2008 record: 7-4, lost in 1st round of playoffs
Coach: Dan Dunn, first year (88-23-1 between 1971-82)
Returning offensive starters: 3, including quarterback Brandon Bialkowski, who passed for 1,457 yards and 15 TDs, and receiver Jesse Brantley, who caught 40 passes for 990 yards.
Returning defensive starters: 2, including Nathaniel Causey, who had 49 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.
Outlook: Gilbert is flashing back more than a quarter century with Dunn running things again, but if prior success is an indication it should be crowd-pleasing.
Dunn’s initial impressions getting back in the high school ranks after nearly a decade away?
“I like being back out here,” Dunn said. “With this group I see us throwing the ball a little bit. Run it? We’ll wait and see. On defense we’ll be quick, but we don’t have much experience.”
Bialkowski was the main guy last year with Causey spelling him at times. Dunn wants to use Causey’s talents elsewhere, but he will be the backup at quarterback. Bialkowski was a home-run thrower last year with most of his touchdown passes of the lengthy variety to Brantley. Dominic Long, who transferred to Gilbert early last season from California, showed glimpses that were eye-popping as a companion receiver with Brantley.
“He (Long) has limited football knowledge, but he has some skills,” Dunn said.
Causey, a junior, will be a jack-of-all-trades. “Besides quarterback we could use him at tight end and wide receiver. He will play outside linebacker for us.”
Another multi-position player is senior Brandon Christie, who is a kicker, punter, receiver and cornerback.
“Our numbers are good, but we don’t have a lot of experience overall,” Dunn said. “We’ll have a better idea after (Phoenix) Brophy and (Glendale) Mountain Ridge (Gilbert’s first two games).”
Sept. 4 vs. Brophy
Sept. 11 at Mountain Ridge
Sept. 17 at Skyline
Sept. 25 at Basha
Oct. 2 vs. Dobson
Oct. 9 at Corona del Sol
Oct. 16 vs. Mesquite
Oct. 23 vs. Mountain View
Oct. 30 at Highland
Nov. 6 vs. Westwood
-- Sept. 4 vs. Brophy: Dunn’s return to prep coaching. Not an enviable opener, but one the Tigers at least can use as a measuring stick. It will be Brophy’s second game of the year.
-- Sept. 25 at Basha: This will be third road game in succession for the Tigers and their first region game. Could be one of those pivotal games that earns a team a playoff berth with a win or leaves them just short with a loss.
-- Oct. 30 at Highland: End of three-game stretch that takes in two city rivals (Mesquite was the other) and Mountain View the week before. Toughest three-game strech of the season.