Desert Vista Thunder
Division I, Section III
Coach: Dan Hinds
Last year's record: 10-3, lost in the Class 5A Division I state semifinals
Returning offensive starters: 6, including running back Mike Arredondo, who was named the Fiesta Region two-way player of the year last season. The trio of Matt Smith, Kaleb Germinaro and Nick Farina will get a shot at being the key to the team's patented fly sweep.
Returning defensive starters: 6, led by linebacker Austin McLennan, who led the team in tackles (67) last season and brings plenty of pop and intensity.
Aug. 19 vs. Maryvale, Aug. 26 vs. Mesa, Sept. 9 at Mountain Pointe, Sept. 16 vs. Westwood, Sept. 23 at Corona del Sol, Sept. 30 at Saguaro, Oct. 6 vs. Hamilton, Oct. 14 at Mesquite, Oct. 21 at Dobson, Oct. 28 vs. Chandler.
Sept. 9 at Mountain Pointe: The Tukee Bowl is always worth a watch, but with the expectations piled on both programs this season it should bring some extra heat. Considering three players have left Desert Vista for Mountain Pointe since the start of the 2010-11 school year, there is some definite incentive from the Thunder to show their ex-teammates they made a mistake.
Sept. 30 at Saguaro: The first of two straight games against defending state champions will be an interesting matchup. The Sabercats might be small (Division III, Section III) but they are well-coached, play with a toughness and features one of the best running backs in the state in D.J. Foster.
Oct. 28 at Chandler: This one should be worth a pile of power powers in the final week. The Wolves have a new coach in Shaun Aguano, the former offensive coordinator, and a load of talent per usual. How it translates in a transition year is hard to tell, but the game will almost assuredly have postseason implications.
With 35 seniors and a talented junior class, this team has extremely high hopes.
The Thunder made the state semifinals last season before falling to Desert Ridge. That experience, coupled with the notion that making the semifinals was just the start of what can be done this year, has the players believing it can be a very special season.
Hinds has been subtlety confident knowing it was just two seasons ago when the Thunder suffered through a tough 2-8 season due to a tough schedule and a senior class that had its issues.
Last year's surprising run to the semis was more of indicator of the type of talent assembled annually at Desert Vista and this team appears to have a similar positive and confident approach the 2010 squad had.
It starts with the line, led by J.J. Dielman and Zach Tamburo, as this aggressive bunch should provide protection for quarterback Hunter Rodriguez and a slew of ball carriers like Arredondo and Smith.
The defense, which returns four of its top five tacklers, played well enough down the stretch to always give the offense a chance to come back as the Thunder had several fourth-quarter comebacks.