Lost in the euphoria of Mesa High School’s 600th football win late last October was that the Jackrabbits were an improving team.
The key for coach Dennis Parker and his staff in 2005 is to keep the momentum going.
‘‘The thing I saw this summer was commitment,’’ Parker said. ‘‘Our commitment was a lot better. We didn’t need to call roll. Last year we’d have 38 (players) one day and 52 the next.’’
Mesa won two of its last three games and played Mountain View tough before falling in the season finale, 27-13.
Four players Parker is high on, on the defense are linebackers Josh Andrade and Sam Ashby and linemen John Rucker and Cameron Bailey. Bailey is a newcomer to the varsity.
‘‘Our defense has to improve. It couldn’t be any worse because it was the worst in North America last year,’’ Parker said. ‘‘It wasn’t the kids. We didn’t do a good job coaching. That was the biggest problem.’’
On offense, Parker has been pleased with the work of tackle Reed Turley, running back Daniel Fa and wide receiver Dustin Clark. The Jackrabbits are seeking a replacement for quarterback Frankie Hoffman. Adam Moreno and Nick Hume are candidates for the job. Both get an opportunity Wednesday at 7 p.m. when the Jackrabbits scrimmage at Mountain Pointe.
‘‘We are going to throw the ball whether we can or not,’’ Parker said.
Mesa averaged more than 200 yards per game through the air last season.
After two weeks of practice, coach Mike Reardon said the Sabercats are at about where they were last year at this time. Considering the Sabercats ended up making it to the 4A state playoff semifinals, that is good news for Saguaro fans.
"We’re a long ways away," said Reardon, in his third year at Saguaro. "We lost some pretty good players but we are getting better."
The top returning Sabercat is senior Tyler Porras, who gained more than 1,200 yards last season and is one of the area’s top running backs. Reardon, though, doesn’t like to think much about the offense at this time. He likes to build his teams with defense and go from there.
"Defense, that’s where we always build our team first," said Reardon. "When we have a break, we work on offense."
Naturally, Reardon was exaggerating but the point is he likes to win football games by stopping his opponent and scoring whenever he can. Leading the Sabercats’ defense are inside linebacker Richard Bloom and nose guard Max Tabach.
A big battle going on in training camp is for the quarterback spot. Candidates are senior Chad Kidder, junior T.J. Rauch and sophomore Tim Ruben. As of now, Reardon said Kidder and Rauch have the edge in the race.
"All three are pretty skilled," said Reardon. "If I could roll them into one, I would have a pretty good quarterback."
Saguaro opens the season Sept. 2 at Tucson Canyon del Oro.
CORONA DEL SOL
A couple of Aztecs are getting attention from Division I colleges this season. Wide receiver-defensive back Matt Mosley (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) has already been offered a scholarship by Arizona State, said coach Gary Venturo.
‘‘They like his speed,’’ Venturo said. ‘‘Mosley may play a little running back for us, too. But he can play receiver and corner for us.’’
The Aztecs, a state quarterfinalist last year, don’t have the size they are accustomed to this year, but one player that does is also garnering some attention. That’s two-way lineman Mitchel Hunt (6-3, 255), a returning starter like Mosley.
Venturo said if the season began today the Aztecs’ starter at quarterback would be Hamilton transfer Chase Larsen. Venturo likes Larsen’s speed and mobility.
Skyline, which has yet to play a playoff game since it opened in 1999, will compete in 5A Division II for playoff purposes this season. Coach Pete Jonovich hasn’t harped on that point to his team.
‘‘We try not to approach it that way,’’ Jonovich said. ‘‘We only play three Division II games. We have to go out and play. There’s no rest.’’
Skyline opens with Glendale Sandra Day O’Connor, which played an independent schedule last season. The other two Division II foes are San Luis (4A last season) and Desert Ridge (4A last season). The last half of the season, the Coyotes play their five sister schools, who are all members of Division I (Dobson, Mesa, Mountain View, Red Mountain and Westwood).
RED MOUNTAIN - HIGHLAND
Red Mountain has scrimmaged Hamilton the last couple of seasons, but since the Mountain Lions open the regular season with the Huskies, coach Jim Jones needed a different foe. It turned out to be Highland, coached by his son, Preston. Red Mountain and Highland hook up for the scrimmage at 6 p.m. Thursday.
‘‘If he tries to run any trick plays, there could be a fight,’’ the elder Jones said jokingly. ‘‘We’re going to be sharing things out there. There won’t be room for trick plays.’’