The Fiesta Region is Gilbert Highland’s home, and if the Hawks are going to flock to the playoffs under second-year coach Pete Wahlheim they must find some success in the region. Not win it mind you, just nab a game or two.
The Hawks won four of their first five games last season, beating teams they and their fans expected to — Phoenix Trevor Browne, Phoenix Central, Tolleson and Yuma Kofa.
The momentum from those games carried over to perhaps one game, a 14-13 loss to Chandler the first week of region play. After that, four more losses ensued and none in the region were close. That must change this year if the postseason is a goal.
“You have to win in your region somehow,” Wahlheim said. “It’s hard to do, but everyone else in our region won at least a game and they all made the playoffs.
“We lost a one-point game and three-point game the second half of the season. We have to learn to win close games.”
Wahlheim likes what he’s seen so far heading into Highland’s season opener tonight at Trevor Browne. This year’s team is stronger although its size is by no means overwhelming.
“We don’t have any stars. It’s going to take everyone’s best effort,” Wahlheim said. “We’re a blue-collar team. That’s the style we’ll have to play to win.
“We forced our system on the kids last year. Things won’t be as new as they were so I think that’s going to help us.”
Highland returns one of its top five rushers and just one of its top three receivers. The offensive line has the most experience of any segment of the offense. They’ll be the guiding force to the success of the skill players, who are not flashy or blessed with blazing speed.
The defensive line and secondary are the strengths of the returning players on defense.
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