Conference/Region: 4A-II/East Sky
Coach: Brian Walker
Last year’s record: 3-7, missed playoffs
Returning starters offense: 4, including quarterback/running back Dequan Hughes, who’ll battle Jose Flores for the starting quarterback job. Flores earned the spot last season until he tore his ACL in the first game and missed the season. Hughes was switched from RB to QB.
Returning starters defense: 4, including linebacker Tre Sturdivant, defensive ends Juan Castro and Martinez and Flores, the team’s starting free safety.
Sept. 3 at Apache Junction; Sept. 17 at Williams Field; Sept. 24 at McClintock; Oct. 1 vs. Notre Dame; Oct. 8 vs. Seton Catholic; Oct. 15 at Higley; Oct. 22 vs. Coronado, Oct. 29 at Arcadia; Nov. 5 vs. Maricopa .
Oct. 1 at Notre Dame: The Buffaloes lost to the Saints, winners of two of the last three 4A-II state championships, but kept it close most of the way.
Oct. 29 at Arcadia: Tempe has lost four of its last five to the Titans, but this could be the year as the Titans have lost a chunk of key personnel from last year.
Brian Walker’s first year with Tempe as head coach was full of adversity. With the implementation of a new spread offense and the loss of starting quarterback Jose Flores in week one, Tempe lost three of its first four games by at least 21 points.
Walker’s team won two of its final four games, surrounded by narrow losses to elite Notre Dame Prep and a solid Seton Catholic, and behind the exploits of running back-turned-quarterback Dequan Hughes, the Buffalos averaged more than 30 points a game down the stretch.
Even with the turnaround, however, Walker wasn’t sure his players totally bought in.
“Some of them were wanting change and some of them wanted to do it their way,” he said.
On top of that, Walker’s team was maligned by ineligibilities. So, Walker instituted a mandatory one-hour study hall after each practice.
“We had to make a change,” said Walker, who started four freshman by the end of last year.
Hughes and Flores will battle for the starting quarterback position, with Hughes’ athleticism giving him an early edge while Flores is close to fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in the opening game of 2009.
The team may be forced to study more for school, but it won’t be inundated by X-and-O-complexity on the chalkboard.
“We’re focusing a lot more on fundamentals,” Walker said. “Last year we got caught up in the scheme and by going back to fundamentals I’m hoping we can surprise some people.”