While suffering through a 1-9 season in his first year at Tempe High, coach John Rodriguez noticed two key ingredients were missing from his football team: Trust and camaraderie.
After this year’s squad spent nearly a week of the summer camping out in a high school gym in the White Mountains, Rodriguez believes that won’t be an issue again.
“The biggest difference (this year) is the trust amongst each other and the family-type atmosphere we now have amongst this group. It’s amazing,” said Rodriguez, who along with his assistant coaches and 33 of his players spent five nights in the Snowflake High gym in addition to two- and three-a-days practices and scrimmages with Glendale Cactus.
That camp made for some hard, long days, but the players know it was worth it.
“There’s a lot of trust,” senior defensive tackle Dayne Darden said. “In years past, you couldn’t trust the person you played next to. Now I trust the person to the left, to the right, in front and in back of me. I know that whenever I do need something, they’ll be there for me and vice versa.”
The Buffaloes hope their bonding experience will translate into improved results and make their 100th year much more memorable than their 99th.
“Our kids I think learned how to compete,” Rodriguez said. “That’s really the biggest key right now, learning how to compete with teams because athletically on paper we’re not going to blow anybody out of the water.”
Rodriguez won’t put a number on how many wins he expects this season, but he knows if his players are committed, this tradition-rich program can make great strides.
“The one thing these kids have shown me at camp is when they put their mind to something, they can get it done,” Rodriguez said.
Conference/Region: 4A-II/East Sky
2006 record: 1-9, no playoffs
Coach: John Rodriguez, 2nd year, 1-9
Returning offensive starters: 3, including WR Jacob Miranda, who averaged 12.1 yards per reception and had two interceptions on the other side of the ball.
Returning defensive starters: 6, including DT Dayne Darden, a second-team all-region selection who had 42 tackles in ’06.
Sept. 13 at McClintock: Buffaloes and Chargers renew their long-standing rivalry with a Thursday night TV game.
Sept. 28 at Queen Creek: Region opener will test how far Tempe has come from last season.