Tempe Corona del Sol was on a roll until the final two weeks of the season, when a series of injuries sideswiped its 2006 playoff appearance.
The most critical was senior quarterback/kicker Gavin Rodriguez, who suffered a knee injury while kicking an extra point against Chandler Basha. He missed the rest of the season, the Aztecs went down quickly to Phoenix Desert Vista in the playoffs, and Corona was left with a huge hole to start 2007.
Already thin in numbers, the Aztecs are looking for someone to corner the quarterback spot between Chase Cartwright, Nick Aldini and Kirby Pellant.
Pellant already is the team’s utility man, a passer/runner/catcher hybrid.
Aldini took 16 game snaps at QB last year and helped the Aztecs beat Tempe
Marcos de Niza in the last regular season game.
Corona does return two-way starters Trevor Stapp and Wyatt Cahill, plus three of five linemen and three wide receivers.
“We’re not bare,” Aztecs coach Gary Venturo said. “We’ll probably have seven guys go both ways. We don’t have the luxury some schools have. We have to get by the best we can.”
Their “best” is pretty good. J.R. Hamm will be alone in the backfield this season after splitting time last year, and Venturo sees promising youth on defense (especially linebacker).
None of this may matter unless the Aztecs have one of their signal-callers answer the bell.
“We’re going to put a good team on the field and see where they fall at the end,” Venturo said. “No excuses.”
2005 record: 7-4, lost in 1st round of playoffs
Coach: Gary Venturo, 21st year, 132-89-1
Returning offensive starters: 8, including J.R. Hamm, who had 1,300 total yards and 13 TDs while sharing carries.
Returning defensive starters: 5, including Eric Benson, a senior defensive back who had 153 tackles and 4 INTs while playing four games with a broken arm.
Aug. 31 at Red Mountain: It could be rough, but the Aztecs should grow up fast in September.
Nov. 2 Basha: Last year, they won a thriller in Chandler. Will this one carry the same playoff weight?