Division I, Section III
Coach: Dana Zupke
Last year's record: 6-5, lost to Peoria Centennial in first round of 5A Division II playoffs.
Returning starters offense: 6, including QB Jackson Harley, who threw for 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns, and ran for 500 yards as a junior.
Returning starters defense: 6, including defensive end Nico Bruge, who had 28 tackles, three sacks and three fumble recoveries in 2010. He'll be the leader of the front four.
Aug. 26 vs. Sandra Day O'Connor; Sept. 2 vs. Cactus Shadows; Sept. 9 at Central; Sept. 16 vs. North Canyon; Sept. 23 at Horizon; Sept. 30 vs. Mountain View; Oct. 7 at Mountain Ridge; Oct. 14 at Boulder Creek; Oct. 21 at Desert Mountain; Oct. 28 vs. Brophy
Sept. 16 vs. North Canyon: This is an interesting matchup, as Pinnacle's offense will go against new N.C. coach (and former Chaparral defensive coordinator) Conrad Hamilton's new program. North Canyon is rebuilding a bit, but the defense will be improved and Pinnacle will need to win games like these for postseason aspirations.
Sept. 23 at Horizon: This was a big win for Pinnacle to conclude the 2010 season and get into the playoffs (a 24-21 victory). That means Horizon would like to take one back, and the Huskies should be solid again. It's another of those better-win-it for power points sake.
Oct. 28 vs. Brophy: This one will be tough, but win or lose the Pioneers could gain a fair share of power points. Regardless, it unfolds as a great test for Pinnacle against the best of Division I heading into postseason play.
Pinnacle likes its chances for improvement, if for no other reason than the calendar.
In 2007 the Pioneers were 9-3. In 2009 they went 10-2.
In 2008 and 2010, Pinnacle hovered around .500.
This 2011 version's success should go beyond an odd-even scenario. The Pioneers move "up" to Division I (they're among the lowest-enrollment schools in Div. I at 2,438 kids), but they have experienced and more athleticism than a year ago.
That starts with QB Jackson Harley, who's being counted on to use his arm, legs and, most importantly, mind to make the correct reads and better decisions.
It helps he'll have four senior wide receivers on the other end, led by Nick Cappellini (the latest in a series of standout Cappellinis to go through the school). Pinnacle is bigger up front with juniors Carson Protell (6-foot)3, 280 pounds), Billy Nichols (6-5, 245), and seniors Nick Ziegenbein and Jose Rodriguez (6-3, 240).
New defensive coordinator Ryan Desrochers has made some changes, and the Pioneers will need improvement here to contend in Section III. Nico Bruge and Cole Neubauer will lead up front, with Addison Palomino and Jon Miller in the middle of this altered defense.
With better size, experience and athleticism, Pinnacle can make the Division I playoffs if Harley continues to improve his decision-making, his big boys hold up front, the Pioneers run the ball similar to what Cody Gibson did in 2010 (1,300 yards) and the defense improves.
It's asking a lot, and the schedule isn't quite as soft as the old Desert Valley Region slate (Mountain View, Brophy, Horizon and Boulder Creek on this year's slate), but if the Pioneers are, indeed, better, it'll show in late October.