was completed, anyway, in time for the start of the 1990-91 school year. But the district couldn't find enough money to open it.
The shortfall proved to be a blessing in disguise.
New principal Harold Slemmer and a skeleton staff fine-tuned their dreams during the year-in-waiting. Slemmer also met with nearby residents who ordinarily would have had little to do with a school.
Slemmer decided to make Mountain Pointe a closed campus when the school opened in the fall of 1991. It would become the only closed high school in the Tempe district. Students aren't allowed to leave the premises for any unauthorized reason. Despite residents' early misgivings, the shiny new high school has changed how many in Ahwatukee feel about their environs.
"Most of us didn't have that feeling of 'our' anything, except for our homes," says Don Perkins, president of the school's Parent-Community Advisory Council. "Now we've got something to hold on to."
The football team has nurtured that feeling. Principal Slemmer had one man in mind for Mountain Pointe's first head football coach: Karl Kiefer. For years Slemmer had served as an assistant to Kiefer at McClintock. He admired the coach deeply.
"I envisioned our school trying to emulate Karl in some ways," says Slemmer. "A no-nonsense environment, kind of like the old days. Karl isn't just a dictator: He blends old-fashioned discipline with loving concern for his kids. I just didn't know if I could get him."
@body:I bump into guys from McClintock who tell me, "I hated that son of a bitch when I played for him, but now I know what he was doing. He was turning me into a man."
--Assistant coach Dick Baniszewski, on Karl Kiefer
Few thought Karl Kiefer would ever leave McClintock High of his own accord. Kiefer had been the Tempe school's only head football coach in its quarter-century history, and he'd carved out a dynasty, winning three state championships and 75 percent of his games.
But Kiefer expressed interest when Harold Slemmer asked him if he'd be interested in coaching the Pride. It wasn't about money: Kiefer would make just $4,000 above his teaching salary no matter where he coached in the district.
"I thought it could be a chance to start something again from the ground up," Kiefer says. "This time I would have a clue what I was doing. When I started with McClintock, I didn't."
Kiefer was 26 when McClintock principal William Boyle hired him as the new school's first head football coach in the fall of 1964. Kiefer was a familiar name to Valley sports fans. Longtime locals remember him as one of the area's most accomplished multisport athletes of the mid-1950s.
The youngest son of Kansas dairy farmers, Kiefer moved to Tempe at the age of 4 because of his dad's health problems. He grew up near then-remote Papago Park, where he and older brother Paul rode horses in the mountains and played every sport they could.
The crew-cutted kid excelled at athletics at Tempe High School, winning more awards than he can easily recall. His scrapbooks reveal he earned a spot in the National Honor Society. And he played a mean trumpet.
Kiefer enrolled at Arizona State University after high school.
"I was a roughneck type of player with decent ability and a lot of heart," he says, sitting in a memorabilia-crammed study at his Tempe home. Not particularly fast or large, Kiefer played tight end on offense and linebacker on defense. His spirit prompted his teammates to vote him co-captain in his senior year.
Dan Devine was Kiefer's first football coach at ASU; Devine was followed by Frank Kush. The unrelenting, hard-nosed Kiefer appealed to tough guy Kush. "Frank was a nuts-and-bolts type who loved line play," Kiefer says. "Dan was an organization man who let his coaches coach. I watched these guys close and learned. Both stressed discipline, discipline, discipline, which was something I had already been brought up with."
Kiefer was so devoted to football that he worked his marriage into the team schedule. The bride was ASU Pom Pon girl Sharon Mickle, the daughter of an Arizona ranching family. The couple was married on her parents' ranch in November 1959, near the end of Kiefer's senior season. They honeymooned in Hawaii after ASU beat the Rainbows in a season-ending game.
As he neared graduation, Kiefer started toying with the idea of becoming a football coach. Frank Kush hired him as a graduate assistant for one season, after which Kiefer moved to El Paso to fulfill a two-year Army ROTC obligation. After his honorable discharge, he and Sharon moved onto her family's ranch north of Scottsdale. The couple raised their three children there. The youngest child, Kent, starred at quarterback for his dad at McClintock, then went on to a fine career at the University of Missouri.