Loads of talent, even more athleticism, plenty of personality, and a barely .500 record through nine games.
With no more time to lose, Phoenix Desert Vista pulled together and reached the 5A Division I championship game, overcoming the odds, and especially, itself.
The mercurial 2007 season didn’t revive coach Dan Hinds’ hair, but the hope is that teetering on the brink is no longer the fashionable thing to do.
Perhaps losing handily to a more disciplined Phoenix Brophy in December will keep the Thunder straight and narrow.
“This team has its own personality,” Hinds said. “These guys are blue-collar kids. They work hard, and it’s a little different than last year.”
The defensive line may be the best in the state. In addition to having the No. 2 high school player in the country in defensive end/running back Devon Kennard, Division I-caliber defensive end Mike Mullarkey is coming from the other side. Two-way starter and the team’s strongest player, Conner Wilson, is clogging the middle.
Offense will be the sight to see early. The Thunder struggled in the passing game last year, which they later attributed to being too predictable. So they’ve scaled back for returning starter Cole Pembroke.
“Too many times we were a little predictable, and in certain formations said 'pass,’ and that’s my fault,” Hinds said. “We put a lot of pressure on our QB, and they blitzed when they knew we were throwing, and he was forced into throwing in heavy coverage.
“This year when we take a strike downfield it’s not going to be the tip of the hat.”
It hasn’t already been without aggravation. Offensive tackle David Krause is lost for the season after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during a college recruiting camp this summer. Running back Marcus Washington could miss a game or two early while he recovers from a stress fracture in his leg.
Then again, fall’s first two months of 2007 were not exactly stress-free.
“You wouldn’t know an All-American or guys with two, three Division I offers are on this team,” Hinds said. “It’s pretty neat when you see a kid like Mullarkey getting after Kennard, and he’s OK with that. That’s what’s cool about this group. The work ethic is there. If I can get things right on my end of it, I think they’ll believe in what they can do.”
|2||Jake Van Raaphorst||WR/DB||5-9||180||Sr.|