Here are some of the top storylines for week one of the high school football season:
Gilbert gorillas: The early part of Gilbert schools’ season is a wave of rivalry games, as Gilbert, Highland and Mesquite (all within 10 miles of each other) all dance with one another in August and early September. Mesquite and Highland clash first in a battle of programs trying to forge new directions. Highland’s 0-5 start to 2011 was somewhat forgotten after it’s 4-1 finish, and with a solid cast of returning contributors, the Hawks are seeking positive reinforcement after last season’s late flurry, but injuries are already a factor. Second-year coach Matt Gracey also faces an uphill climb with a relatively new roster – including the skill positions. A good start is paramount for both programs in the first couple weeks, let alone against a rival school.
Rebirth: The Dobson and Westwood football teams combined for a record of 4-16 last year. George De La Torre was hired in the offseason to turn around Dobson, while Spencer Stowers is in his first-year trying to do the same at Westwood. There are hurdles, but both coaches have been encouraged early on. Although a playoff spot for either team this season seems far-fetched, the winner of this game will at least be taking its first step in the right direction.
Mountain View flavor: Basha’s Bernie Busken and Corona del Sol’s Tom Joseph both found great success at Mountain View. Both are atop other programs now and looking to reach that pinnacle. The Bears are coming off a state semifinal berth and cruised past the Aztecs last season. Quarterback Zach Werlinger begins as the team’s new quarterback, and big things are expected. Corona del Sol made a four-win improvement in Joseph’s first year in 2011, but must replace Division I recruits Andrus Peat and Avery Moss.
Saguaro ready to roar: The Sabercats foreshadowed their dominance of Division III last season by cruising past the Trojans, 63-20, in the 2011 season opener. Saguaro is aiming for its sixth state title in seven years and is the preseason No. 1 team again, but will attempt to win this year’s championship without coach John Sanders and Tribune Player of the Year D.J. Foster, who are both now at Arizona State. Paradise Valley features quarterback Ryan Finley, who is committed Boise State, but its defense must keep the Trojans within striking distance to give them a chance.
Seton Catholic seeks smooth start: The expectations are high this year for the Sentinels, who made the Division IV semifinals a year ago and return a majority of its starters, including standout quarterback Ryan Bresnahan. Last year’s season opener was filled with mistakes, but Seton did scratch out a 20-13 victory over Fountain Hills. The team hopes this year’s matchup goes more smoothly and sets in motion another perfect regular season.