Mesa Mountain View is devoid of household names as its season begins tonight against Glendale Deer Valley.
The devastating 1-2 punch of twins Ridge and Riley Nielsen on offense are gone to graduation along with every major offensive skill position player from 2006.
So how do the defending 5A Division I East Valley Region champs and last year’s state runners-up stack up? It’s intriguing to say the least for the Toros and coach Tom Joseph.
“We lost a lot of good kids last year, but you always have to find replacements,” Joseph said. “Counting our punter we have four kids who were starters returning. Every year though, no matter who you have, the goal is to get 11 people to do the right thing on the same play. That’s how you’re successful.”
Clearly not the favorite to win the region, the Toros may have to settle for battling with sister schools Dobson, Mesa and Westwood for runner-up behind Red Mountain. They must also survive a schedule that features eight playoff teams from 2006.
“What I’ve seen since the end of last season is that this group of kids is really coachable,” Joseph said. “They sponge up everything. In some ways we are further along this year than we were this time last year.”
With an influx of new players, including four or five juniors that could start, one reinforcement has proven invaluable thus far. He’s senior quarterback Alex Harris.
“His growth and maturity from last year to this year is exceptional,” Joseph said. “He has a 4.1 something GPA and that doesn’t hurt, either. I think these kids understand that team is the most important thing. Sometimes that takes a little time to get across.”
Conference/Region: 5A-I/East Valley
2006 record: 12-2, state runner-up
Coach: Tom Joseph, 6th year, 58-9
Returning offensive starters: 1, David Hakes, a first-team all-East Valley Region lineman.
Returning defensive starters: 2, including tackle Buddy Koozer, who totaled 58 tackles and two sacks last season
Today at Deer Valley: Losing the opener last year to a good Centennial team was no shame as the Coyotes went undefeated and won 5A-II. This one is a tone setter for the Toros’ season.
Oct. 5 Mesa: This opens the second season (region play) for the Toros and by this point the Jackrabbits will be well-tested.