Mesa Red Mountain figures to have ample ammunition to fire at the opposition this season in terms of skill position players, but coach Jim Jones’ focus the next three weeks is figuring out the guys who will open the holes.
"We're going to work hard on putting a line together," Jones said. "We really only have one player back with any kind of varsity experience on the line from last season. I can't remember the last time we didn't have at least some experience coming back. If we develop a good line, we should be a team to be reckoned with."
The Mountain Lions will get an early baptism since they open the season Aug. 25 against Hamilton, traditionally one of the top defensive teams in the state.
Matt Kelley, a Westwood High graduate, is the offensive line coach for Jones. The Mountain Lions have a new offensive coordinator this season with James Fisher handling those duties after coaching special teams most recently. A couple other former players will continue to play roles on the varsity staff with Jason Grantham helping out on offense and Steve Walker working mostly with the defense.
Life is different in training camp this season for the Prospectors.
After going winless only three seasons ago, Apache Junction is coming off a 5-7 season that included a trip to the 4A Division II playoffs.
"It's really a lot different compared to the way it has been in the past," coach Max Ragsdale said. "It's not just let's get that win. For the first time, we have some lofty goals as far as a (region) championship."
One thing Ragsdale has to figure out is who will quarterback the Prospectors. Three players are in the running — seniors Dalton Hoch and John Taylor and junior Daniel Ambrosio.
"We'll probably use a combination of all three in the first couple of games," Ragsdale said.
The Prospectors open the season at home Aug. 25 against Goodyear Desert Edge.
CORONA DEL SOL
Gary Venturo begins his 20th football season at Tempe Corona del Sol next week (34 years overall). This summer was the 15th year he took the Arizona Gridiron and Cultural Exchange Down Under.
The group of local all-star football players spent three days in Hawaii and nine days in Australia.
""Every year is the same,” Venturo said.
“The weather is nice and the kids played well."
Staff writers Mark Heller and Brad Falduto contributed to this report.